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Terumah – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

This week we are introduced to the first description of the Mishkan; the sanctuary that will accompany us, together with details of the Ark, the table for the showbread and the Menorah. The Haftorah describes Solomon and the Temple that he built.

The building of the Mishkan continues all the way through the rest of the Book of Shemot. In Ki Tissa, we will come across the episode of the Golden Calf. Rashi took the view that the story of the Golden Calf took place before the Mishkan was established.

What would be contained within the Ark? (The Ark was also taken into battle and was actually captured at one time by the Philistines). We are told that the Ark contained the two first tablets of Stone that Moses broke as well as the written transcription of the Torah which Moses received at Sinai. We read

וְנָֽתַתָּ֖ אֶל־הָֽאָרֹ֑ן אֵ֚ת הָֽעֵדֻ֔ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֶתֵּ֖ן אֵלֶֽיךָ
And you shall place into the ark the testimony, which I will give you.

By the time of Solomon

There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt.

“Terumah”, is best translated as “gift”, and was

תְּרוּמָ֑ה מֵאֵ֤ת כָּל־אִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ לִבּ֔וֹ תִּקְח֖ו
an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity

When the Temple was built, taxes and conscription were required!

הַמֶּ֧לֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹ֛ה מַ֖ס מִכָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל
King Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel

In our homes today we place Mezuzot on our doors, Siddurim and Haggadot on our bookshelves but, just as importantly, we have our table around which we celebrate as families. We may not have a Temple but wherever we go, we build synagogues for prayer. Every Shabbat we follow the Torah by reciting

May he bless those who unite to form synagogues for prayer and those who come to pray: also those who provide lamps for lighting and wine for Kiddush and Havdalah; food for wayfarers and charity for the poor and all who faithfully occupy themselves with the needs of the community

That is our “Terumah”, our gift.

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