Shabbat Terumah

Begins Friday 24th at 5.20. Ends Saturday 25th at 6.20 pm

Our Torah reading this week includes the well-known phrase “Tell the Children of Israel to take donations from everyone according to his wish.”This refers to the donations required to build the Tabernacle. A famous preacher commented on the use of “to take donations” ( VaYikchoo) instead of “ to give donations” ( VaYitnoo ). He said that in his experience a person may publicly like to tell everyone how much he is willing to give and make a fuss but when it comes to actually collecting the funds it’s often a struggle. That’s why you need to ‘take’ them!

On a more serious level one is bound to wonder why the Torah spends so many chapters describing the Tabernacle, its design, the way it was executed, how it was dedicated. What lessons can one possibly learn from what looks like a combination of an architect’s detailed conception and a builder’s execution? Is this where the Jewish fondness for Real Estate comes from?

It is true that a design too often never finally gets built the way the owners intended it. Anyone who has had builders in knows its rarely the way you wanted it. But here it does work perfectly and accurately. In most construction projects materials go missing or suppliers take off their cut and there are lots of sticky fingers. So you might say that the preoccupation with detail is evidence of how seriously they took the project, how important it was for the morale of the people and how eager they were to show that absolutely everything was accounted for. It was an act of worship and dedication rather than vanity and profit.

The lesson I take is that if they were so preoccupied in being absolutely honest, above board and responsible for a physical structure, how much more should we put effort, care and design into how we treat living human beings who matter more to God than any building however holy.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Jeremy