Parshat Terumah

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וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם

And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst — Ex 25:8

 

Four surgeons are discussing who their favourite patients are. The first surgeon says, “I like to see accountants on my operating table, because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered.”    
The second responds, “Yes, but you should try electricians! Everything inside them is colour coded.”
The third surgeon says, “No, I really think librarians are the best; everything inside them is in alphabetical order.”
The fourth surgeon chimes in: “You know, I like construction workers — they always understand when the job takes longer than you said it would and when you have a few parts left over at the end!”
“Build me a sanctuary,” says G-d, “and I will live in it.”

What does it mean that G-d lives in the sanctuary? Doesn’t G-d live everywhere? Does He really need an apartment of his own?

The answer of course is that the sanctuary is not for G-d, but for us. We need a focal point where we can gather together and concentrate our attention, where we can feel a special presence, something different. That focal point was in the desert sanctuary – the Mishkan, and later in the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Humans are sensory beings; we like to touch, to hear and to see. Having a physical location where G-d’s voice could be heard was key to helping the Jewish people feel that G-d was right there with them in the desert.

There is another message for us in the readings about the Mishkan: The Mishkan was the archetype of the Jewish home, and in truth we all have the ability to make our home a place where G-d’s presence is felt. How do we do that? Let’s look at what “furniture” was in the Mishkan and how each item can help us reach that goal …

The Holy Ark — Contained the Luchot Habrit, the Ten Commandments. These tablets, hand carved by Moses and engraved by G-d were at the very holiest core of the Mishkan. In every Jewish home there should be a collection of Jewish books and texts, not only siddurim and machzorim, but also books of halacha, books of Jewish philosophy, history, books of Mishnah and Talmud etc.

The Table — Golden table bearing loaves of bread. The centre of every Jewish home is the dining table. It is around this table that so much tradition is observed and passed on through the generations … the Shabbat family meals, the Pesach seder, the meals before and after the fast days. It is around the table that we train our children in the mitzva of hachnassat orchim – hosting guests, and in the laws of kosher. It is here that we discuss topics of Jewish interest and words of Torah.

The Golden Altar — Small altar for burning ketoress, the daily incense offering. The Midrash explains that the purpose of the incense was simcha – joy. G-d says, “No offering is more precious to Me than the Ketoress. All other offerings are needed by the Jewish people as an atonement, but the ketoress offering is not for atonement — its only purpose is to cause happiness!”

It is vital that our homes are filled with simcha, and that we try to always see the positive side of life. A Jewish home should be a happy home, especially in the month of Adar we have just entered. Our houses should be filled with aromas too … the Shabbos and Yomtov food, the lulav & etrog, the havdala spices, the maror and charoset, the doughnuts and latkes … all the smells of the Hebrew calendar.

The Menorah — Seven branched candelabra beaten from one solid block of gold. The seven branches symbolise the wide and varied range of personalities which weave together to make the tapestry of the Jewish people — all from the very same source. When we realise that there is beauty in difference, and when we can respect difference in others, then we can light the flames and illuminate the world around us.

These four items were the main components of G-d’s “home,” and these should be the components of our homes too. If our homes are filled with Jewish books, Tefillin and mezuzot … if they are filled with guests, friends and family … if they are filled with the aromas of yiddishkeit, of Shabbos and Yomtov … if they are filled with love and respect for those who are different to us — then we achieve the purpose of Creation … we reveal G-dliness in this world, we bring Heaven down to Earth. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Zalman Lent

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Rabbi Zalman Lent is a Community Rabbi in Dublin and  director of  Chabad of Ireland.

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