The portion of Terumah opens with G-d telling Moses to have the Israelites “Bring Me a contribution” in connection with the building of the Tabernacle, a precursor to the Holy Temple that was eventually built by King Solomon in Jerusalem. The question and lesson has to do with why the word “bring” was used as opposed to the word “give” – which seems to be an equal if not more appropriate word for the context. This subtle distinction provides a profound lesson for us in connection with giving charity or making a donation. When the word “give” is used, it becomes from you, a personalized provision of something that can come from a place of ego. When you give, you do not necessarily give freely and without expectation of something in return and giving has the potential effect of reducing what you have. Bring, on the other hand, is less personal and has a connotation that you are merely providing something as a “channel” or “conduit”. When we give and have ego, or we feel that we are lessening our lot, we miss the point and the ultimate blessing from the charitable act. When we bring, we have the opportunity to take ourselves out of the equation, and act as a conduit where the “Light” can run freely and continuously without end or reduction of the giver. Another interesting aspect of this portion is that the word Terumah, which is usually understood to mean donation, literally means to elevate or raise – from the root word “Tarom”. It can be read as Tarom Hei, or raising Hei. Kabbalistically, the letter Hei represents thought, speech and action and giving of oneself to another. By bringing a donation, we raise our consciousness to be our highest selves.
Another great lesson can be gleaned from the first reading of Terumah when G-d continues on about contributions for the building of the Tabernacle. G-d said to Moses “Make for Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell among them.” The Kabbalists and other commentators point out that the sentence would make more sense if G-d had said “and I will dwell among it – meaning the sanctuary. From this we can infer that G-d is implying that it is not in the actual physical tabernacle or sanctuary in which He will dwell, but rather within the people themselves. The Temple is within each one of us and only by creating our own internal Temple through sharing and “bringing” charity to the world can we truly get to the place where G-d can dwell among us.
The portion specifically describes how the Ark (which was built to hold the stone tablets engraved with the 10 Commandments) is to be separated from the rest of the tabernacle by a curtain and the tabernacle is to be similarly separated by a courtyard. The lesson here shows us the power we can give to things simply by separating them from other less important or less holy things. For example, Shabbat is separated from the regular days of the week, Rosh Chodesh is separated from the regular days of the month and holidays are separated from the regular days of the year.
In both the literal and figurative sense, it is said that G-d is in the details. This is made evident in the portion of Terumah where G-d provides exacting details about the materials and construction of the Tabernacle and all of its coverings and furnishings. The detailed description regarding the Tabernacle in this and subsequent portions shows us the importance of G-d’s presence in the physical world. Whereas the actual Commandments were provided in just a few readings, the details describing the vessel to hold them takes place over several portions. By bringing the divine inspiration and consciousness down into the physical realm, we can create the Temple within each of us.
This week in Parsha Terumah we see that the key to true sharing is when one acts like a conduit, without condition or ego. Through the Israelite’s creation of the physical Taberncle in the desert, we can manifest and create our own Temple within – a personal place of positive energy and Light where G-d can dwell.