Ron Wexler, Weekly Newsletter
February 9th, 2008
"Shabbat Shalom" is a weekly message, sent on Friday, that contains very short commentaries on the portion of the Bible that is read in synagogues on the corresponding Sabbath services.
From the reading portion for the Sabbath of Exodus 25:1-27:19
The Hebrew name for this week’s portion is “Terumah”, the true sense of the word has no English equivalent. It applies a separation of a portion of one’s resources to be set aside for a higher purpose. The root of the word is “rom” to uplift. Thus, the effect of these contributions was to elevate the giver and his concept of the purpose of the wealth with which God had blessed him.
The purpose here was The Tabernacle – a resting place for God’s presence. With the exception of the tragic incident of the Golden Calf, the rest of the book of Exodus is devoted to the preparations and the construction of the Tabernacle. Even the account of the Golden Calf is not unrelated to the Tabernacle, for according to the sages, the very construction of the Tabernacle was made necessary only because of Israel’s laps into virtual idolatry. They maintained that ideally no “Temple” should have been needed after the revelation at Mount Sinai, because the entire nation achieved a level of prophecy and every Jew was worthy for the “Shechinah” (Divine Presence) to rest upon him, as it later did on the Tabernacle and the Temple. Only after Israel toppled from that high level of spirituality, as a result of the worship of the Golden Calf, did it become necessary for it to have a “central” Sanctuary.
For the Sanctuary almost everything was to be given voluntary. So anxious were the people to have a share in creating a resting place for the “Shechinah”, and so prompt and enthusiastic was their free willed response, that those in charge of the work had to appeal to Moses to order a halt to the contributions (Exodus 36:3-6).
Rabbi Bressler points out that The Aron (Ark) contained the most precious gift the Jews got: the Tablets handed from God to Moses. The receptacle had to be worthy of the insert, and therefore the Ark had to be intricately constructed with symbolism as meticulously configured as its beautiful design. The Ark consisted of three contiguous boxes of gold, wood, and gold, each inserted into the other, and gold plated wooden staves with which to carry the Ark. The Torah goes on to state that "The staves shall remain in the ark; they shall not be removed" (Exodus 25:14). Rabbi Kamenetzky asked that if this is meant as a prohibition for anyone to remove the staves, why didn''t the Torah just command us not to remove them, instead of telling us that they won''t be removed? Rabbi Kamenetzky answers that perhaps the Torah is making a powerful prophecy in addition to a powerful regulation. The wooden staves represent the customs and the small nuances of the Torah. They may not be as holy as the ark, but they will never leave its side. When the cherished handles of those staves are invoked into use, the entire Torah is raised with them. As the Torah is clearly demonstrating, the Torah is moved by the little actions that we do, the inconspicuous little actions that impress no one, but mean the world to God!
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