(2 Adar 5775 - 21 Feb. 2015)
Our par’sha this week includes the verses between Sh’mot 25.1 and 27.19 and is entitled Terumah. Terumah is a reference to the contributions Yah commanded Mosheh to collect from everyone whose heart moved him to give. This is a milestone in Sefer Sh’mot. Up until this point the Hebrews and the mixed multitude had benefited from Yah’s miracles and His redemption. Now, for the first time, He was giving them an opportunity to give back to Him.
Yah asked for gold, silver, scarlet material, fine linen, goats’ hair, ram’s skins dyed red, fine leather, acacia wood, oil, spices and shoham stones. Only after telling them what He wanted does He tell Mosheh why. He wanted His people to build Him a Dwelling Place so He could dwell among them. Dwelling Place is translated from miqdash מִקְדָּשׁ, and refers to a place that is set-apart for a specific task. It shares the same shoresh, קדשׁ, as the word for holy, or set-apart, which is קֹדֶשׁ.
Considering some of the things Yah later told the Nevi’im makes His desire for a Dwelling Place a little difficult to understand. For instance,
M’lakim Alef 8.27: Melek Sh’lomo asked, For is it true, Elohim dwells on the earth? See, the heavens and the heavens of the heavens are unable to contain You, how much less this House which I have built. He was referring to the Hekal, which was larger than the Tabernacle.
In Yeshayahu 66.1, Y-H-V-H said, The heavens are My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where is this house that you build for Me? And where is this place of My rest?
And yet, Yah told Mosheh to have His people build Him this special, set-apart place - a miqdash - but not for Him to dwell in.Sh’mot 25.8 The Hebrew text reads v’sha’can’ti b’to’cam וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְתֹכָם - so He can dwell among them, His people. In verse nine Yah refers to this Dwelling Place as the mishkan מִשְׁכָּן, from the shoresh that means to dwell or to reside with others. The shoresh שׁכן is used in T’hillim 37:3 to describe living undisturbed and permanently in the land and is the same shoresh for the word Shekhinah, referring to Yah’s visible presence.
It has always been Yah’s desire to dwell among His people, so the importance of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, should not be under-estimated. Consider this: in just the thirty-one verses of B’reshith chapter one,Yah relates the six days of this creation, or re-creation. In one chapter He describes the creations of all the dry land, all the grass, plants, trees, lights in the heavens, the fish, birds, animals, even man. By contrast, the details of the construction of the Mishkan take up almost one-third of Sefer Sh’mot; spanning five parshiyot:
P’kudei. Only the incident of the golden calf interrupts the detailed story of the Mishkan.
And what elaborate structure did Y-H-V-H command we build for Him?
25.10-16: It begins with His instructions regarding an Ark of acacia wood; 2.5 cubits long, 1.5 cubits wide and 1.5 cubits tall. Using a cubit of 18 inches, the ark was 45 inches long, 27 inches wide and 27 inches tall. It was covered inside and out with pure (clean) gold and had a moulding all around it. It was to have a ring on each of its four corners and poles of acacia wood, also covered with clean gold, to carry it. Mosheh was to place the Tablets of the Witness inside the Ark
25.17-22: He command that the Lid of Atonement be made of clean gold and measuring 2.5 cubits long and 1.5 cubits wide. There were to be two kerubim on each end of the lid of atonement, facing each other with wings spread over the top of the lid. They were to be hammered out of clean gold. Mosheh was to place the lid on the top of the Ark of the Witness. The Ark and the Lid of Atonement, which contained the Luchot, were the only two furnishings of the Qadosh Qadoshim. Y-H-V-H said He would meet Mosheh between the kerubim over the Mercy Seat and speak to Him all the commands He would give to B’nei Isra’el.
25.23-30: Mosheh was to build a Table for the Bread. It was to be built out of acacia wood and covered with clean gold and also have a moulding around its rim. It was to be 2 cubits long, one cubit wide and a 1.5 cubits tall. (36”Lx18”Wx27”T) It was also to be carried with poles inserted into rings on its four corners. All of its dishes, ladles, jars and bowls were also to be made of clean gold. The Table was to continually have the shewbread on it before Y-H-V-H.
25.31-40: He gave the commandments regarding the seven-branched Menorah, a lamp-stand of beaten gold. A center shaft, with three branches on either side, each containing cups like almond flowers, ornamental knobs and blossoms. The lamps were to give their light to the front and all of its snuffers and trays were to be made of clean gold as well. The Menorah was to be hammered out of one talent of gold.
Interestingly enough, the instructions for the Altar of Incense, which was in the Set-apart Place with the Shulchan and the Menorah, are not give in this week’s par’sha.
Chapter twenty-six gives the details for the construction of the Mishkan and its size. When finished the Mishkan, minus the courtyard, was 10 cubits wide and thirty cubits long; approximately 15’Wx45’L. The Most Set-apart place of the Mishkan, was 10 cubits by 10 cubits, or 15’ square.
Ch. 27.1-8 gives the details of the Bronze Altar for the sacrifices and offerings. It was to be five cubits long and five cubits wide, or roughly 7.5’ square, and three cubits, or 4.5’, tall. It was made of acacia wood with horns of equal size on each corner and overlaid with bronze. All of its utensils; the pots, shovels, basins, forks and fire-holders, were also to be made of bronze. Like the Ark and the Shulchan, it was to be built with rings on its four corners and carried with poles of acacia wood covered with bronze. It was to be made with hollow boards, as it was shown to Mosheh on the mountain.27.8
The Mishkan and its furnishings were enclosed in a courtyard that measured 100 cubits long, fifty cubits wide and five cubits high. (150’Lx75’Wx7.5’H) 27.9-19
As I mentioned earlier, the next four parshiyot continue the story of the construction and dedication of the Mishkan, interrupted only by the sin of the golden calf, which was a major event in Torah. Man has even given it its own name: the Chet Egel - the sin of the golden calf. But as I see it, this creates a problem. Calling it the sin of the golden calf tends to focus our attention on the calf Aharon was forced to make for the people. While that in itself was a sin, it was not the only sin of the day, and if one isn’t careful, he might even start to blame the calf for what happened. The problem was not the calf, per se, but problem was with the people and how they reacted - or failed to react - to it.
Most are familiar with the severe consequences that resulted from the incident. Scripture seems to indicate that those who ate, drank and then rose up to play before this idol were killed when the Levites drew their swords and went among their brothers, friends and relatives.Sh’mot 32.6;26-28. After this, Y-H-V-H plagued the rest of the people who had not intervened to stop the sin that was so evident in their camp.Sh’mot 32.35 But there was another consequence that almost goes unnoticed in this story.
In Sh’mot chapter thirty-three, Y-H-V-H declared to Mosheh, And I shall send My Messenger before you…for I do not go up in your midst because you are a stiff-necked people, lest I consume you on the way…And Mosheh took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, and called it the Tent of Appointment. And it came to be that everyone who sought Y-H-V-H went out to the Tent of Appointment which was outside the camp.Sh’mot 33.2,3,7
So much time, so much detail and so many contributions1 - all to build a Dwelling Place for Y-H-V-H so He could dwell among His people. And yet, before the first cloth was sewn or the first piece of acacia wood cut, Yah had been forced outside the camp of His own people. Why? Was it simply because of a golden calf some had worshipped and others had ignored, or was there more?
During our midweek studies we are currently studying Sefer Yirmeyahu. This is a hard book to study because it so vividly describes the dark days just prior to the arrival of the Babylonians and the destruction of the Temple. Because of Yehudah’s sin the people would soon themselves exiled from the land for seventy years, but only after thousands upon thousands had suffered and died. It is safe to say that sin interrupted Yehudah’s time in the land they had been promised. As I studied this week’s par’sha I thought about how the sin with the golden calf had interrupted the story of the Mishkan, and wondered if there was a connection?
The incident involving the golden calf is found in Sh’mot chapter thirty-two. When the calf was finished and Aharon presented it to the people, the people declared, This is your mighty one, O Isra’el, that brought you out of the land of Mitsrayim!32.4 Contrary to some commentators, I believe this was idolatry. And yet, Yah didn’t send Mosheh back down the mountain to the people upon hearing their declaration.
It was the next day, after they had eaten, drank and rose up to play before their idol that Yah told Mosheh, Get down, for your people…have corrupted themselves.33.7 Hadn’t they already corrupted themselves by declaring it was the golden calf that led them out of Mitsrayim? So why had Yah waited until the next day to send Mosheh down to them? What was the lesson He was trying to teach this newly formed nation of Hebrews and the gentiles that had joined them? I noted this question in my Scriptures Bible a few years ago, but never really came up with a satisfactory answer - until now.
Join me in Sefer Yirmeyahu, chapter seven. Keep in mind that by the Yah sent Yirmeyahu to Yehudah, the Temple had been in use for for several generations. As chapter seven opens Yah spoke to Yirmeyahu, saying, Stand in the gate of the House of Y-H-V-H and proclaim this word to Yehudah…Make your ways and your deeds good, then I let you dwell in this place.7.2-3 This place was the Temple - the Dwelling Place Y-H-V-H commanded Sh’lomo build for Him.
Then in verse five He said, IF you truly do right-ruling between man and his neighbor, IF:
you do not oppress the ger, the fatherless, and the widow
and do not shed innocent blood in this place or walk after other mighty ones
THEN I shall let you dwell in the land that I gave your fathers forever and ever.
See (which is to say but), you are:
trusting in false words
burning incense to Ba’al
walking after other mighty ones you have not known
And (you have) stood before Y-H-V-H in this house which is called by My Name and said, “We have been delivered” - in order to do all these abominations.
In verse twenty-eight Yah declared, Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth. In chapter eight, verse 5 He recognized that we had turned away in continual backsliding.
I could not help but notice that the majority of sins Yah listed in this chapter, sins that constituted our continual backsliding, were sins we committed against each other: trusting in false words, stealing, murdering, adultery and so forth. These are sins that divide and destroy as a people. It destroys our trust and our faith in each other and Yirmeyahu’s was the lone voice calling out, warning the people.
It was then that I realized why Y-H-V-H had waited until the next day before sending Mosheh back down the mountain to address Isra’el’s sin. True, our forefathers had already committed an act of idolatry, but there was something else, another important lesson, Yah wanted to teach His people that day. So He waited until they began sinning against each other, destroying the unity and trust among them, before sending sending Mosheh back down to them. About three thousand died because of their idolatry and the rest of the people would be plagued because they hadn’t loved their neighbors enough to warn them of their sin. Yah wanted a place so He could dwell among His people, but He would not dwell among a people - even His own - who didn’t know how to love each other enough to stop the sin they saw others committing or to recognize their own sin.
In it no wonder at all that the Messiah taught that the two greatest commandments are that we love Y-H-V-H our Elohim with all our heart, with our being and with all our might and our neighbors as ourselves. On these two commands hang all the Torah and the Prophets.Matt.22.36-40 We are not allowed to choose one or the other. We can’t choose to love Y-H-V-H with all we have, but not our neighbor as ourself. His eternal, unchanging law, demands we do both.
We need to know and understand that when we fail to love our neighbors as ourselves, we fail to love Y-H-V-H with all our hearts, souls and might. If we are will to break the commandments that teach us not to bear false witness against one another, or steal one from another, or to commit adultery, or gossip about each other, or slander others, we drive Him from our midst and we will eventually break the commandments regarding our relationship with Him as well.
There is another lesson we should carefully consider this Shabbat as well. We are His people and, as such, we should realize that Yah addresses our sins now, in this life. He has another day reserved to address the transgressions of those who refuse to graft into His people, but for us it is a recurring event in our daily lives. He does this because He loves us and He wants us to have all that He has to offer us. He wants us to be His treasured possession about all the other people and He wants to dwell among us. History has proven that we, as His people, have to work to drive Him away from us. And we should realize that one of the things that drives Him away is when we don’t love each other enough to address sin among us. We don’t love ourselves, our neighbor, our Messiah or our Father if we don’t love each other enough to stop sin from robbing a brother or sister of Yah’s blessings and His presence. It’s not just our sins against Him that are grievous to Him.
Look at the person next to you, and the one behind you or in front of you. Do you trust them? Can you trust them? Now ask yourself, can you be trusted to be a brother or sister to them? Can they trust you to love them even when they hurt you or to help them if they stumble and fall in their walk? Do you trust them to love you in the same way?
There are empty chairs in this room. Some of them are empty because people have chosen not to have the testimony of Y’hoshua ben Y-H-V-H and to guard Elohim’s laws and commandments. Le’t make sure none of them are empty because we have failed to honor the two greatest of all His commandments.
This week’s par’sha is entitled terumah - contributions - and these contributions must be from voluntary - from our hearts. Today, we have the opportunity to make a contribution to our Father - not just in tithes, gold and silver, but in something much more valuable - ourselves.
2 Adar 5775
21 Feb. 2015
1 See Sh’mot 36.3-6