Parashat T’rumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

“And these are the gifts that you shall accept from them: gold, silver, and copper.”  (Exodus 25:3)

Parashat T’rumah, the seventh parasha (portion) in the book of Exodus, introduces the detailed instructions for building the mishkan, or Tabernacle.  These instructions, along with the actual construction of the mishkan, occupy the rest of the book of Exodus (except for the interruption of the episode of the golden calf).

Jon Levenson, Professor of Jewish Studies at the Harvard Divinity School, describes how the creation of the mishkan in Exodus parallels the creation of the world in Genesis.  The seven distinct speeches giving the instructions for the mishkan match the seven-day cycle of creation.  In each case, God describes the work as “good;” its completion is specifically remarked upon; a blessing is invoked; and God declares it holy.  These parallels are not accidental; the Torah wants us to link the two stories.

When the mishkan is finished, it becomes the center of sanctity for space for the Israelites, just as when the creation of the world was finished, Shabbat became the center of sanctity for time.   The mishkan is to space what Shabbat is to time, with one difference:  when the mishkan moves (remember, it was a portable structure that travelled with the Israelites), the center of sanctity moves with it.  That is because what makes the mishkan sacred is not the space it occupies, but rather the activities that occur in the space.

While we are justly proud of our JCCs, it is important to remember what makes them special, indeed sacred, is not the Jerusalem stone on the façade, or the sculptures in the foyer, or the landscaping of the grounds.  It is the activity of the members, engaged in Jewish living and learning.

Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom,

David Ackerman

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