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Parashat T’rumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

“They shall make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long,
a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high.” (Exodus 25:10)

Survey after survey report American Jews are proud to be Jewish and have a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people. Parashat T’rumah offers a challenge to that sense of pride.

Parashat T’rumah opens with an appeal within a command: ”Tell the Israelite people to bring me gifts; you shall accept gifts from every person whose heart so moves him.” (Ex. 25:2) The goal is to collect the materials (which are listed in the next verse) to build the Mishkan, or Tabernacle, which will serve as the Israelites’ center of sanctity during their desert wanderings.

Many chapters later, when the Torah recaps the story, it says, ”And everyone who had in his possession… brought them.” (Ex. 35:23) The rabbis explain the use of the passive voice with this story: when Jacob is about to die, he informs his children of the future appeal to build the Mishkan and exhorts them to prepare the materials in advance and be ready. As in most families, some do and some don’t. So, generations later, when Moses relays God’s request, some of Jacob’s descendants have something they inherited to contribute, while others don’t and therefore must prepare their contribution themselves (Exodus Rabbah 33:10).

Pride in one’s heritage is a good thing. However, pride in one’s heritage means pride in what others before you have done. T’rumah reminds us we cannot coast upon the contribution of others, but rather, must add our own contribution, too. And since the mishkan requires a variety of materials, it’s clear there are different ways to contribute. So, what has Jewish pride motivated you to do lately?

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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