Terumah - Weekly Torah Portion


There is a lot of symbolism when a structure is erected. This week we read about two such projects. From the Torah we read, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.” We read about another structure in the Haftarah from Kings 1, “Now it came about in the four hundred and eightieth year after the sons of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord.” Two very different ways of raising the funds necessary to build these structures are used. In the construction of the Tabernacle God speaks to Moses, “Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution.” While King Solomon uses a different tactic, “Now King Solomon levied forced laborers from all Israel; and the forced laborers numbered 30,000 men.”

One way or the other formidable structures are erected – one was probably majestic considering its desert surroundings, the other due to its grandeur, wealth and location. There is a declaration that comes with these structures that has to do with the presence of the union of multiple tribes into a People. Each tribe becomes with its advantages and disadvantages but together are able to erect the most elaborate structure that server the entire nation that has nothing to do with each tribe’s origins, but for may be the Levites who are to serve in these structures.

The magnificent Tabernacle and the Holy Temple of Jerusalem are long gone. Remaining are only faint memories that have registered in our minds over many generations and are part of a mosaic that comprises the bonds between the Jewish people and its historical homeland. It is a bond that there are those who wish to destroy it, undermine it, make us forget it, or discount it. This was unsuccessful and it is a matter of fact that the Jews engraved this connection over two thousand years in the diaspora, and a memory that was the engine that brought us back here. While seven decades ago there were those who argued that the effort failed as most of the Jews did not live in Israel, reality has proven them wrong. As of 2018 the two largest Jewish communities are located in the USA and in Israel and account to roughly 94% of world Jewry. The centralist structures of the Mishkan and the Temple have been replaced by a wider tend that include a diverse Jewish population, a population which is multi-faceted and that has varying cultural and Jewish expressions.

The Tabernacle was built through receipt of contributions, while the Temple erection required a sort of taxation. Both have value in the life of a nation. The way we build such structures today in the State of Israel is different. We build a structure that is supposed to contain all of the citizens of the state, and we all have a common responsibility for its well-being, that is based on values of morals, justice and equality, alongside with all aspects of personal and political security. The challenges on how to do that are significant and there are many different ways and views on how to do so. I am doubtful if any of us has been bestowed with the wisdom to predict the future with any level of certainty, let alone what would be the only right way to navigate the nation to overcome difficulties and challenges as they are presented to us. We have our beliefs and in a democratic country we decide between all these different points of view by casting our ballot on elections day. Each of us who bothers to vote has an equal say. Here in Israel we will be voting on Monday, take advantage of this right. Go out and vote without fear, not burdened by the past but thinking of the future which you want our next generation to inherit. The ballot you cast will be a corner stone in that future, a stone that will be part of the large structure which we all are going to share, those who agreed with us as well as those who did not.

The structure being built is not only the one we are building for ourselves but also the home of world Jewry. From them, our brothers and sisters in the USA are the largest community and they are in the process of voting for the World Zionist Congress. For the Israel Reform Movement these elections are of the utmost importance and therefore we need to encourage them to vote for the ARZA slate. Success in these elections will not only secure more funding to the non-Orthodox streams in Israel, but can also positively influence the political discourse in Israel. Moreover it provides Jews living outside of Israel the opportunity to demonstrate their strength once every five years and become dominant within the National Institutions. This allows us to influence the way they are going to operate within and outside of Israel. The time to vote in the WZC elections is slowly reaching an end and by March 11th thy will be over with and therefore it is essential we encourage our family and friends to vote ARZA.

There is a lot of symbolism when a structure is erected. There is that much symbolism also in our ability to take the big words and declarations and act upon them. The act of voting does not require too much of us. It is simple, vote and influence, here in Israel and in the USA.

Shabbat Shalom.

Reuven Marko, 28 February 2020, 4 Adar, 5780

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