Terumah (Exodus 25:1 – 27:19)
These days we have quite an array of tired, overused clichés at our disposal, such as “At the end of the day…” “When the rubber meets the road…” and so on… In fact, I recently happened upon a useful resource: The Dimwit’s Dictionary: 5,000 Overused Words and Phrases, and Alternatives to Them, by Robert Hartwell Fiske. The author appeals to writers to express their ideas more concisely. Why is it that we have so many colloquialisms relating to “the bottom line” – the conclusion of a matter? I suggest it may be because it is in actions rather than words that our priorities are revealed.
This week’s parasha is entitled Terumah, meaning “offering” and covers Exodus chapters 25-27. It opens with God’s invitation to raise a contribution – a terumah. It was not to be under compulsion, but completely voluntary, “from every man whose heart moves him…”. That contribution included silver, gold and bronze, but also multi-colored fabrics, exotic stones, oil and spices and animal hides. Obviously, not everyone had silver or gold to contribute, but some people might have scarlet or purple or blue fabric; others might have extra oil or an abundance of spices. Almost everyone would have had something on that list. And all of these items were for the constructing of something extraordinary – the Tabernacle – the place to meet with God!
We’re not told who gave what, but imagine yourself amidst the congregation of Israelin the wilderness, and the terumah is announced. Your heart is stirred at the news, and you give. Imagine the joy of knowing that you contributed to something of such importance! You helped others to be able to worship God!
We haven’t the time to go into all the details surrounding the design of the Ark of the Covenant, the Kapporet (atonement cover/mercy seat), the lampstand, the table and all its utensils and the structure of the Mishkan – the Tabernacle itself. But one aspect of the design of the Arkdemands our attention. After the Arkwas constructed (of acacia wood), it was to be overlaid with gold – inside and out. Why inlay the inside with gold? Gold isn’t cheap ($1,649/oz. as of this writing), and once everything was placed inside the Ark of the Covenant, no one was ever going to see its interior again!
The answer is actually simple: God, who would manifest His presence above the mercy seat, sees the inside as well as the outside. He is holy, and those who would draw near to Him need to be holy. It’s easy enough to present a good front, and we do it all the time. But what is in your heart? What occupies your thoughts? Is your interior life consistent with your public persona? You and I may at times be guilty of hypocrisy, but the answer certainly isn’t to lower the standard of our speech or conduct. Rather, the remedy is to privately and quietly give fresh attention to the Scriptures, and allow God to bring our interior into conformity with our exterior.
Or you can settle for wood, hay and stubble…
Rabbi Paul wrote, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). May God grant each of us to be pure inside and out, that we might enjoy an enduring and intimate relationship with Him!