This Week’s Torah Portion Is Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

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I discuss the weekly Torah portion with Rabbi Rabbs every Monday at 7pm PST on my live cam and YouTube.

This week’s parasha is Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19).

* We discuss my Saturday night interview with Heshy Fried.

* The Torah is obsessed with order. There is to be order in the sanctuary, in the camp, in the calendar, etc. And along with order comes hierarchy. Some people are more holy than others. We are not all equally holy, Korach. Somebody owns and others do not.

* Exodus 25:1. Each person is to give what his heart desires.

* Giving what my heart prompts me to give has gotten me into a lot of trouble in my life.

* If you do religious rituals and your heart is untouched, the rituals are empty. If prayer and kashrut have no meaning to you, then they won’t shape you to be a better person. That’s how people can pray regularly and keep strict kosher and cheat in business. When it comes to ethics, the heart does not matter much, but in religious rituals, the heart is important. If your heart is not into being ethical, be ethical anyway, but if your heart is not into keeping Shabbos and it has been this way for many years, you might need to adjust your observance. The Sabbath should be a delight.

* A third of Exodus is about the sanctuary. It is a route to God, perhaps more immediately accessible than anything we have today. The purpose of the sanctuary (mishkan) is to house the presence of God. Is God with us today? In our homes and in our cars and in our businesses and in our shuls? There is no better question than — is God in our midst?

* This parsha tells us what it is good for people to make, including the Sabbath. They shouldn’t try to be gods and to clone people. The vocabulary of the tabernacle — finished, work, blessed — is reminiscent of the Creation (Gen. 2: 1-4).

* God rescues the Jews and then has them build a place for Him to dwell with them.

* How could the Jews have all these sanctuary materials while they were running out of Egypt and wandering in the desert?

* People have tried to reconstruct the sanctuary from these instructions and it has not worked out. These are ideal measurements rather than real world measurements. The tabernacle is essential in Israel’s idea system. Seventh-Day Adventism sanctifies time and the Mormon faith sanctifies space (Utah) but Torah does both (time is the Sabbath and festivals etc, and the sacred space in particular is Israel).

* In Ex. 25:8, God says the Israelites should build a sanctuary “so that I may dwell among them.” Did not God dwell among them without a sanctuary? Isn’t God everywhere?

I believe God is everywhere but we don’t feel God’s presence equally? I walk into secular homes and I am struck by the absence of God. I walk into a religious home and I am comforted by the presence of holy books and religious artifacts. I feel a sense of the divine.

Similarly, I am less likely to feel the presence of God at a disco or an orgy than at a temple or church or mosque or yoga. I am less likely to feel the presence of God when I listen to the BeeGees than when I listen to Bach or Debbie Friedman.

According to the Artscroll chumash, the temple was only needed because Israel lapsed into idolatry with the Golden Calf. (Pg. 444)

How much are we losing by not having the temple today?

You can pray in your toilet or at a disco but it is not as easy a bridge to the transcendent than a holy place. What better to use gold or music or art for than to reach out to God?

Are we more deaf to God today? Because we are so busy? A secret to the Sabbath is quiet. We experience God through the holy. Secular people who act kind don’t experience God through their kindness.

God must be experienced, not intellectually argued for.

* The Artscroll definition of “Terumah.” “The root of the word is to uplift. The effect of these contributions was to elevate the giver.” (Pg. 445)

* The temple and the ark in shul holding the Torah scroll are embodiments of the revelation at Mount Sinai.

* The Torah scroll is so holy that it can not receive impurity. A menstruating woman touching a Torah scroll does not defile it.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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