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

I discuss the weekly Torah portion with Rabbi Rabbs Mondays at 7:00 pm PST on the rabbi’s cam and on YouTube. Facebook Fan Page.

This week we study Parashat Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19).

Watch the video.

* Here’s the page of Talmud I’m studying today.

* This is not the most exciting of Torah portions. It’s almost all about the building of the temple. Learning Torah is not natural or easy for most of us. Most people will have to believe that the Torah comes from God to be able to slog through these arcane details. I find it a lot easier to watch Netflix than to study Torah.

* This Torah portion is about giving gifts to the temple. For the past few years, I’ve not been able to pay much in temple dues. When I was writing on illicit topics, I was able to pay the full dues. I’ve not done much donating of my time either. I always think that if I free up as much time as possible, I’ll do some great blogging and videos. That my purpose in life is to write. That is my gift to humanity. It seems wrong to constrict my genius to hang up some stuff at shul.

* When I get frustrated with my life, I want to grind my teeth. I have this huge emotional need to do just that, to get rid of my anxiety by grinding. But this just causes TMJ. Most of us have a huge emotional need to keep up our unnecessary layers of body tension. Once we let them go, let go of our body armor, we have to face our sadness and insecurity.

* Does talking to a girl on Skype lead to immorality? The possibilities of Skype seem endless. The picture and sound quality can be pretty damn good. Am I the only one who immediately thinks of illicit applications for Skype? Skype can be used for study of Torah and the deepening of family relationships or it can be used for cheap thrills.

* Rabbi Berel Wein writes: “The Torah pays a great deal of attention to externals. It is interested in personal dress and appearance and in communal structures as well. It is in favor of large and more central congregations of Jews praying together rather than in small private prayer services.”

I prefer Chabad to the other types of Hasidim because Chabad women take more care with their appearance. They dress fashionably. It’s easy to become religious and then let yourself go to pot. If this doesn’t make God cry, it makes me cry.

* Rabbi Wein writes: “Separating one’s self from the larger community, smaller and smaller venues of prayer, accommodating God’s service to one’s particular taste, convenience and desires is in the long run destructive to both the individual ! and the community. The rabbis taught us the principle that in the multitude of the people gathering for prayer lies the honor of the King. The increasing tendency of the shtibelization of the Orthodox world costs our cause dearly. After the destruction of the Temple, the synagogue became the “miniature Temple” of Israel in all of the lands of our dispersion. If the “miniature Temple” is not seen and treated as a mishkan, a place of beauty and awe and a place of large gathering, then we are missing something very important in our communal lives.”

* Do you have a favorite Village People song or persona?

Wikipedia says: “Taken at face value, its lyrics extol the virtues of the Young Men’s Christian Association. In gay culture from which the group sprang, the song was implicitly understood as celebrating the YMCA’s reputation as a popular cruising and hookup spot, particularly for the younger gay men to whom it was addressed.”

If a wholesome Torah institution like the YMCA became a cruising and hookup spot, how should we react? What if the holy temple became a cruising site?

Young man, there’s no need to feel down
I said young man, pick yourself off the ground
I said young man, ’cause your in a new town
There’s no need to be unhappy

Young man, there’s a place you can go
I said young man, when you’re short on your dough
You can stay there and I’m sure you will find
Many ways to have a good time

It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A
It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A
They have everything for young men to enjoy
You can hang out with all the boys

* Rabbi Wein writes: “Coercion and force, taxation and heavy-handedness are not really the prescription for a better Jewish world.”

You can have a big God running things or big government. One or the other. Unless God regulates lives, government will have to grow bigger and more intrusive to keep people in line.

The temple relied primarily upon voluntary donations. There was no temple police force that would go out and conscript stuff.

It should be the same with health insurance. Currently, houses of worship are forbidden to offer health insurance. If you could get health insurance through your shul, you’d have an interest in seeing to it that your fellow shul members behaved properly so they did not drive up premiums with risky behavior.

* Rabbi Wein writes: “There was an old advertisement about a famous soft drink in the United States whose theme was “Try it, you’ll like it.” Well, Judaism and its tenets, values and rituals can adopt that slogan as well. The key to Torah life is the enjoyment and satisfaction that it gives to one who lives in that fashion.”

Just look at Rabbs and me. We’re having a grand time.

* When people gave to the holy temple, they’d get 90% of their gift back in the form of tax-free cash. (Bubba Meiser 57A)

* I often hear that we had to build the holy temple so that God would dwell in our midst. But isn’t God with us all the time anyway?

* Why are most of the things I hear from American Jews about Persian Jews negative? Persian Jews are a model minority. They work hard. They’re educated. They’re committed to their families and to their community.

About Luke Ford

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