Parashat Terumah – Erev Shabbat 4 February 2022
Week of 30 January- 5 February 2022
Torah portion: Ex. 25:1-27:19Haftarah: 1 Kgs. 5:26 – 6:13
Theme: Offering and God’s presence
The Torah portion is about making a place for the divine and being in the presence of God. God tells Moses to bring him gifts that can be used to build a sanctuary where he “may dwell among them.” The Hebrew word terumah (gift) refers to what is specifically set aside by its owner and dedicated for sacred use. God tells Moses that the gift he is asking for must come from “every person whose heart so moves him.” The gifts can be grouped into seven categories: gold and other metals, dyed yarns, fabrics, timber, oil, spices, and gems. They should be used in building the tabernacle (the Mishkan), its accessories, and for its day-to-day or regular use.
The tabernacle Moses was tasked to build would include an ark, two cherubs, curtains, and a menorah. They are to be built of pure gold or a combination of wood and pure gold. The ark is to be the holiest as it will permanently house the two stone tablets given to Moses to mark the covenant made between God and the Israelites (Ex. 24:12). It is to be made of acacia wood and to be overlaid with pure gold inside and outside. The mercy seat, the two cherubs, and the lampstand are to be made of pure gold.
Gold, mentioned 22 times in the reading, is beautiful, durable, and precious, befitting a royal and divine presence. It symbolizes the enduring value and beauty of the commandments that would be housed in the ark. On the other hand, wood is alive and can grow (Etz Hayim says even the Torah is called “a tree of life.”). The word Mishkan which first appeared in Ex. 25:9 with its purpose stated in 25:8 that God “may dwell among them,” indicates a moving dynamic presence of a portable shrine, a symbol of God accompanying the people on their journey to the promised land.
Scholars have argued whether the tabernacle of Moses has a historical basis or not. The Temple, built by Solomon and rebuilt by the returning exiles from Babylon, was not built as specified in the reading. Different generations built their houses of worship in ways appropriate to their time and needs.
Today, we have different places of worship – from very big beautiful ornate cathedrals made of cement, steel and gold, to small chapels made of wood and light local materials. And in this time of the pandemic, it is okay for us to hear Mass online. We are taught that just as in the time of Moses, the presence of God is not in a building or a structure. It is found in the hearts and souls of the people who build and sanctify the building. Our catechesis says the risen Jesus has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit and Paul has taught us to glorify God in body and spirit. He has asked: Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? (1 Cor 6:19)
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. In the reading, God has requested a gift offering. What kind of gift can you bring God from your heart? 2. Do you believe that holiness can be found in each one of us including in your enemy or someone who has deeply hurt or betrayed you?
Bibliography: ETZ Hayim: Torah and Commentary (New York, 2001); Meyers, Exodus: The New Cambridge Bible Commentary (New York, 2005); Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary; Exodus (New York, 1991).
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Minerva Generalao, Philippines, Bat Kol alumna 2014