Parashat Terumah – Erev Shabbat 24 February 2023 (5783)
Week 19 -25 February 2023
Torah portion: Ex 25:1 – 27:19   Haftarah: 1 Kgs. 5:26-6:13
Theme: The offer of better relationships between us

Our Parashah begins with a request that God makes to the children of Israel: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites to give me an offering: of all hearts. Let them give: you will take my offering.’” (Shemot 25: 11-12) Why does God need to make a request? What inspires this request? What is its essence? A beautiful commentary that Rabbi Avital Hochstein reminds us of is a great gift offered from God:  the most significant gift that God has given to the people, the good doctrine, the Torah. Yes, it is a gift, but He wants to receive one as well. For, after all, the construction of the tabernacle shows us that He himself wants to dwell among his people. And Parashat Terumah continues with the description of several items to be built for the celebration of this closeness between God and his people. It is about this proximity that I would like to remember a comment from the Patriarch of Jerusalem Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, in a preface to the book “La Bibbia Dell’Amicizia”: ‘precisely in the heart of the Jerusalem Temple, that is, in the ark of the covenant, above the kapporet (“Propitiatory”), two cherubim had their faces facing each other and they looked toward the same kapporet (Shemot 25, 18-20). This, for the rabbis, has represented the love between God and Israel since then – as stated in the Talmud – when people perform God’s will, cherubim are facing each other “as a man with a woman in love, is a sign that God loves Israel”. Otherwise, “the cherubim turned their faces toward the wall” (Bbava Batra 99a). The sacred text literally says about the cherubim that “his face was a man in relation to his brother” (Exodus 25:20). For Rav Binyamin Levine, it is a sign of peace that does not only exist between two rabbis, but also between the rabbis and the leaders of other religions (Hamesh Yadot, I, Terumah)’.

     Rabbi Avital by commenting on Parashat Terumah teaches us that to understand the relationship between humanity and God is the claim that, together with the gift of the Torah, comes the gift of relationship with the One Who gave it to us. And the relationship with this great donor also asks us to a better relationship among us all.

     It should be possible to think about another friendship, where the Jewish brother is turned to the face of his Christian brother and vice versa. When this happens, as it were, God appears in the middle, as among the cherubim of the Ark of the Covenant. In addressing friendship, the two faces, Jews and Christians, and in mutual dialogue, God’s own face can emerge through the common reading of Scripture.

For Reflection and Discussion: 1. In what sense can the common study of the Sacred Scriptures facilitate a perception of the face of those who think differently from me? 2. Could this recognition of another human face also make the Divine Presence live between us and generate a possible and urgent fraternity (solidarity)?

BibliographyTerumah: The Receiving Giver (  by Rabbi Avital Hochstein; MORSELLI, Marco Cassuto; MICHELINI, Giulio. La Bibbia dell’Amicizia. Brani dei Ketuvim/Scritti commentati da ebrei e cristiani. Edizioni San Paolo, Milano: 2021.

This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Fr. Fernando Gross, Brasil, Bat Kol Alumnus: 2017-2019


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