Parashat Terumah – Erev Shabbat 19 February 2021
Week of 14-20 February 2021
Torah portion: Exodus 25: 1-27: 19 Haftarah: 1 Samuel 15 :2-34
Theme: From the mountain to the Tabernacle
This Saturday is also known as Shabbat Zachor (Sabbath of Remembrance)which precedes the feast of Purim which takes place this year on 25/26 February. The Maftir is taken from Deut 25:17-19 (end of Parashat Ki Teizel) which describes the attack of Amalek on the Israelites. There is a tradition from the Talmud that Haman, the antagonist of the Purim story, was descended from Amalek. The portion that is read includes a commandment to remember the attack by Amalek, and therefore at this public reading both men and women make a special effort to hear the reading. The Haftarah from 1 Sam 15 describes the attack on the Amalekites by the Israelites under the leadership of Saul according to the promise and Command of God which was intended to be the total destruction of them.
We turn to the Torah portion which contains lists of instructions for the building of the Tabernacle in which the LORD would live among his people. Twice in this reading, we are told: that the instructions are given from the mountain, Mount Sinai: “Note well, and follow the patterns for them (the furnishings) that are being shown you on the mountain” (25:40); “Then set up the Tabernacle according to the manner of it that you were shown on the mountain.” (26:30)
I have two questions concerning this Parashah: 1) Where did the Israelites get all their gifts /offerings in the desert to build such an elaborate Tabernacle? 2) How did Moses remember the LORD’s detailed instructions given over some time?
According to Kugel (New York: 2007 p.284) Temples in the ancient Near East were the homes of the deity and therefore were elaborately built. So our Parashah follows these traditions in the detailed instructions that the LORD gives to Moses for the building of the Tabernacle. The details given here for the building of the Tabernacle are very similar to the way Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kgs 5:1-8:66). According to various scholars, the instructions for the building of the Tabernacle were written about 10th – 9th century B.C. while the Exodus event took place around 1250 B.C.
What are the messages of this Parashah? The LORD gives the instructions – “unless the LORD builds the house…” (Ps 127:1). The LORD insists on freely given offerings to build the Tabernacle – the LORD does not need anything from us but wants our love freely given. The LORD wants to be amongst his people. The detailed instructions and the use of the most precious materials speak to me about the Holiness of God who deserves only the best we can give.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. I asked two questions that could be in your mind. I am not sure that they were answered satisfactorily; but what is the question we should ask about the Word of God? I ask and answer that for myself in the last paragraph. Have you any other messages that you received from our Parashah for this week?
Bibliography: Kugel, James L, How to Read the Bible, (New York: 2007); Wikipedia: Shabbat Zachor; NRSV from Bible Gateway.
This week’s Parashah Commentary was prepared by
Bernadette Teresa Chellew, South Africa, Bat Kol Alumna: 2008