Exodus 25:1 – 27:19
Can we find deeper meaning in the detailed specs of a tent design? You bet we can!
Parashat Terumah details the plan for the mishkan, the Tent of Meeting which would house the Ark of the Covenant and the Divine Presence during the Forty Years of wandering through the Wilderness. Every possible measurement, every bit of material, all of it down to the last detail is systematically laid out for us, and although we no longer live in a single camp and will not build another mishkan in our lifetimes, we are expected to read every single word. As a student I used to dread this portion and would skim over the details. As a rabbi, I have come to embrace its buried treasures.
Here is just one example:
“Overlay [the Ark] with pure gold – overlay it inside and out – make upon it a gold molding round about.” [Ex. 25:11]
What is so interesting about this verse? Rabbi Amy Scheinerman, in 2010, asked a question which has bothered rabbis for generations: if the ark is sealed and never opened then nobody will ever see it on the inside – so why line it with gold? She turns to the Talmud for the answer:
“Any Torah scholar whose interior is not like his exterior is no Torah scholar.” [Talmud Bavli, Yoma, 72b]
Rabbi Scheinerman continues: “Slick façade lacking substance or façade covering a lack of integrity – we have all seen it in people who assume positions of leadership. Talmud reminds us to make sure it does not describe us.” [Voices of Torah, vol 2., p. 147]
In Terumah we find the plans for how to bring Torah and God into our midst, by building a special place in the center of our camp. Today, we are dispersed across the world. There has been no single center since the rabbis wrote the Talmud. Instead, we must create that space within ourselves. Let’s make sure that we are pure gold on the inside as well as on the outside, for only then can we become vessels for Torah and the Divine.
Hi there! I am the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland, where I have served since 2016.
(c) copyright 2018 by Rabbi Gary Pokras