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Giving Gifts of Free Will

As the Torah continues the Israelites’ dramatic, people-building saga, Parashat T’rumah approaches the story from a new angle. Instead of developing the literary adventures of a no-longer-nascent people or focusing on the striking events at Mt. Sinai, this week’s Torah portion is about the details. And these details are not the specifics of community-building or daily life. Rather, they concern, in painstaking minutiae, the construction of the Tabernacle. This is a parashah about holiness, and in the case of Parashat T’rumah, the holiness is in the details.

D'var Torah By: 
How to Move the Right Heart at the Right Time
Davar Acher By: 
Cantor Erin R. Frankel

In Parashat T'rumah, Exodus 25:1-2 relates that, “The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved,” the text manages to be both inclusively open and exclusively specific. We tend today to read this invitation as an equalizer; no matter the gift, God will accept it. 

Finding God in Large and Small Spaces

Anyone who has lived in New York City is familiar with the challenges of "small-space living." When I was apartment hunting in New York, I looked at one apartment where the kitchen was so small, the refrigerator was placed directly in front of the kitchen sink. In order to wash your dishes, the real estate agent explained, you could just stand off to the side and reach in. In the apartment I ended up taking, one of the bedrooms could only fit a bed — no other furniture at all. Luckily, my roommate was short enough to be able to stand underneath a loft bed to access a desk and a dresser.

Since I left New York, though, the concept of small-space living has come into vogue. HGTV, for example, currently airs three series on the glamour of living in spaces with an average size of 180 square feet. An article describes, "For some, the tiny house movement has become a way of life, adjusting to a smaller space and fewer possessions, with a goal of saving money and focusing on relationships and experiences."1

Just a few years after leaving New York City, when my husband and I moved into our not-so-tiny house, I remember wondering how we would ever fill the space. It was so much bigger than any of the apartments I'd lived in. I quickly got used to life in a house, and I'll admit that I much prefer it to the tiny apartment with the side-access sink. But a beautiful midrash on this week's Torah portion, Parashat T'rumah, suggests that God might think about things a little differently.

D'var Torah By: 
The Heart Is the Key to Holiness
Davar Acher By: 
Nancy Wechsler

Rabbi Kalisch beautifully points out that neither a tiny New York apartment nor a sprawling home guarantee sacred space. Houses of worship or breathtaking mansions are not hallowed dwellings based upon physical structure alone. Midrash Sh'mot Rabbah 34:1 creates the foundational text that God does not require or even desire a palace, for even a small space created with loving hearts is perfectly suitable the Holy One.

In the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 7a, the Rabbis draw a parallel between loving hearts of a couple's bed and the Mishkan. We read:

When love is strong, a couple can make their bed on [the width of] a sword-blade, however, when love is no longer present, a bed of sixty cubits does not provide sufficient room. This is alluded to in the verses: Of the former age when Israel was loyal to God, it is said, 'And I will meet with you and speak with you from above the Ark-cover' (Ex. 25:22). And further it is taught: The Ark measured nine hand-breadths high and the cover was one hand-breadth; ten in all. Again it is written, as for the House that King Solomon built for the Eternal, the length thereof was three score cubits, the breadth thereof twenty cubits and the height thereof thirty cubits. But of the latter age when they had forsaken God, it is written: 'Thus says the Eternal, "The Heaven is my throne and the earth my footstool. Where is the House that you may build for Me?" '(Isa. 66:1).

Outside the Camp: A Modern Midrash

This midrash, or haggadic story, takes place amid the Israelites' wandering in the desert. We read in B'haalot'cha :

D'var Torah By: 
Divine Mistakes
Davar Acher By: 
David Spey

Dr. Ochs insightfully teaches the idea that we humans, we Jews, instill our own lives and experiences with meaning and thereby can find God in all aspects of life.

Nothing Is Merely Ordinary!

Judaism teaches us to distinguish the holy. This doesn't mean that holy things are separate from ordinary ones; rather, the ordinary can become holy.

D'var Torah By: 
Finding Holiness in Ritual
Davar Acher By: 
Sarah E. Mack

Our parashah begins with the command to Aaron to light the lamps of the menorah in the Tabernacle (Numbers 8:1-3).

Sacred Leadership

This past winter saw the release of a movie version of the Exodus story, directed by Ridley Scott.

D'var Torah By: 
Being a Stranger
Davar Acher By: 
Kimberly Herzog Cohen

Rabbi Steven Kushner thoughtfully notes the power of Moses' staff as symbolic of his compassionate and humble leadership style.

A Place for God to Dwell

"Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts (t'rumah); you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved." (Exodus 25:2)

D'var Torah By: 
Inside the Mishkan, with God
Davar Acher By: 
Andrew Vogel

“We must be active participants in our relationship with God,” writes Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus in her beautiful d’var Torah on T’rumah, bringing our own unique gifts of mind,

And Nun Shall Be Afraid!

Shout for joy . . . for on that day many nations will attach themselves to God . . . (Zechariah 2:14-15)

D'var Torah By: 
The Journey Is the Destination
Davar Acher By: 
Leonard Zukrow

There are two types of travel. The first, found in travel magazines, is exciting, adventurous, and exotic--travel for pleasure.

Sacred Space Is Where God Dwells and Hearts Are Moved

Parashat T'rumah begins, "The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved. . .

D'var Torah By: 
Where Is Your Spiritual Center?
Davar Acher By: 
Jeremy Schneider

In Parashat T'rumah, God presents Moses and the Israelites with instructions for building the Mishkan. This Tabernacle will house the Ark of the Covenant and the tablets of the Te

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