Thoughts on Parashat Terumah

This week’s reading is Terumah 25.1 – 27.19.[i] This Parasha deals with the terumah (collection) that was raised up and set apart for the building of the Tabernacle, as well as the exact design and measurements of its furnishings, items of service, wall construction, and coverings inside and out from the center of what would be the Holy of Holies to the outside courtyard. And at least four times in this Parasha, Moshe and Bnei Yisrael are commanded “to make it all precisely according to everything that I show you” (Exodus 25.9; 25.40; 26.30; 27.8). It would appear that Hashem is concerned with the intricate details of life.

But then Abravanel [ii] asks, “Why did the Almighty command us regarding the construction of the tabernacle saying, ‘I will dwell among them’ (Exodus 25.8) as if He were a circumscribed corporeal being limited in space when this is the opposite of the truth? For He is not corporeal, He is not a material force, and He has no relation to place. Of Him it is said in Isaiah (66.1): ‘The heaven is My throne and the earth My footstool – where is the house that you may build for Me? And where is My place of rest?’ Solomon likewise said regarding the building of the Temple: ‘Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house that I have builded’ (1 Kings 8.27). These are evidently statements that contradict each other.”[iii] While expounding on Isaiah 66.1-2, Abravanel allows the LORD to answer his question, “…I do not need a Tabernacle for My dwelling place for ‘all those things hath My hand made’ (66.2) but I commanded these things in order to implant in their hearts My Providence.”[iv] In other words, the transcendent God, the Creator of all that is made room for Himself among the ordinariness of mankind. In Gan Eden, it was apparently the Creator’s practice to visit with His creation, because Adam and Chava knew the sound of His Presence (Genesis 3.8) and it was their disobedience that caused them to hide from His Presence. The Tabernacle, with all its intricacy and ritualistic activity, would provide a method for man to begin returning to the presence and intimacy of the LORD.

In the Apostolic Writings, concerning the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, it is written “They offer service in a replica and foreshadower of the heavenlies—one that is just as Moshe was instructed by God when he was about to complete the tabernacle. For He says, “See that you make everything according to the design that was shown to you on the mountain” (Hebrews 8.5). This was a necessary step in the journey from creation to the eventual consummation of all things in the Olam Haba, the world to come. It was a step but not the whole journey. In the Haftarah, 1 Kings 5.26 – 6.13, we see another step along the way. King Solomon replaced the temporary dwelling place, the tent that could be moved from place to place, with a more permanent dwell, the Temple in Jerusalem. Though nowhere in the design and construction of the Temple was Solomon told to stick to “the pattern in the heavenlies” he was assured

“As for this House which you are building, if you will walk in My statutes, execute My ordinances and keep all My mitzvot by walking in them, then I will establish My word with you, which I spoke to your father David, I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.” (I Kings 6.12-13)

As history records, Solomon eventually fell short of this charge, as did the rest of Bnei Yisrael and for their transgressions Israel went into exile. But before going the Ruach, through the prophet Jeremiah, offered these words of consolation and hope

“Behold, days are coming”—it is a declaration of Adonai— “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not like the covenant I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they broke My covenant, though I was a husband to them,” it is a declaration of Adonai. “But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—it is a declaration of Adonai— “I will put My Torah within them. Yes, I will write it on their heart. I will be their God and they will be My people. No longer will each teach his neighbor or each his brother, saying: ‘Know Adonai,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest.” it is a declaration of Adonai. “For I will forgive their iniquity, their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31.30-33; Hebrews 8.8-12).

Rav Shaul adds his affirmation to this action when he states, “And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (Romans 11.27) while the writer of Hebrews further assures

 “This is the covenant that I will cut with them: ‘After those days,’ says Adonai, ‘I will put My Torah upon their hearts, and upon their minds I will write it,’” then He says, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” (Hebrews 10.16-17)

The journey that began in the cool of the Garden transverses across time, to a man, Abraham, to a People, Bnei Yisrael, and to a man from Bnei Ysrael, Yeshua; from a heavenly designed Tabernacle, to the Temple in Jerusalem, to a cross and then to exploding out of an empty tomb. Now “the creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God” (Romans 8.19) when Adonai will then be King over all the earth. In that day Adonai will be Echad and His Name Echad” (Zechariah 14.9). Then all creation will agree with the Psalmist,

One thing have I asked of Adonai, that will I seek: to dwell in the House of Adonai all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of Adonai, and to meditate in His Temple. (Psalm 27.4)

 Shabbat Shalom

[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

[ii] Isaac ben Judah Abravanel (1437–1508) commonly referred to just as Abravanel, also spelled Abarbanel or Abrabanel, was a Portuguese Jewish statesman, philosopher, Bible commentator, and financier.

[iii] Leibowitz, Nehama. Studies in Shemot Part 2, trans. Aryeh Newman. Eliner Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora. Hemed Books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y. 1982. p 471

[iv] Ibid. p 472

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Michael Hillel with his wife Vered and their three children, made aliyah from the US in late 80s, and in biblical fashion has, for the last 27 years, done whatever his hands have found to do. In 2013 Michael began working on a MA degree in Messianic Jewish Theology. Using the tools learned from his studies, he has been writing teaching and devotional materials from both the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings. Since Messianic Judaism shares a communal context with both Judaism and Christianity, he incorporates material from both traditionally Jewish and Christian perspectives.