Parashat Terumah

Gifts Freely Given

By giving God our full presence we allow the possibility for intimate connection and for God to dwell within us.

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Provided by the Union for Reform Judaism, the central body of Reform Judaism in North America.

Parashah Overview

  • God asks the Children of Israel to donate gifts (terumah) for the building of the Tabernacle so that God may "dwell among them." (Exodus 25:1-9)

  • Instructions for the construction of the Ark, table, and menorah are provided. (Exodus 25:10-40)

  • Detailed directions are given on how to build the Tabernacle. (Exodus 26:1-27:19)

Focal Point

Adonai spoke to Moses, saying: Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him. And these are the gifts that you shall accept from them: gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple, and crimson yarns, fine linen, goats' hair; tanned ram skins, dolphin skins, and acacia wood; oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the aromatic incense; lapis lazuli and other stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. (Exodus 25:1-8)

Your Guide

Why would God, the Source of existence and the world's substance, need or desire material gifts from the Israelite people?

God's gift of the Torah to the Israelite people coincides with the divine call to build and furnish the Tabernacle. What connection is there between these things? Is there any significance to the order in which the three major events of the Exodus--the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, the sin of the golden calf, and the building of the Tabernacle--seem to unfold?

Prior to the building of the Tabernacle, where do you think our people found "sacred space?"

What is the focal point of our own synagogue sanctuaries? What parallels exist between our sanctuaries and our people's first worship structure, the Tabernacle?

Why did the Israelite people need a structure to feel connected to God? Where do you feel the greatest sense of spiritual uplift or connection to God? Are our contemporary sanctuaries necessary?

What is the significance of the verse "You shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him?" Why was the commandment to bring gifts for the building of the Tabernacle not mandatory for everyone? What would happen if paying temple dues were completely voluntary?

What is the qualitative difference between a "gift" and a "gift freely given?" What kind of gifts have you brought to your congregation or community?

Why does the Torah say, "And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them" rather than "And let them make a sanctuary for Me in which to dwell?"

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Rabbi Maynard W. Bell

Rabbi Maynard W. Bell Emeritus, served as rabbi at Temple Solel in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona, for 25 years. He is the executive director of the Arizona chapter of the American Jewish Committee.