Remembering Our Sacred Spaces

Remembering Our Sacred Spaces

Feb 19, 2021 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Terumah | Shabbat Zakhor

On Shabbat Zakhor—the Shabbat of remembering—we recall the Amalekites’ vicious attack on the Israelites in the desert, in which they targeted not the fighters but the weaker members of the community (Deut. 25:17–19). This year, however, I suspect many of us will be focused instinctively on remembering something else: the anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic turning our lives upside down.

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The Golden Crown of Parenting

The Golden Crown of Parenting

Feb 28, 2020 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Terumah

And you shall cover it with pure gold, inside and outside you shall cover it,
and you shall make for it a crown of gold surrounding it. (Exod. 25:11)

These are architectural details of the Ark of the Covenant, the central element of the Holy of Holies, where the tablets of the Ten Commandments will be held and carried. The Ark has a covering of gold, inside and out, and a crown of gold. Four gold rings are attached to it, two to each side wall, and through these rings poles of acacia wood are inserted, which remain in place, even when the Ark is at rest. To what may this Ark be compared? To parents. How so?

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Why God Needs a Dwelling Place

Why God Needs a Dwelling Place

Feb 8, 2019 By Robert Harris | Commentary | Terumah

Recent portions of the Torah have dealt with the arrival of the Israelites at Mount Sinai; the great theophany of God, in which God spoke the Ten Words, or Decalogue; the revelation of the Book of the Covenant, containing the first extended legal section of the Torah; and the covenantal ceremony sealing the everlasting special relationship between God and the people of Israel (Exod. 19–24). Our portion this week turns to the subject of proper worship of God (a subject with which the Torah will be concerned formally for the next eight portions), and opens with a command from God that Moses organize the people to build God a sanctuary in the wilderness: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to the Israelites that they may take for me a contribution; from everyone whose heart so moves him, take my contribution . . . and let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them’” (Exod. 25:1–2,8).

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An Edifice Complex for Our Time

An Edifice Complex for Our Time

Feb 16, 2018 By Marc Gary | Commentary | Terumah

Several years ago, while traveling far from home, I found myself in an affluent suburban community on Shabbat. I decided to attend the local Conservative synagogue in the morning and brought along a friend who I was visiting. The synagogue was newly constructed and architecturally magnificent with a ski-slope ceiling, beautiful stained glass windows, and much ornamentation in gold and silver. The ark was stunning, with a brightly colored tapestry parokhet above which hung a modernistic ner tamid (eternal light). The rabbi stood at a hand-carved lectern and delivered his sermon, which that week happened to be on Parashat Ki Tissa and the lessons of the Golden Calf. As the rabbi reached the climax of his sermon, his voice rose into a crescendo and he declared: “And the Golden Calf lives today!” At which point, my friend leaned over and whispered to me, “Yes, and I think we are sitting in it.”

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Building the Mishkan in Medieval Catalonia

Building the Mishkan in Medieval Catalonia

Mar 3, 2017 By Ariel Fein | Commentary | Terumah

Like a contract between artist and patron, Parashat Terumah details God’s commission of the construction of the Tabernacle —a task ultimately carried out by Bezalel, “who was filled with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge of all manner of workmanship” (Exod. 31:2-3). A combination of God’s commandment and Bezalel’s artistic vision, the Tabernacle exemplifies divine creation through human mediation.

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A Symbol of Peace

A Symbol of Peace

Mar 3, 2017 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Terumah

The Arch of Titus in Rome is simultaneously one of the saddest and most exciting places for a Jew to stand. It is but a short distance from the Colosseum, the stadium made famous by its cruel sports, built with money plundered from the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE. Titus’s Arch celebrates the destruction of our Temple, a building designated by Isaiah to be a house of prayer for all nations. A bas-relief sculpture on the arch’s inner walls depicts a sickening scene: the triumphant display of the Temple’s sacred objects, the Menorah most prominent among them, along with a pathetic procession of enslaved Jews.

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Textual Transmission

Textual Transmission

Feb 5, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Terumah

In what font does the Torah need to be written?

A glance inside a Torah scroll reveals that the font is indeed different than what is printed in standard siddurim and other Hebrew texts. It is clearly a beautiful and highly stylized calligraphy, but as this midrash makes clear it is also part of the tradition handed down from generation to generation.

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“A Place for Your Stuff.”

“A Place for Your Stuff.”

Feb 16, 2002 By Joshua Heller | Commentary | Terumah

I’ve always appreciated a monologue by George Carlin on the topic of “a place for your stuff.” The comedian describes the way we accumulate physical things in our homes and basements. When we travel, we take a smaller version of our “stuff” with us.

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A Thought on Physician-Assisted Suicide

A Thought on Physician-Assisted Suicide

Feb 15, 1997 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Terumah

This week Shabbat follows by a day the date assigned by the Talmud (the 7th of Adar) for the death of Moses. The Torah leaves us entirely in the dark as to when Moses died. We are told only at the very end of Deuteronomy that Moses died alone atop Mount Nebo, looking out over the Promised Land. Though advanced in years, Moses did not die of old age: “Moses was 120 years old when he died; his eyes were undimmed and his vigor unabated (34:7).” That is, he died suddenly, without illness and suffering, or in the words of Rashi, by the touch of a divine kiss (on the basis of the phrase “al pi adonai;” literally, “by the mouth of God” – 34:5).

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When to Give

When to Give

Feb 4, 2007 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Terumah

In many ways, Parashat T’rumah represents a thematic transition from engaging biblical narrative to technical description and detail. As the parashah opens, we become privy to the details of the Tabernacle and its appurtenances. And while we are initially dazzled by the vibrant colors and materials, the details become overwhelming. Our eyes glaze over, and it is difficult for the reader to engage. Sensing this challenge to his congregants, the classical fifteenth-century bible commentator Abarbanel opened his treatise on this parashah with an important word of encouragement.

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