Parshat Teruma: What are you offering?

This parsha deals extensively with the people’s offerings towards the building of the Mishkan; the mobile Temple known in English as the Tabernacle. Midrash HaGadol takes the 15 materials donated to the Mishkan''s construction and likens them to components of the human being. The gold corresponds with the soul, the silver with the body, flax with the intestines, and on and on. This evocative midrash clearly equates the house of God with the human being. Indeed, one of the most commented upon lines in the parsha is, “And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell – b''tocham – within them.” (Exodus 25:8) Grammatically speaking, one would expect the text to say ''build me a sanctuary that I may dwell within it.'' But let there be no mistake, the simple read of text is clear, God will dwell withineach of us. Build it and He will come – right into our very selves! The parsha''s barage of details about an external building project all point to a quintessentially internal domain.

But how do we Torah-readers of today fulfill this injunction for internal construction? How do we create God''s abode within us? I think one hint is in the fact that the very first appearance of the mishkan in the Torah is explicitely linked with the people bringing offerings.1 The concept Mishkan is necessarily linked to the idea and ideal of ''giving''/teruma. It is the act of offering which moves God to dwell below. God promises that when we give the best of ourselves...then we will come to enshrine divinity.
And more than that – this is not merely individuals making their contributions in a vacuum. No, this is an overtly communal endeavor. The Torah teaches a timeless model of the sanctity born from a communal pooling of each person''s gifts. Mishkan is a Biblical model for conscious community where its members are actively offering up their best, whether through artistry, wealth, knowledge – in acts of gracious contribution to the whole. Lucky are we who find ourselves in such consecrated communities.
This week''s parsha invites each of us to look at our lives and decipher what offering are we destined to bring to the communal pool of sanctity. What is it that you and you alone can offer to your community, your people, our shared world? What is your unique contribution that throws up the walls for a dwelling-place for God? The teruma challenge – to chose one thing you can do today to actualize that divine injunction of offering from the generosity of your heart and the creative ingenuity of your spirit. (Please see past poetic commentary pieces at blog)

The Offering

List here
Under ‘gifts’
- the donations of my lips
You want blue – have my veins
Purple, take this flesh
The soft of my face
– your ram skin dyed red
My scalp - the tachash hide
The shittim wood - my bones
Oil for lighting – take these eyes
For sweet incense – my nose
Take spices from beneath my tongue
My kidneys - shoham stones
place these upon the altar of community
with tithe of blood, edom
Set my heart like gemstones
Upon the priestly breast
Take flax from these intestines
for goat hair, take this tress
The cooper is my calling voice
Silver, are my limbs
The gold, bestowed with all my soul
that God might dwell within
And with these sinews lodging light
I donate
every breath
to house the gusty word of God
in sanctuaried dress
and let us dwell well on these words
that tether us to sky
to ground the clouds
in temple''d shrouds
to bound the boundless light
with tangled wools
of what to give
with talents on display
through artistry, ingenuity
in gemstone states of grace
God''s firey image on the mountain
chiseled into life
reified and actualized
tactile and enshrined
Palpable and muscular
expressive, copius
God is sparked in all our arts
when we wield our will to give
so grant the gemstones of yourself
an airing among friends
and Gods best garment and blessed apartment
will be your life and limb