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 within each 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 explicitly 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.

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 copper 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, copious

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 God''s best garment

and blessed apartment

will be your life and limb

1 God instructs people to give ''asher yedvenu lebo'' – ''according to the generosity of their hearts''.