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Broken Pieces

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The Torah portion for this week is Terumah, which means “contributions,” from Exodus 25:1–27:19, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 5:26–6:13.

The Bible takes a marked turn this week with the reading of the portion called Terumah, “contributions.” We go from reading the great stories of the Bible – from Noah and his ark to the giving of the Bible at Mount Sinai – to a focus on the Tabernacle, God’s temporary dwelling place. We go from stories filled with action to portions of technical description. The Jewish sages note that it’s a little harder to find life lessons in this seemingly more matter-of-fact portion of the Bible, but they are there. The treasures abound; we just need to dig a little bit deeper.

Case in point: The measurements given for the Ark of the Covenant. Beyond the practical information that was needed for that generation who actually built the ark, why do we need to know for all eternity that the Ark was “two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high”?

The sages explain that even in the details that seem as meaningless as measurements, we can find God’s guidance.

One of the ideas gleaned from this section in particular is that there is a message behind the fact that all the measurements for the Ark are partial units — two-and-a-half or one-and-a-half. The Ark was designed to carry the Ten Commandments and the Torah scroll. However, in order to be an appropriate receiver of God’s Word, it had to be formed out of “broken” units and not complete ones.

This teaches us that if we, as human beings, want to receive God’s Word, we, too, have to be “broken.” Someone who feels completely whole and already perfect has no room for God. Humility is a pre-requisite for receiving the Bible. In the words of the Rebbe of Kotzk: “There is nothing as whole as a broken heart.”

This reminds me of Shel Silverstein’s book, The Missing Piece. The book takes us on the journey of a circle that is a bit broken – he is missing a pie-shaped piece. He searches for his missing piece, and on the way encounters the beauty of nature and makes some friends. Eventually, he finds his missing piece, but instead of the happiness he was expecting, he begins rolling through life so fast that he doesn’t have time for anything or anyone else. The circle decides to let his piece go, realizing that he was more “complete” without it.

Friends, we are all missing something if we haven’t found God. But we can only find Him if we recognize that our lives are incomplete without Him. Let’s embrace our brokenness and humbly acknowledge our shortcomings. As we recognize what we are missing, we will open a space for God and then He will truly complete us.

Broken Pieces,

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