The LORD said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them.” — Exodus 25:1–2 NLT
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.
This week’s Torah portion is about the temporary structure that would serve as the portable Temple – the Tabernacle, or in Hebrew, the Mishkan. In the opening verses, God instructed Moses to collect contributions from the children of Israel in order to construct the Mishkan. This Torah portion is called Terumah, which means contributions, and is named for the donations that God’s people would give from their hearts for His divine plan.
The Jewish sages asked: Why is the Torah portion about God’s house named after man’s contributions? The overwhelming majority of the verses in this selection speak about the details of the Mishkan. So why does the title focus on the few verses that describe the donations given by the people?
When you think even more about it, we might also question why God asked for the people’s contributions in the first place. After all, He brought forth manna from heaven and water from a rock. Surely He could provide the means to build His own home!
And that’s just the point. God could have done it all on His own, but He chose not to. Instead, He gave humankind a role to play. God doesn’t need us, but He wants us. He wants us to be His partners in bringing holiness to the world and making the world a better place.
The building of God’s home certainly takes center stage in this week’s Torah portion, but it all hinges upon the contributions of His children. God wants to be a part of our world, but it has to come through us – through our desires, our actions, and our contributions.
There is a great quote I came across a number of years ago that goes something like this:
“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.”
“Well, why don’t you ask Him?”
“Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”
Just like God could have built the Mishkan without any help from the Israelites, He could also solve all of the world’s problems without any help from you or me. But just as He chose to give the Israelites a role in building His home, He gives each of us the opportunity to be a part in building His world.
God wants you to be His partner today and every day in perfecting the world. What can you do today? What will be your contribution, this week, this year, this lifetime? Giving to God’s purposes is not a burdensome obligation; it’s a wonderful opportunity and a privilege.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President