Broken Without God

Yael Eckstein  |  February 20, 2024

A golden ark of the covenant with two eagles on it.

Have them make an ark of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. — Exodus 25:10

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Terumah, which means “contributions,” from Exodus 25:1–27:19.

When I was 15 years old and received my driving learner’s permit, my mother began to teach me how to drive. I’ll never forget how I got into the driver’s seat so excited and certain that driving would be a breeze. But as soon as I took my foot off the brake and the car lurched forward, I panicked and realized that I had a lot to learn before I’d be driving confidently. From that moment on, I listened intently to my mother’s guidance and followed her directions completely.

In this week’s Torah reading, we learn about the ritual vessels used in the Tabernacle. At first glance, it might seem like the details provided about the vessels are irrelevant to us today. However, everything in the Bible has an eternal message; sometimes we just have to look deeper to find it.

For example, Scripture gives the prescribed measurements of the Holy Ark: “two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high.” If you notice, each measurement contains a partial unit—half of a whole. The Jewish sages explained that the Ark, which held the first Torah scrolls, was made out of “broken,” incomplete parts in order to teach us that in order to hold God’s Word, we, too, need to be “broken.”

Broken Without God

Think about it. Someone who is completely full of himself has no room for God. We need to be humble, to recognize that we are broken and incomplete without God, in order to receive His Word.

When I thought I was capable of driving before I even had my first lesson, I wasn’t nearly as receptive to my mother’s instructions as after I realized that I knew nothing about driving. In the same way, when we recognize we are broken, that as human beings we are naturally flawed and imperfect, we are far more receptive to God’s guidance and directives.

A great rabbi once said, “There is nothing as whole as a broken heart.” We need to embrace our brokenness and humbly acknowledge our shortcomings. In that way, we open a space for God so that He can enter our hearts and complete our souls.

Your Turn:

What are your “broken” parts? Pick a character trait that you would like to improve and look up Bible verses on that topic. Write them down and read them daily.