THOUGHT FOR PARSHAT TERUMA 5779
BY RABBI CHAIM FACHLER
This week’s Parsha deals primarily with very detailed instructions how to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the mobile version of the eventual Temple, and its various vessels. In fact, although we are taught that every letter of every word in the Torah has a reason, almost four complete Parshiyot are devoted to the building itself, the vessels and the clothes the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) wears during his service in the Mishkan. How come?
And if the purpose is to emphasise the importance of the Temple, and our public and individual devotion to worship and coming closer to HaShem, then why the emphasis on the physical aesthetics? Surely HaShem needs our internal commitment rather than spending money on the physical aspects.
Our sages offer several symbolic explanations on each of the special vessels, showing how they correspond in some way to our daily lives. The Neziv goes further and points out differences in how we serve HaShem today, compared to the various materials used in the construction of the Mishkan.
The message is clear. HaShem created us and therefore understands human nature. We mortals only understand things explained in our language. We create for ourselves our own standards and yardsticks. We build homes to our individual tastes, and while the physical should not be the most important ingredient, it necessarily plays a significant role in the way we live, how we dress and what we drive.
HaShem is setting the ground rules for our future behaviour among ourselves and between Him and us. And He is showing us that there is no room for half measures. Devotion needs to be detailed. It cannot be abstract. Good intentions are helpful, but it’s deeds that count. “Feeling deeply religious” is an excellent start. Practical application counts for a whole lot more.
When I send out an email, if I miss out one solitary punctuation mark in the address, it simply won’t get there. A single character wrong, and the email cannot be sent. HaShem’s blueprint for practicing Judaism may not be attainable immediately by everyone, and we are judged according to our individual strengths and capabilities. But we must never lose sight of the detail. Of the format. Of the infrastructure. Because ultimately, HaShem gave us these as tools, assisting us in our lifelong quest to serve and love Him, and represent Him throughout the world as proud members of His Chosen People.