For the week ending 25 February 2023 / 4 Adar 5783

Parshat Terumah

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Hashem commands Moshe to build a Mishkan (Sanctuary) and supplies him with detailed instructions. The Jewish People are asked to contribute precious metals and stones, fabrics, skins, oil and spices. In the Mishkan's outer courtyard there is an Altar for the burnt offerings and a Laver for washing. The Tent of Meeting is divided by a curtain into two chambers. The outer chamber is accessible only to the Kohanim, the descendants of Aharon. This contains the Table of showbreads, the Menorah, and the Golden Altar for incense. Entrance to the innermost chamber, the Holy of Holies, was permitted only for the Kohen Gadol, and only once a year, on Yom Kippur. Here is the Ark that held the Ten Commandments inscribed on the two tablets of stone which Hashem gave to the Jewish nation on Mount Sinai. All of the utensils and vessels, as well as the instructions for the construction of the Mishkan, are described in great detail.


You shall make a table of acacia wood…” (25:23)

They say that into every life, a little rain must fall. Sometimes, however, we might feel this “little rain” as a full-blown downpour, leaving us reeling and searching Terumah: The Jewish Spark for answers. But we should know that there is a little candle at the end of the tunnel, a light that can never go out.

In Yiddish it’s called the pintele Yid — the Jewish spark. And a spark that can never go out, never needs to be more than a spark. For the greatest blaze can be ignited with just one spark.

After the original creation of the world, Hashem creates nothing ex nihilo; rather, every new creation has to have a pre-existing conduit from which it can flow.

In Hebrew, the word beracha (blessing) always connotes “increase.” A blessing always takes some pre-existing state and infuses it with expansion. Hashem uses a pre-existing vessel and then injects blessing to swell and amplify what is already present.

In this week’s Torah portion, the Torah describes the shulchan. The shulchan, which was an ornamental table, was the conduit through which material blessing flowed to the Jewish People.

And similarly, on our tables, when we say the blessings after a meal, Judaism teaches us to leave the bread on the table so that it should be a vessel to receive Hashem’s blessings.

Another example of this is when the prophet Elisha helped a penniless woman. He asked her what she had in her home, and she replied that all she had was a small jug of oil. Elisha told her to borrow as many jugs and pots from her neighbors as she could. Then, she was to start pouring from this tiny jug of oil into the first container. Miraculously, that little jug kept on pouring oil until all the borrowed vessels were full.

And in our own spiritual lives, we should never despair, because there will always be that pintele Yid, that eternal spark that will re-kindle our hearts even when we feel to be running on mere fumes.

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