Parshat Terumah – Opening Devar Torah

This coming week, the newest Topsy Turvy Teva Bus Tour will begin.  Six educators will board a mind-flipping bus to set out on a mission – a quest to bring the exciting world of hands-on Jewish Environmental education to communities all along the east coast of the U.S.  The official name of this tour is the “From Purim to Freedom Tour,” but a quick glance at HebCal.com will show you that Purim doesn’t start for a few weeks.  What, then, should be our intention, our kavanah, as we set off?

This week’s Torah portion is Terumah, in which God dictates to Moses all of the details needed for the Israelites to construct the tabernacle, the mishkan, God’s mobile sanctuary within the Israelite camp.  “Va’asu li Mikdash, Veshchanti Betocham,” God says.  “And they shall make Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell within them (Exodus, 25:8).”  It is significant to note here that the word “Betocham” is plural – within them.  While the tabernacle is often thought of as God’s dwelling place, the text tells a different story.  When the Israelites build a sanctuary for God, they do, in fact, build Him a dwelling place.  But it isn’t the tabernacle.  It is themselves.  The act of working together to create a Mishkan raises the Israelite people, not the building itself, to a level that allows God to dwell within them.

My kavanah, then, is that as we head out on this adventure, we remember that the Israelite people continue to thrive, as does the work of creating a sanctuary for God.  Every pizza-box solar-oven we help build, every child’s jaw we make drop, every brit adamah a student signs, is another beam being put up in the wall of the tabernacle.  There is a space for God in every person, and our goal on this tour is to help find that space.

Oh Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary

Pure and holy, proud and true

And with thanksgiving, I’ll be a living

Sanctuary for You

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