Word of Torah: Parashat Terumah
Written by: Rabbi Emily Segal
Our Torah portion this week, Terumah, begins with God telling Moses to ask the Israelites to bring gifts for God, from each person whose hearts so move them (Exodus 25:1-2). And with these gifts, God commands: “And let them make Me a sanctuary so that I may dwell among them” (25:8). This verse is particularly interesting because it does not say, “Let them make me a sanctuary” so that I may dwell within IT, but rather, “so that I will dwell among them,” or you can even translate this verse to say, “So that I may dwell within them.” By bringing gifts for God, the Israelites open themselves up and allow God to dwell among them, and within each individual one of them.
And that dwelling place is within the heart of any person who opens himself or herself up to allow God’s presence to enter.
The Torah is teaching us something that it can be hard to remember today; it is sometimes hard for me to remember this, myself. Connection with God does not simply happen. Relationship with God isn’t automatic. Like any relationship, it takes effort. I cannot simply hope or expect that a feeling of deep connectedness will wash over me; I cannot assume even that attending services will create that connection. I have to break down the barriers that exist within me that might impede connection. I need to become mindful and aware of myself, of those around me, and I have to consciously open myself up to connection. I need to not simply read the words on the page of the siddur (prayerbook) and sing along with the songs; I need to allow those words and those melodies to affect me; I need to feel deeply the meaning of those words and the depths of those melodies.
And if I do that, then I will have opened up my heart for connection, then I will have built a tabernacle within myself, “so that God may dwell within.”
Connection with God isn’t automatic; it doesn’t just happen. The Israelites brought gifts, as their hearts so moved them, to build a tabernacle, a portable sanctuary that served as the symbol of God’s abiding presence with the people, that allowed God to dwell within and among them. So too can we give of ourselves and open ourselves up to connection, allowing God’s presence to dwell among us and within us.
In the coming week, may we mindfully open ourselves up to connection, knowing that when we make the effort, when we reach out to God, we will find God there, waiting, reaching out for us as well, not wanting to be parted from us, waiting for us to create a sanctuary so that God may dwell among us and within each of us.