The instructions to build and furnish the Mishkan begin this week and will go on to occupy about one third of the book of Shemot, five Parshiyot – Terumah, Tetsaveh, half of Ki Tissa, Vayakhel and Pekudei, interrupted only by the story of the golden calf.
The word Terumah suggests not just a contribution but something more, an uplifting of the spirit. The detail set out is incredibly precise and includes things that we still cannot define. (The Tachash skins were either from an unidentified animal or a stained skin.)
We are told:
this is the offering that you shall take from them: gold, silver, and copper
Do we read this as meaning every physical or financial contribution, great or small is required or does it suggest that each of us can contribute in his or her own way?
We go on to read:
And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst
וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָֽׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם
It raises the question; does God only dwell in one specific place? Is the Mishkan for us or for God? The Kotzker Rebbe, when asked where God is, famously replied:
God is wherever we let Him in
Much later on in the Parasha is the instruction:
The poles of the ark shall be in the rings; they shall not be removed from it
Other parts of the Mishkan can be broken down for travel but not the Ark which contained the testimony we had received.
At the end of the Sedra is the reminder to:
blot out the remembrance of Amalek
We would always be vulnerable.
Most of us will have in our homes a Siddur, a Haggadah or other books which our parents, grandparents or our more distant ancestors took with them as they journeyed through our family histories. They can be compared with the Ark, always ready to be moved. The synagogues they built may no longer exist but when we read from them it is a thread that takes us back to Sinai.