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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Skorka

Terumah - The first temple of Israel

This parashah describes the components and construction of the Tabernacle, the portable Temple that the Children of Israel had in their desert wanderings. Exodus 25:8 explains its significance: "They will make Me a sanctuary to dwell within them." It should not be thought that God is found particularly in that object or place. The purpose of the Tabernacle was to encourage the people, through symbols that were in it, to discover the presence of God in themselves, in their communal spirituality. The Tabernacle was to serve as a focal point to share a common spiritual experiences.

Four hundred and eighty years later (1 Kings 6:1), when Solomon dedicated the Jerusalem Temple, he defined its essence similarly. He said (1 Kings 8:27): “Will God settle on Earth? Behold the heavens and the skies of the heavens will not be able to contain you. Could this house that I have built possibly be able to?” The implicit answer is that the Temple had to gather many people to devoutly seek the presence of the Creator in an earthly reality.

Unlike the pagan temples, the Temple of Jerusalem, as in the Tabernacle, was not a place simply to go to in order to see God. Rather, it was the place where the people of Israel presented themselves before God (Exodus 23: 17; 34: 23-24; Deuteronomy 16: 16). The Temple is a place of shared meditation with the purpose of seeking in it the presence of the Creator through an introspective gaze at oneself while also contemplating one’s neighbor.

Shabbat Shalom!

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