Monday, January 31, 2011

Dwelling in All

Parshat Terumah
Shmot 25:1 – 27:19
1 Adar 1 5771 / Feb. 4 – 5, 2011

Dwelling in All
by Zvi Bellin, MHHQ

In this week’s Torah portion we are commanded by G-d to build a collapsible and portable structure for worship space in the desert. It seems strange to me that G-d would want a physical structure, especially one made of the finest materials,

“… gold, silver, and copper; and turquoise, purple and scarlet wool; linen and goat hair; red-dyed ram skins, tachash skins, acacia wood; oil for illumination, spices for the anointment oil and the aromatic incense; shoham stones and stones for the settings, for the Ephod and the Breastplate. (verses 25:3-7)”

It seems counterintuitive that the Almighty Being that cannot be contained in language, time, or space, would want to designate one structure as a place to be “more holy” than another place. There is one verse that seems to address this theological conundrum.

“They shall make a Sanctuary for Me – so that I may dwell in them.” (25:8)

Contrary to idolatry, where holiness is bound up in a specified object, the Mishkan was more of a center piece that served to uplift the entire community of Israel. The holiness of the Mishkan stemmed from the meaning that the Israelites gave to it and not something attributed to any intrinsic nature. When they called the Mishkan holy, they were able to self-identify as holy because they were doing the naming. Thus the physical act of donating one’s own materials and using one’s own craft to create this holy space, served as a cultural reminder – Holiness is inside of you.

What does it mean for a person to be holy? I want to define it as a choice that an individual makes to live life in an authentic way that allows others to do the same. The key though is the choice that is made to elevate one thing over another. The holiness is in the choosing, not in the thing itself.

The challenge for me in these portions is to understand G-d beyond a separate Being in the sky that rules over us. If G-d is more of a collective consciousness, or universal unifying factor, then the request for a house did not pop out of nowhere in G-d’s imagination. Perhaps the opulent commandment was a co-creative exercise between the people and the Creator. Another good example of partnering with G-d to create a better world.


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