parasha

Truma 5777

A Human Temple
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

This week’s parasha, Truma, deals with details of building the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. This was the temporary temple that accompanied Am Yisrael during their wanderings in the desert until the permanent Temple was built in Jerusalem.  We read many details in this week’s parasha that relate to the building of the Mishkan, the exact measurements of its ritual objects, and the exact length and width of the Mishkan itself.
The parasha begins with these words spoken to Moshe:
Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me an offering… (Shmot 25, 2)

Moshe was instructed to collect the funds needed to build the Mishkan from the nation:
…from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My offering.
(Ibid)
When we look at the name of the parasha – Truma (offering, contribution) – an interesting question pops out at us.  One would think that the parasha would be named “Mishkan” and not “Truma”.  Though the Mishkan was built from the offerings of the nation and the generosity of those who contributed from their own pockets to have it built, the collection of funds was not a goal in itself.  There was no need to raise money other than because without contributions from “the generous of heart”, there would be no way to build the Mishkan.  The truma, the contribution, was only a means to get to the significant end – construction of the Mishkan.
The answer to this question lies in the words of the sages of the midrash.
They took the verse “And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst” and explained: “It does not say ‘in its midst’ but rather ‘in their midst’ – in the midst of each and every person.”
Had God said - And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in its midst, that would have meant that God resided in the Mishkan or Temple where He reveals Himself.  We can absorb His holiness only in the Temple where God dwells.  With this outlook, there is no Divine revelation within us humans.  There is also no personal connection between us and God; that connection is only possible with the Temple as an intermediary.  But that is not what the words say.  The sensitive and careful reading by the sages accurately discerned the exact form of the verse: “I will dwell in their midst”, and understood from this that God dwells within each of us.  This teaches us that God reveals Himself in our hearts.  We all recognize within ourselves the desire to be good, to be a better person.  God’s voice emanates from within us.  Each of us carries the ambition to make the world more perfect, for people to smile at one another, for the world to be kinder.
The purpose of building the Temple is so we all recognize within ourselves the voice of God, the fact that we are not meant to accept reality, but that we have the power to make it better.
For this reason, the Temple was built with everyone’s “Truma”.  These contributions created the personal connection between each member of the Jewish nation and their most sacred site.  The Temple’s holiness stemmed from it being constructed by everyone’s desire to build a House of God, a place that would be a moral and spiritual beacon, a compass for all of humanity.  We are all connected to the building of the Temple since it was built from contributions that came from each person in the nation, and therefore it symbolizes our desire to be a part of the lofty endeavor of Divine revelation in the world.
Though the Temple was destroyed about two thousand years ago, the sense of holiness that enveloped all who entered it still exists somewhat until today.  Whoever visits the Western Wall Plaza nowadays returns home with a sense of transcendence that comes from the proximity of the Western Wall to the site of the Temple.  Visiting this place emphasizes the fact that despite all our disagreements, humanity shares a wide common denominator around which it can create one society which is diverse but which can work in partnership for the greater good.  The divisiveness, disputes, and disagreements cannot negate our heart’s ambition to make ourselves and our world better and more complete.
The sense of transcendence from a visit to the Western Wall must be maintained by internalizing the concept that God does not dwell only in the Temple, but in each of us.  We can all become a small “temple” and discover inside ourselves the light, the goodness, and the beauty that God bequeaths to the world. 

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