Parashat T’rumah -- Exodus 25:1-27:19
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Questions for Young Children

• Why do people need a special place to worship God? What makes the synagogue special to you?
• Why do you think God wanted B’nei Yisrael to give from their own possessions to help build the Mishkan? How does it make you feel to help make something for your mom or dad or your grandparents?
• What kinds of materials are used to make the mishkan and all the utensils? Do you think those are special or everyday materials?

Questions for Older Children
• Moshe’s directions are to ask everyone "whose heart is willing" to make a donation to the building of the mishkan. Do you think most of B’nei Yisrael would be willing to give or not? Why? Would you have donated?
• Do you think you could actually build the mishkan today with the directions from the parasha?
• Do you think it was a good use of B’nei Yisrael’s time and resources to build the mishkan? Why do you think God commanded this building project right after giving B’nei Yisrael laws to follow in the previous parasha?

Questions for Teens and Adults
• Reflect on the events that have happened to this group of former slaves in Sh’mot (Exodus) until now—they’ve escaped Pharaoh’s chariots with God’s help, begun their wandering in the desert complaining from time to time, they’ve received laws from God, and now they’re told to give up some of their possessions and build a tabernacle. Does this progression make sense to you?
• Why would God tell Moshe to solicit contributions from B’nei Yisrael to build the mishkan (Tabernacle) rather than impose a fixed donation like a shekel?
• Why do you think the directions for the mishkan (Tabernacle) are so detailed?
• Jews believe that God is everywhere in the world, God cannot be contained. Why build a physical space and called it a dwelling place (mishkan) rather than encourage B’nei Yisrael to worship God in any and every place?

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Create a mishkan centerpiece

  • If you have access to a 3-D printer, this is the time to use it for a Shabbat table centerpiece.  It's illuminating for everyone to actually see what the mishkan looked like.  
  • Or, if you prefer the old-fashioned method, ask a guest to create a model or a drawing for your table.  
  • Or, print a 2-D copy of the mishkan to examine.  
  • Consider the symbolism of the mishkan and compare it to the symbolism of a Beit K'nesset(synagogue) you know well.
  • What is the inspiration for some of the decorative touches on items like the menorah?

 

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Parashat T’rumah relates the very detailed instructions Moshe received on Sinai about the construction of the mishkan (Tabernacle) and its contents. The measurements and the look of the mishkan and its contents are described in detail. The needed supplies are listed. Thirteen materials are mentioned from precious metals to dyed wools to wood, to spices to precious gems. What's not specifically listed is the amount of the contribution from each Israelite.  Instead, it is left up to the individual to decide. The Torah stipulates the contribution should be “whatever his heart makes him willing to give.”(Exodus 25:2) Although there is emotional guidance for the donor, there's no percentage, no sliding scale. God requires more than a material donation from each Israelite.  As the directions are given for the building of the mishkan and fashioning all the utensils and decorations, God commands "וְעָשׂוּ" (they will make) or "וְעָשִׂיתָ" (you sing. will make). To me this seems like another step in the process of complete emancipation from slavery.  No longer are B'nei Yisrael making bricks for their  Egyptian masters, now they're making a holy space for God and for themselves.

Find the food connections

דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ-לִי תְּרוּמָה: מֵאֵת כָּל-אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ

Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him. --Exodus 25:2

יב וְיָצַקְתָּ לּוֹ, אַרְבַּע טַבְּעֹת זָהָב

Cast four gold rings for it --Exodus 25:12

לה וְכַפְתֹּר תַּחַת שְׁנֵי הַקָּנִים מִמֶּנָּה

..a button of one piece with it, under a pair of branches… --Exodus 25:35

Artichoke hearts, onion rings, and button mushrooms!

The Side Dish

The detail in this parasha is remarkable. Sometimes I want to skim it and other years when this parasha is read, I am struck by the detail. The mishkan was an elaborate construction with very rich appointments. It’s also very practical—it is easy to assemble and disassemble and carry along for decades. When I watch the faces of very young children entering a sanctuary, they look awestruck. Whether it’s the soaring heights of a sanctuary, the ner tamid, the stained glass, or the total effect—it works. We humans react to beauty and we act differently in sacred space. Creating their own sacred space out of their own contributions was a great act of freedom for former slaves. Step one on the Israelite freedom trail was to accept laws, step two was to contribute, step three was to join together to create sacred space. Each step in the desert moved each Israelite farther from the status of slave and closer to actualizing human potential as individuals and as a community.
This may present an opportune time to reflect on the beauty of your own sanctuary, what impact it has on those within its sacred space, and how we remember those who helped to build the sanctuary replete with all its ritual objects.  Esthetics and building technology  have changed since the mishkan's construction, but a beautiful space resonates within us just as stirring words lift our spirit.

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A Dash of Construction
Check the internet for reconstructions of the tabernacle. You can google “tabernacle” or copy this link to see photos of the reconstruction at Timna Park in the Negev: http://www.bibleplaces.com/tabernacle.htm If you scan the internet, you’ll see there are model kits for a tabernacle. In case you're interested in building your own, here are some measurement equivalents:

  • 1 cubit=18 inches  
  • 1 hand's breadth= 3 inches  
  • 1 talent=3,000 shekels or, according to Josephus, about 100 pounds

A Double Dash of Hebrew
In 25:2 God instructs Moshe to take an offering מֵאֵת כָּל-אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ --mei-ayt kol ish asher yidvenu libo (from each person whose heart is willing.) The root of yidvenu is n-d-v. The Hebrew name, Nadav, comes from this root as does the verb l’hitnadev—to volunteer or the noun form, mitnadev, a volunteer. One of the first acts of B’nei Yisrael as free people is to be able to volunteer, to choose to help to build their own sacred space.

The word for the Tabernacle is mishkan. One of the names used for God in rabbinic literature is Shekhina, a feminine noun.  In its simplest meaning, the root sh-kh-n means dwell. Why
do you think this particular root is used for both God and the Tabernacle? Can you find a verse in the parasha that explains the use of the word mishkan?

A Dash of Commentary
Moving from the height of Sinai and the revelation in the previous chapter (the last verse was “Moshe went inside the cloud and ascended the mountain; and Moshe remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights") to God’s request for material goods to build the Sanctuary may seem jarring. Many commentators have pondered the juxtaposition.

What do you think of Italian commentator Umberto Moshe Cassuto’s (1883-1951) thoughts?

"We must realize that the children of Israel, after they had been privileged to witness the Revelation of God on Mt. Sinai, were about to journey from there and thus draw away from the theophany. So long as they were encamped in the place. They were conscious of God’s nearness; but once they set out on their journey, it seemed to them as though the link had been broken, unless there were in their midst a tangible symbol of God’s presence among them. It was the function of the Tabernacle [Mishkan] to serve as such a symbol…The nexus between Israel and the Tabernacle is a perpetual extension of the bond that was forged at Sinai between the people."

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Artichoke Heart, Red Potato, Button Mushroom, Onion Ring Casserole
Pareve and vegan--Serves 6-8 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil        rsz 07 trumah potatoes artichoke hearts copy copy
  • olive oil spray
  • 2 shallots, cut thinly into rings (or substitute 1/4-1/2 cups thinly sliced red onion rings)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. small red potatoes, quartered
  • 12 oz. frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
  • 3/4 lb. button mushrooms, quartered
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup pareve chicken soup 
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • dill for garnish

Directions

  1. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil, add potato quarters, spray and bake at 425º until browned but not overdone. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add shallots and garlic cooking until softened.
  3. Add mushrooms and sauté until browned.
  4. Add artichoke hearts and continue to brown another 5 min.
  5. Place all the ingredients in a casserole except lemon juice and dill.
  6. Bake @350º 30 min.
  7. Add lemon juice before Shabbat and hold casserole in oven.
  8. Sprinkle with dill before serving.

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