Gifts. That’s what t’rumah means. God tells Moses to tell the Israelites to bring gifts, specific gifts, but only if they are moved to do so. Then God gives very specific instructions for building the tabernacle with these gifts. Being in the business that I am, one day I will build a model of this tabernacle. It’s just too tempting to not do it. My son explained that a cubit is the distance from your elbow to your fingertips. So I’ll scale a cubit down to maybe an inch or so and see if I can lay out this tabernacle. Maybe I’ll just draw it in CAD. That would be fabulous. Then I can model it in 3D and add all of the colors and textures God requires. One day, when I have a lot of free time.
The thing that struck me in reading this parsha is the portability of so many of the pieces described. Plus the whole thing is a tent which is pretty portable in itself. I think this is significant. I know that everything is significant in the Torah, but I think this is especially significant. I think God wants us to be able to carry our beliefs with us easily and always. I think God wants us to carry Him with us. I don’t think that God wants us to go to Him. He wants to come to us. He wants us to have a place to receive Him.
When I look at some churches I see magnificence, hugeness, greatness beyond man. I see a place that one goes to experience the holy. Or to try to find the holy. But what I feel is small and insignificant. Certainly not worthy of a meeting with God. I don’t see God. I don’t feel God when I am in a place bigger and more fancy that the greatest palace.
I feel God in small quiet places. I see God in the faces of my children, in the loving look in my husband’s eyes. I feel God when my Jewish community comes together to take care of one another. The tabernacle that God describes is filled with precious metals and stones, but it does not seem magnificent. It is not bigger than a neighborhhood. It is based on the length between a man’s elbow and his fingertip. It is human scale…a place for us to receive God.
I seem to remember Howard Roark building his “temple to the human spirit” on a scale smaller than the churches of the day and being condemned for doing so. Maybe it’s time to re-read that book….