This week’s parashah, Teruma, which translates as “offering”, gives us the detailed instructions on building the Tabernacle - G-d’s sanctuary- symbolising his unconditional presence with the Jewish nation.
In essence, Moses went up to Mount Sinai and was instructed by G-d to tell the Israelities to make offerings of various materials such as gold, silver, jewels and exotic linens in order to construct the Tabernacle. The purpose of building it was to allow G-d to dwell among the Israelites: “And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them” (25, 8), as they continue with their journey to the promised land. There were many miracles in the desert prior to building the tabernacle, so instead of indirectly instructing the Israelites to donate, why couldn’t G-d simply “summon” the Tabernacle himself? Perhaps this decision stemmed from G-d wanting to teach the Israelites a lesson about giving?
That being said, the Israelites generously donated their own valuable possessions, despite their impoverishment - and indeed the fact of them being only recently freed from slavery in Egypt. This comes to show that they prioritised giving over receiving - they prioritised selflessness over self-benefit. In this sense, our ancestors stand as role models for us as they demonstrate this key lesson: putting others before ourselves.
To reiterate, this parashah puts an emphasis on the matter of offering and giving, which can be applied in any context, under any circumstance. Giving, in this regard, can also be offering our service and time to other people, and parallel to donating our valuable possessions: it is the thought that counts. For instance, if a friend is struggling or seems unwell - we should offer our help. It is our reassurance, knowing that we are there to support them, that matters - whether they need it or not.
Besides taking on selfless acts to help others, this portion of the Torah also teaches us about contributing to something bigger. Each contribution from each individual - each gift given towards the Tabernacle - acts as a piece of a puzzle where each donation represents different offerings from different people. And so the puzzle eventually connects as the individuals come together to donate. As a result, once we step back and zoom out the bigger picture can be seen, in this case - the Tabernacle being built.
What does this mean? It tells us that when we come together and make an effort to give - whether substantial or not - unity and collaboration are established, in which these collective contributions constitute something grand.
Tali, Grade 10