Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Parshat Teruma

Living With God

In accepting the Torah, Israel agreed to be a "holy nation" (Shemot 19:6). Following their acceptance, came a long list of rules that would help them attain that holiness. The attainment of holiness would then prepare the ground for Israel "to build Me a sanctuary, so that I can live among them" (ibid 25:7).

With God living among us much can be achieved. As well as being victorious in battle, God promises that "there will be no bereaved or barren woman in your land; I will fill the number of your days" (ibid 23:26). With God living among us, we would feel no suffering, no lack of security and would live long and fulfilling lives.

However, with it, comes many dangers.

To begin with there are uncomfortable situations. If someone becomes impure, they must leave the city until their purity is restored. If a person sins, they can be inflicted with tsaraat and again, be forced to live outside of the camp. The slightest deviation from holiness is incompatible with God's presence.

When God first approached Moshe, "Moshe turned his face aside, for he was afraid of looking at God" (ibid 3:6), Yaakov was surprised that he had survived an encounter with a celestial being, "I saw a celestial being face to face, and my soul was saved" (Bereshit 32:30). So too were Gideon and Manoach, when they encountered an angel (See Shoftim 6:32-33 & 13:22).

Indeed, after Israel's apostasy with the Golden Calf, God said that it would be best if He did not live among the people: "I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites…because I will not go up in your midst since you are a stiff necked people, lest I destroy you on the way (Shemot 33:2).

God says that He does not want to depart from Israel, but if He does not, He will end up destroying them, because Israel is stiff necked, and will surely sin again. It would better if He kept a distance from Israel and sent an intermediary in His place.

Israel mourned that fact and it seemed that God relented for the Mishkan was built and God's presence did reside among Israel. However, it came at a price.

The first to suffer were Nadav and Avihu, two of Aharon's sons, "fire came out and consumed them" (VaYikra 10:2). Others soon followed, the Mitonenim (Bemidbar 11:1), the 250 followers of Korach (ibid 16:35), the rebels that came in their wake (ibid 17:11) and the apostates of Baal Peor (ibid 25:9).

Incidents continued in the Land of Israel. First the Philistines suffered when they captured the Ark of the Covenant, and then the people of Bet Shemesh, when it was returned (see I Shmuel Ch. 6). Indeed, even David's first attempt to bring it to Jerusalem was accompanied with death (II Shmuel 6:6).

Jews pray regularly for God's house to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. However, before we do that, we must first ensure that we are ready. Otherwise, the consequences will be fatal.

Last years' Sedra Short on Parshat Teruma, entitled: "A Home for God " appears at

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