Shabbat Terumah 5783

Beginning this week and continuing for several more, the Torah’s attention turns to the Mishkan. God commands Israel to build a sanctuary, the first major fundraising project in Israelite history. Several of the Mishkan’s items are to be built with gold and silver. If you wonder where the Israelites got those precious metals, recall that in preparing to leave Egypt, they were instructed to “ask” or “borrow” items from their erstwhile captors.

But some of the other building materials seem less likely to have been readily available. For example, the ark was to be made of ‘atzei shittim–“acacia wood” (Exodus 25:10). Was there a Home Depot as part of a Mount Sinai Suburban Mall? How exactly did the Israelites get their hands on acacia wood?
Rashi, the great 11th-century commentator, asks the same question. He answers by quoting a midrash: “Our forefather Jacob saw by the gift of Divine Inspiration that Israel was to build a Sanctuary in the wilderness; so he brought cedars to Egypt and planted them there, and instructed his children to take them with when they left Egypt” (Rashi on Exodus 25:5).
I don’t know if that midrash solves the quandary for you. Even if you find it imaginative at best, I encourage you to consider the imagery of the cedar tree, which Ya’akov Avinu thinks to transplant, literally, in Egypt. These trees are tall and majestic. In a way, they symbolize our potential when we reach our maximum heights. On Shabbat afternoon, I’ll teach a Hasidic idea that brings the imagery out of the trees and into the realm of our own lives.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise
Candle lighting: 5:22 PM
Torah Reading: Exodus 25:1-27:19
Haftarah: I Kings 5:26-6:13