28/29 Feb: Shabbat T’rumah : Shabbat comes in 5:24 pm, ends 6:26 pm
Parashat T’rumah – Head and Heart
This Torah portion marks the turn of the Book of Exodus from the narrative of exodus to the building of the mishkan (the portable sanctuary of the wilderness). The portion gets its name from the command (Ex. 25:2): ‘You must bring me t’rumah.’ Though t’rumah refers to the gifts that were given by the Children of Israel in order to build the sanctuary, many commentators read t’rumah as being linked intrinsically to tz’dakah (our obligations to give to those in need). In both cases, we give that which we might rather keep for our own benefit, in order to create a better society.
Rabbi Alter picks up on the connections between this command to give t’rumah and the previous statement of the Children of Israel (Ex. 24:7): ‘We will do, and we will hear.’ Rabbi Alter understands that since the people began that statement with ‘we will do’, the Holy One immediately followed with the command for t’rumah. According to Rabbi Alter: ‘The commandment of tz’dakah requires action without excessive contemplation, without excessive consideration, but rather to “do” and afterwards to “listen”. This is because if one contemplates and considers beforehand, one will never arrive at “we will do”.’
We have a tendency to be a rather cerebral people. We like to study, and to think through multiple scenarios, and to debate. These are all wonderful aspects of the Jewish people. Nonetheless, there are some mitzvot that require acting from the heart, and letting the head catch up later.
Rabbi Natasha Mann
So in terms of a punishment for the people of Noah’s time, the flood and the destruction of all living things does seem a bit extreme. One of my rabbis, Rabbi Brad Artson argues, that is exactly the point the Torah is trying to make.
Destruction, even when it comes from the God who is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” bursts beyond any manageable or fair limitations. Even punishments, originally intended to be measured and reasonable, provoke unanticipated suffering and hardship.
Rabbi Paul Arberman.
Abraham Joshua Heschel believed that Adam’s sin was primarily in hiding from God and from himself. This is not, in Heschel’s eyes, an abstract idea; we all hide from God and from ourselves. Heschel expresses it thus in the third verse of his poem I and Thou:
” Often I glimpse Myself in everyone’s form,
hear My own speech – a distant, quiet voice – in people’s weeping,
as if under millions of masks My face would lie hidden. ”
Heschel is describing a personal experience in which he has hidden from himelf, his essence absorbed within society. His face is masked, hidden from view, making the idea to “know thyself” impossible.
I’m not sure why we hide from ourselves so well when we are young — or perhaps we just don’t take the time to think through who we are — but I can say definitively, that one of the great joys of getting older is the unmasking — getting to know yourself — what you actually enjoy or don’t enjoy doing.
Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman