Shabbat Commentary

4/5 Feb : Terumah : Shabbat comes in 4:40 pm, ends 5:46 pm

Parashat Terumah – Head and Heart

This Torah portion marks the turn of the Book of Exodus from the narratives 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 terumah.’ Though terumah refers to the gifts that were given by the Children of Israel in order to build the sanctuary, many commentators read terumah 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 terumah 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 terumah. 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.

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Natasha 










February 2, 2022