Parashat Terumah: Making space for G-d


Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg

In parashat Terumah, following the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, G-d requests that the Israelites now build a sanctuary so that G-d can dwell among them.  Per G-d’s request, Moses asks the people to bring gifts – things like beautiful cloth, precious stones and metals, thread and other such items, and the people respond with gusto, bringing much more than was needed. This particular request of building a dwelling place for G-d is discussed in depth among our great rabbis.  One of the biggest questions being, “why does G-d need a dwelling place?”  So often the answer is, it’s not for G-d, it’s for the people.  They are the ones that need a tangible symbol of G-d’s presence among them.

Based on a teaching in Avot d’Rabbi Natan, Rabbi Jason Rosenberg (no relation), teaches, “Holiness doesn’t just happen. Spirituality isn’t an accident. We’ll feel the presence of the sacred when we DO something to help make it real.”

Too often we believe that holiness is something we’ll just experience, like a grand miracle.  When we hold on to this idea, we forget that we hold the key to holiness, because it is we, who make holy moments. We feel G-d’s presence when we stop and invite G-d in.  

This is the essence of parashat Terumah, building a sanctuary gave the Israelites something to DO, it allowed them to create a space for holiness, a space where they could experience the sacred. Judaism isn’t about what happens to us, rather it is about what we DO — from mitzvot, to Torah, to prayer, to how we act and interact with the world around us, all of these are opportunities for holiness.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

Ask yourself, “what I am DOing to bring holiness and make real the presence of the sacred in my life?”  If you’re not sure, no worries, just start DOing.  Help a neighbor by shoveling their sidewalk or driveway, call a friend who isn’t feeling well, light Shabbat candles, and/or spend a minute and offer a prayer of thanks for three things that happened this week — just say it out loud — it doesn’t have to be a formal prayer in Hebrew. G-d hears all words! When we DO, this is when we invite holiness and G-d’s presence into our lives.

“Make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8) 

The Kotzker Rebbe was once asked, “where does G-d dwell?”  His answer, “wherever we let G-d in.”  Perhaps it’s time for us to make space for G-d to dwell in our lives.