Parashat Terumah: ‘Red lines’ and ‘lines in the sand’

Rabbi Scott B. Saulson, Ph.D., is The Bʼnai El Collaborative Consultant and a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association.

By Rabbi Scott B. Saulson

Red lines … lines in the sand. The roots of these expressions refer to bellicose dares testing the boldness of presumptive trespassers. Moreover, their usage suggests grave consequences should trespass occur.

How ironic, then, that the longing of Man and God to draw nearer to one another is frustrated time and time again, not merely by human inadequacies of mind, body, and spirit or by the unbridgeable chasm between the mortal and the eternal, but also by the fatal blow God lands against all encroachers.

The irony is captured in the verse ve’asu li miqdash veshakhanti betokham, Ex. 25.8] usually rendered, “Build me a sanctuary that I might dwell in your midst.” Rabbinic sages go to great lengths to assure us that God needs no dwelling place. After all, what could possibly contain the Universal? What could limit the Limitless? Hardly could they fathom that quantum physics would dissolve all such boundaries. Yet, miqdash refers not to some cozy neighborhood pub, but to an abode posted with a “radioactive” symbol, signifying a dreadful no-man’s zone.

If so posted, what is the gist of “that I might dwell in your midst?” After all, when, according to lore, the famous circular line drawer, Honi, awoke from a 70-year long coma to discover that his friends no longer recognized him and, therefore took no notice of him, he cried out, “Give me company or give me death!” (Ta’anit 23a)


While we long for community, the bane of shtetl life and the bane of the world wide web are the same: the scarcity of privacy. Big Brother has always been around; however, since the microchip revolution, he has been on steroids. Still, to blame all our privacy woes on Big Brother misses this week’s message. For we can’t blame every trespass on Big Brother. On the contrary, God seems to be prefacing what He will text us yet again in two weeks from now concerning His chat with Moses: “You can’t have your Wall and your Facebook, too.”