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Mishkan

Never Too Proud to Wield the Sacred Shovel

One of the delights of the Book of Leviticus is the constant barrage of sacrificial details....  the organizationally minded amongst us may wonder: at the end of a day of sacrifice, who was in charge of cleaning up? This week’s Torah portion, Tzav, gives us an answer: The charred remains of roasted animals and their entrails were left not to a sacrificial janitorial team, not to the Israelites or Levites, but to the priests themselves – even to Aaron the High Priest. 

D'var Torah By: 
Clearing Old Things Away to Make Sacred Space
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Nicole Berne

Rabbi Spratt focuses on the image of a priest clearing away ashes in Parashat Tzav as a reminder that this humble task is sacred too. Yet, by turning to consider the ashes themselves, the priest’s attention feels natural and appropriate, recognizing the ashes as holy in their own right.

Transitioning from the Book of Exodus to the Rest of the Torah

This week’s Torah portion, P’kudei, concludes the Book of Exodus. Its two and a half chapters summarize the previous instructions about building the Tabernacle and bring its construction to completion. While most of the parashah is a bit dry, the last few verses don’t disappoint: the defining book of the Torah ends on a grand note. 

D'var Torah By: 
Finding Today’s Tabernacle to Invite God In
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Andy Kahn

Rabbi Greenwald’s survey of the historical views on the end of the Book of Exodus provides us many perspectives as to how to understand this moment in the journey of the Israelites. This Tabernacle is the beginning of a new chapter in the continuity of Israel’s – and God’s – grand narrative. From a Reform perspective, this moment is monumental: it is one of the primary shifts in the relationship between God, Israel, and the world.

The Unique Contributions of Women and Men Are All Needed

According to Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, or Nachmanides; 1194-1270), this week’s Torah portion, Vayak’heil, is properly understood as the necessary reconciliation between the Israelite people, on one side, and God and Moses, on the other, after the devastation of the Golden Calf episode. Ramban reads the opening phrase, “Moses then convoked the whole Israelite community (Ex. 35:1), as Moses rebuilding and healing the community through the inclusion and involvement of all ...

D'var Torah By: 
Giving Gifts to Invite God’s Presence In
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Maya Y. Glasser

In his commentary on Parashat Vayak’heil, Rabbi Greenvald describes the importance of community – a community comprised of skilled individuals, regardless of gender, and connected with God. He quotes Ramban’s interpretation that healing comes through the inclusion of all people.... Recognizing that wholeness is a result of acknowledging the value of each person, and what he or she brings to the table, is crucial to bringing communities together and combating the hate we see all around us. 

Gifts to God and the Meaning of Sacred Symbols Today

T’rumah opens with a call for the Israelites to bring to God what the standard English translation calls “gifts”: "The Eternal spoke to Moses, saying: Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved" (Ex. 25:1-2).  After enumerating the precious metals, stones, and materials that would constitute such gifts, we learn the purpose: "And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them" (Ex. 25:8).

D'var Torah By: 
She Becomes Tradition
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Eliana Fischel

This davar acher on Parashat T'rumah draws on Naomi Shemer’“Father’s Song” (Shiro shel Aba) and Exodus 25 as punctuation and inspiration to trace the evolution of a woman’s life from childhood through young adulthood to adulthood. 

Too Much of a Good Thing?

In Vayak’heil/P’kudei, the people bring so many contributions to build the Tabernacle that Moses turns some of the gifts away. Is it ever right to limit contributions that are gifts from the heart?

D'var Torah By: 
Helping People Find Their Limits
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Todd Zinn

We may bristle against Moses' call to halt the Israelites’ bringing of gifts to help build the Tabernacle and clothe the priests (Exodus 36:5-7). We who so often ask others to give of their time and their money would rather have Moses do as we do: take excess donations for our capital campaigns and roll them into our endowments, or use them to help bolster next year’s budget. Yet, Moses has an important lesson to teach.

The Limits of Communication

Parashat T’rumah provides precise instructions on how to build the Mishkan and its contents. But those guidelines, like the design for the Temple menorah, have been interpreted in various ways throughout the ages. What does this teach us about the nature of communication?

D'var Torah By: 
How to Avoid Misunderstandings in Texts and Email
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Michael Harvey

Just as the Sages varied their interpretations on the instructions in T’rumah for creating the menorah, so we too can interpret messages in different ways. We should be careful how this applies when we use text messaging and email. 

It All Depends: Finding the Middle of the Torah

Finding the midpoint in the Torah has long been a matter of considerable debate. Some scholars say the middle of the Torah falls in this portion, Parashat Tzav. But the answer to the question, where is the middle of the Torah, depends on many mathematical, theological, and phylosophical factors.

D'var Torah By: 
Finding Value in the Middle
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Larry Freedman

Some people think the middle is boring, but that's hardly the case for our Torah. In its middle we find dramatic stories of our ancestors, laws, and examples of God's grace. Some people say that the middle of the Torah is in Parashat Tzav.

The Formation of a People

Parashat Vayak’heil/P’kudei is a double Torah portion that concludes the Book of Exodus. The paired Torah portions describe the building of the Tabernacle and the anointing of the priests. The parashiyot are primarily contain many verses of detailed plans and descriptions of rituals, some of which are hard to visualize sitting in such a different world today. 

D'var Torah By: 
Finding Humanity and Divinity in the Other
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Linda Bertenthal

Parashat Vayak'heil/P'kudei describes the process of building the Mishkan (Tabernacle), which serves as a model for building Jewish community. The cherubim on the kaporet (ark cover) of the Mishkan that faced each other remind us that we should face one another and listen. 

Giving Gifts of Free Will

As the Torah continues the Israelites’ dramatic, people-building saga, Parashat T’rumah approaches the story from a new angle. Instead of developing the literary adventures of a no-longer-nascent people or focusing on the striking events at Mt. Sinai, this week’s Torah portion is about the details. And these details are not the specifics of community-building or daily life. Rather, they concern, in painstaking minutiae, the construction of the Tabernacle. This is a parashah about holiness, and in the case of Parashat T’rumah, the holiness is in the details.

D'var Torah By: 
How to Move the Right Heart at the Right Time
Davar Acher By: 
Cantor Erin R. Frankel

In Parashat T'rumah, Exodus 25:1-2 relates that, “The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved,” the text manages to be both inclusively open and exclusively specific. We tend today to read this invitation as an equalizer; no matter the gift, God will accept it. 

Heeding the Call to Commandment - and to Obligation

Parashat Tzav continues the Levitical listing of sacrificial rituals begun in last week's parashah and discusses how to present the offerings, what the various kinds of offerings are, and the anointing and ordination of the priests. The parashah also explains the Levitical duty to keep a perpetual fire burning on the altar to kindle what we know today as the ner tamid — the eternal light over synagogue arks that reminds us of this continual fire.

D'var Torah By: 
A Kosher Oracle to Communicate with God
Davar Acher By: 
Callie Souther-Schulman

Buried near the end of Parashat Tzav, amidst detailed descriptions of the priestly garments we find a tantalizingly occult relic from the priesthood: the Urim and Thummim. These were divinitory tools the High Priest would consult when the human capacity for decision making was lacking. A close reader of the text will have already noticed their appearance in Parashat T'tzaveh in Exodus, where the priestly garments are first described.

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