Parshat Teruma

February 15th, 2018

Parshat Teruma opens with Hashem requesting that Bnei Yisrael should come forth and dedicate fine materials for the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and then describes the construction of both the Mishkan and all to be inside in intricate detail. The detailed plan opens with the following sentence in Ch25 v 8&9 “And let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell amongst them. According to all that I show you, the pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all the furnishings, just so you shall make it.”

In addition to the special concept that through the Mishkan, Hashem is in some sense dwelling amongst us, there seems to be repetition of the verb make (asu). Rashi explains that Hashem is saying that just as I show you now, this is the way that all the furnishings should be made for future generations, if anything should break, or when you build the temple, my permanent sanctuary. The Ramban disputes this, as in the measurements and descriptions of the construction of the Temple by Solomon we find the altar was 20 by 20 cubit whereas here it is 5 by 5,  the cherubim were much larger, there were many sinks and ten candelabra. Additionally we find further additions in the second Temple. In the Ramban’s opinion the only reason for repetition is to emphasize the importance of getting the project underway.

The Ramban might dismiss Rashi’s explanation but it is based on the Talmud Sanhedrin 16b which learns from the quoted text that the design should remain unchanged and in R Eliyahu Mizrahi’s commentary on Rashi, he suggests that Hashem was stressing that the design layout should stay in the same proportions, hence the altar remained square. Hashem’s design was aesthetically correct and what Solomon changed was the dimensions but not the shape.

The Chatam Sofer puts this into perspective and explains that when Hashem said “according to all that I will show you” this means that for future generations that build a sanctuary, Hashem will show them, through the words of the prophets, what to do as the needs will be different for each generation. The Chatam Sofer explains that this is quite a unique concept as the task of a prophet is not to bring about change of the Torah but he points to the amazing prophetic description of the future Temple in the book of Ezekiel which again has different dimensions.

Returning to why Hashem tells us to “make a sanctuary that I may dwell amongst them”, which is a powerful message that even though we believe that Hashem is everywhere we are required to dedicate a place where we feel closer to Hashem and as such we have our Synagogues and it is of course fascinating to see how the different styles have evolved from the simple to the exquisite design of some houses of prayer.

I attended a seminar from Cisco this week one of the world leading High-Tech companies and their theme was the “The Intent Network” meaning the computer networks learning and suiting to our needs. The example given was someone who has a meeting at 10am in one of the company’s conference room. On entering the room, the room camera is intelligent enough to know who you are with face recognition software, the room software checks that it is you that has booked the room for the meeting and how many others are included, sets the air conditioning to the level for that number of people, sets up the video conference and more. This made me think of where we are and if and when the time comes to build our ultimate sanctuary, it will have to have electric lighting, air conditioning, and many other modern facilities. Interestingly Halacha does evolve to meet the challenges of the times we live in, but here we shall have to wait and see what Hashem will show us.