Parshat Trumah, A Bissel Torah from Reb Devorah
Trumah refers to gifts. Specifically to this parsha, it refers to the people bringing offerings that would be converted to materials to make the Mishkan, a dwelling place for G!D, that the Israelites would carry throughout their trek in the desert. Elaborate instructions are given by the Torah for the construction of a place on earth, a portable place on earth, in which G!D would be readily accessible and from which the protective power of G!D would emanate.
The instructions are many, very detailed and exacting. Yet the size of the Mishkan was small, it was a “Little Mishkan” that the Israelites could carry. Rabbis talk about the people in the desert needing the Mishkan and underscore their belief that G!D did not need the Mishkan. Okay, in some ultimate sense, this rings true. But, let’s look at the reason G!D gives for instructing the people to build the Mishkan:
And let them make me a sanctuary; so that I may dwell among them (Ex. 25:8).
G!D, specifically Y-H-V-H, wants to dwell among the people. G!D wants to be known and in relationship with the people.
So here is what we know about the sacred story of the long ago and faraway of ancient Israel. The Torah tells us to build a Mishkan so that G!D can dwell among the people, so that G!D can be our G!D and be in relationship with the people. I have seen the Mishkan described in the literature as “small” or “little.”
Our community, Or Ahavah, is little compared to a synagogue. But Or Ahavah is not a synagogue And the Mishkan or Ohel Mo’ed can not be compared to a synagogue either. The Mishkan was not a house of worship, not a place of communal prayer. The Mishkan was a home for the Divine and off-limits to everyone except the upper echelons of the priesthood. It was a place from which G!D could be in relationship with the people in very specific and structured ways.
Each time we meet, I feel that Or Ahavah manifests a Mishkan. We make holy space in which the Presence of G!D may dwell. Though it is not an exact replica, Or Ahavah manifests our capacity to make a Mishkan with our hearts and our souls. We have a dues structure, but people join Or Ahavah because they are moved to do so and the dues are invitations for gifts so that our physical presence, as minimal as it is, can be sustained. We are not a little shul, we are a little Mishkan that manifests in time rather than space.