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Parashat Terumah

What defines the characteristics of the things around us? The use we give them or the guidelines that those who did each of those things wanted to print on them? A hammer can be seen as a building element, while others can use it to destroy.

There are countless examples in which we can see that the intentions or expectations of the builders were not always fulfilled by those who finished a work or by those who used it. Nobel's example with dynamite is just one of the best known.

And what about the places? We cannot say that the Jewish People have holy places. Beyond some practice bordering on idolatry, such as the use that some give to the Kotel Hamaaravi… are there places that could have immanent sanctity?

Bereshit (Genesis) 18 tells us the story of Jacob, who after waking up from a revealing dream, proclaims that "there is a divinity in this place and I had not noticed it, how terrible this place is, it must be a portal to heaven"

Neither of the two situations, that of idolizing something, or that of considering a place holy, should occur with the Mishkan. The Mishkan, that consecrated place that would mark the “rolling temple” on the desert journey, could have had its own sanctity. It could have been imbued with some kind of power that would instill such respect in the town that it was declared a "rolling holy place." But Bnei Israel had just received the commandments where it was clear that they should not put other gods or worship anything ahead of the Kadosh Baruj Hu.


The solution was brilliant. In our parashah, it is the same Creator who indicates in chapter 25 of Shmot (Exodus) "and they will make me a sanctuary and I will dwell among them". It was the very Bnei Israel who had to put the intentionality, the "kavanah" to what they were building.

From the beginning of the parashah the request is that each one contribute something to the construction. And they should not contribute what they wanted. The request was very specific: silver and copper; fabrics of blue, purple and crimson, fine linen, goat hair; tanned ram skins, dolphin skins and acacia wood; oil for lighting, aromatic spices for anointing oil and for aromatic incense; lapis lazuli and other stones for setting, for the Ephod and for the breastplate.

They had to understand that that for which everyone contributed a part of their assets for its construction would be a unique place, not only because of its beauty or imposing but because at some point it would be the place where the Creator of all things would dwell. And it was that very presence that would guarantee that holiness existed in that place. But that "guarantee" would not work if the original intention was not put. If the people did not participate and contribute du part.

It is useless to build a beautiful synagogue or put together a community structure, if we are not going to put the intention and our participation so that it has life and grows.

Today we do not have the facility to have the divinity manifesting itself explicitly in the tasks we undertake to ensure that things go the right way. But we do have that capacity that the kavanah, that intentionality that comes from the depths of our being, if we add it to our actions, contains such force that we can twist the destiny of things and manage to do better deeds, improve behaviors, establish better links resulting in a better world.

Perhaps then, we will be able to feel a little more the presence of the Creator in our constructions, in our tasks in our lives, and in our souls. Is that the true meaning of "dwelling among them"?

Gustavo Geier


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