In My Heart I Will Build a Sanctuary
February 19, 2021
By Rus Devorah Wallen


This week’s Torah portion is terumah. The word Terumah, literally an “elevated offering,” refers to gifts that were donated to the mishkan – the movable tabernacle in the desert. In our parsha, vivid and minute Divine details describe the specifications for building this movable sanctuary – a physical construction that would, so to speak, “House Hashem.” The word Mishkan, literally means a dwelling place. Although this mishkan was a finite place that used very specific materials and measurements, this was a place that G-d could miraculously settle. You may be familiar with the word feminine noun, shechina, which has the same root.  Shechina is often translated as the Divine presence or G-dly indwelling.

At the beginning of our parsha, G-d says, “Tell the Jewish people to bring Me gifts. You should accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him.” The implication in the verse is that for this offering, each individual can give what he or she desires, as it says, “whose heart so moves him.” Although we no longer have the portable Mishkan that wandered with us in the desert, nor do we have the first and second Holy Temples that stood in Yerushayim for 410 and 420 years respectively, the Torah gives eternal teachings from its messages.  One such lesson is that in the time of Exile, we can still offer gifts.  G-d has endowed each of us with unique gifts to share and talents to utilize in service of His world.  We all have an individual contribution to make.  As it says, each person has his own “chelek sheb’olam” a portion of his environment to elevate.

A few verses later regarding the mishkan and all of its detailed specs, it says, “And you should make for me sanctuary and I will dwell in it.”  This typical translation is not precise. There seems to be a grammatical anomaly in the verse. However, we know that every detail in the Torah is exact and has meaning. In the original, It says, “V’asu – meaning, “and you, plural, all of you,” shall make for me a singular mikdash.  Then the verse ends, V’shochanti b’socham, and I will dwell in all of you – plural again! In other words, G-d says something like this: “You should all make for Me a singular sanctuary, and I will dwell among all of them.”  What a strange grammar construct! The commentators explain that each of us is the sanctuary in microcosm, a place for G-d to dwell. As it says in the book of Job, “There is a portion of God above – chelek Elokah mima’al – a soul within each and every one of us. That means, each of us has the capacity welcome G-dliness into our lives. Another interesting thing about the word, “V’shochanti – and I will dwell,” hints at the length of time the Holy Temple that King Solomon built in Yerushalayim stood – 410 years. V’shochanti can be read – V’shochan, and He will dwell -“Ti,” Tof – Yud- 400 plus 10 in gematria 410 years. In summary, G-d wants a dwelling place in this world, in each and every one of us. He also wants us to find and utilize the gifts we’re endowed with to bring in the Shechina. May Hashem give us each the insight, awareness and inspiration to find our own special gifts and welcome His G-dly presence by bringing goodness into the world around us.

Founder of Toratherapeutics,® Rus Devorah Wallen is an accomplished musician, performer, social worker, psychotherapist, and educator.

In My Heart I Will Build a Sanctuary - Jewish thought of the week graphic