When reading parsha Terumah, you probably notice how much detail is given in regards to building the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Elohim would not be satisfied to say, “Use your judgment and build me something nice to dwell in.” Instead, the Torah goes through great lengths to give the exact and specific directions to cover every aspect of the Tabernacle. Everything from the tapestry colors and materials used for its thread to the number of rings used to hang the finished protect is spelled out. The book of Exodus, in fact, dedicates thirteen chapters to the construction of this mobile sanctuary.
Now, compare this to the creation of the entire world. The book of Genesis devotes only one chapter to creation and is rather brief in what happened each day. It seems that the most exciting things are often explained in few words. That’s why some people get to these particularly lengthy sections of scripture and skip through them. Maybe they’re searching for something a little less, well, boring? Why does Elohim skimp on the details of something so awe inspiring as creation but proceeds to elaborate on how many poles are needed on each side of the Mishkan?
You’ll notice that certain things are repeated for emphasis. Take, for example, the fifteen materials needed for the construction process. They are listed at least three times and other details are repeated as many as eight times. And yet the universe was created in one chapter?
Could it be possible that there is something profound to all of this? When God creates, he creates with a purpose in mind. He created the natural, physical world that we see and touch every day. He also created the unseen, spiritual world that we must work to interact with. A tree can serve a purpose providing shade for us or lumber to build our house or it can serve an ultimate, higher purpose in the construction of God’s Dwelling Place. Gold is a beautiful metal and can make fine jewelry, but when overlayed on the altar it serves its highest purpose.
In this sense, the act of creation gave us the materials necessary to prepare something that would be employed in the service of Elohim. It’s not that the act of creation is diminished, but the act of our role in the transformation is emphasized. The preparation may be detailed and lengthy but it is of great importance. In the Mishkan, the sockets connected two planks together so that the framework of His Dwelling Place could stand. Our role in this world is to act as the sockets that join two things together; the physical and the spiritual.
It’s no surprise that the first directions given are regarding the construction of the Ark of the Covenant. This is the place where Elohim would speak to Moshe from; the Holy of Holies, the heart of it all. From there, the plans continued until the outermost parts were correctly constructed. Is this any different than our own lives? We first prepare our hearts as a place for Him to dwell, then our outermost, darkest regions can welcome Him.
Without the Mishkan or the Temple, where is God’s home? Isn’t the Earth already filled with His Glory? While, yes, He is present in our material and physical world, He is often not invited or welcomed in to it. Our job is to take those things that we’ve been given and create a place that’s receptive to His already existing presence. The word Terumah can mean offering, but it also can mean a separation. It’s exciting to think that by separating/designating something as an offering to Him, we effectively make that connection. We, in effect, are the sockets that connect the two. This can be something as simple as setting aside time for prayer and outreach or money and goods for donation. And collectively, if we are all unified in this together, we can create an environment that welcomes Him into the world that He already created.