Shabbat-Table Talks: Terumah
Rabbi Ralph Tawil <firstname.lastname@example.org>
week’s Table Talks is dedicated in memory of Abraham M. Shamah a”h.]
Value: Contributing to the society in both unique and uniform ways. Society
is formed by the contributions of its members. These contributions take the form
of unique contributions that each person can make to the society based on his
special talents, abilities or opportunities. We also must contribute in ways
that are uniformly expected of society’s members. The contributions requested
of Israel in order to build the sanctuary serve as a model to explore the nature
of the unique and uniform contributions that we can make to our society.
Background: In last week’s perasha, we read how Moshe went up to
Mount Sinai and how he would stay there for forty days and nights. Our perasha
begins with Hashem’s words to Moshe upon the mountain. Hashem’s speech to
Moshe contains instructions to build the Mishkan—Hashem’s “tent of
appointment” with Moshe and Israel. The instructions are spelled out in over
five chapters of the Torah. These instructions contain two separate and
different calls for contributions by Israel. Let us look at the way Hashem
described these two requests.
Method: Tell your children and guests that you will read two
sections that talk about contributions in order to build the Mishkan. Let them
know that you are looking to compare and contrast the two descriptions. Ask them
to think of ways in which the two contributions are the same and ways in which
they differ. Clearly inform them which is the first section and which is the
second by saying, “I will start reading the first section;” “that was the
end of the first section;” “Now I will read the second section,” etc.
Offer to reread some of the verses if necessary, always taking care to mention
whether the verse comes from the first or second section.
Text: First Section--Exodus 25:1-9 (from our perasha, Teruma)
Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Tell the Children of
Israel to bring Me a contribution: you shall accept the contribution from every
person whose heart so moves him. And these are the contributions that you shall
accept from them: Gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple and red yarns, fine
linen, goats’ hair; tanned ram skins, tehhashim skins, acacia wood; oil for
lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the aromatic incense; onyx and
other stones for setting, for the ephod and the breastplate. And let them make
Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.
(From Perashat Ki Tissa—read last Shabbat for Shabbat Sheqalim)
Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: When you take a count
of the Children of Israel according to their numbers, each shall give Hashem a
ransom for his life on being counted, that no plague shall come upon them
through their being counted. This is what everyone who is counted shall give:
half a shekel of the “sanctuary shekel” –twenty grains to the
shekel—half a shekel, a contribution to Hashem. Everyone that is counted, from
the age of twenty and upward, is to give Hashem’s contribution. The rich are
not to pay more and the poor are not to pay less than half a shekel when giving
Hashem’s contribution, to ransom your lives. You are to take the silver for
ransoming from the children of Israel and are to give it over for the
construction-service of the Tent of Appointment, that it may be for the children
of Israel as a remembrance before Hashem’s presence, to ransom your lives.
to Perashat Pequde (Exodus 38:25-31), this silver was used primarily for the
bases of the Mishkan.
that someone remember all the things that are the same and another all that are
different. Begin the discussion by asking, “which things are similar in these
two sections?” (The materials are used for the construction of the Mishkan,
called a “contribution,”).
ask, “Which things are different?”
Types of materials contributed (first was varied, second was all the
Nature of contribution (first was completely voluntary, second was
mandatory—on threat of retribution).
Purpose of contribution (first section, so Hashem can dwell within the
people; second section; to count the people and so that Hashem will remember the
people and not have a plague come upon them.)
“why were both kinds of contributions necessary?” (There are some things
that everyone can and must contribute—a minimum requirement to be counted as
one of the people. There are other things that we can be unique and give what we
are able to or what we think is beautiful—within the limits of the list of the
what would happen if everybody only gave what he or she had to give? (The
Mishkan would not be built and it would not be beautiful.)
would happen if everyone only gave what he or she wanted to, but no one gave
what he or she had to?
by saying: To
build the Mishkan there were two kinds of contributions necessary. One was
supposed to be the same for everyone and everyone had to give a small amount.
The other could be whatever you wanted and only if you wanted. One was uniform
and you have to give it, the other is unique and you can give if you want.
Discussion: Help your children make the jump from the Mishkan to
society by taking small steps. First, consider that the family is the Mishkan.
Say: Now let us think of our family as a kind of Mishkan. What do you think are
the two ways of giving to the family? What are the things that everyone in the
family must give? (Examples, love, honesty, helping each other.) What are the
things that each one can give whatever talents they have? (Learning, making a
living, parenting, encouraging, humor, music, acting, having fun, art, adventure
How would the family be if everyone only gave what they had
to? (Rather dull, only minimally functional). Giving the things that we want to
give and that we have the talent to give makes for a uniqueness that makes our
family different. It makes the experience of living in our family different from
living in any other family in the world.
What would happen to the family if everyone only gave what
they wanted to and no one gave what they had to? (The family could not function
How do we manage the things that have to be done in a
Do we think enough about the possibilities of contributing
more uniquely to the experience of living in our family?
Now let’s make the question a little bigger. What are the
things that we must do in our community (or society, or nation, or mankind) and
what are the things that we can uniquely contribute to our community (or
society, or nation, or mankind)?
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