Parashat Trumah - March 4

תרומה Trumah

Exodus 25:1 — Exodus 27:19

Parashat Trumah contains God’s first revelation of the amazing structure where he wants us to worship him, the Tabernacle. The original Tabernacle was not just a mobile structure appropriate for people wandering in the wilderness. Rather it was a copy of the real Tabernacle in heaven. It was intended not only to serve the children of Israel during the time they wandered in the wilderness; it also teaches us how we should be worshiping God today. The parashah gets its name from God’s command to the nation to collect donations—each person as his heart makes him willing—so that he may dwell among them (Exodus 29:45-46).

At the beginning of the parashah God commands Moses to go up the mountain, and there he gives in detail a long list of materials, measurements, and colors from which the Tabernacle is to be built. On the mountain God not only gives Moses a list, he also shows him “the pattern of the Tabernacle and all of its implements” (Exodus 25:9. 27:8. Hebrews 9.23, etc.).

In other words, on the mountain top Moses saw the true Tabernacle, one not made with human hands and not of this world. It was into this Tabernacle that Jesus went when he sacrificed himself on our behalf, and it is there that he ministers until today as High Priest (Hebrews 6:19-20. 8:1-2. 9:11, 24). In this Tabernacle there is an altar (Revelation 11:1), a Holy Place (Hebrews 9:12), and an Ark of the Covenant (Revelation 11:19. 15:5), as well as a glorious throne.

Moses came down from the mountain and passed on to Bezalel the son of Uri the information he had personally heard and seen, and Bezalel constructed the Tabernacle according to those instructions. The Tabernacle that they built contained simple, almost every-day kinds of implements: an entry gateway, a courtyard with an altar and a bronze basin. At the opposite end of the courtyard was a curtain through which the priests entered a tent, which had two rooms. In the first room—which was called “kodesh, holy,”—stood a table, a lampstand (Menorah), and a golden altar. In the second room —”kodesh hakodashim, the Holy of Holies or Most Holy Place”— stood the Chest of the Covenant. When everything had been prepared, Moses set each object in its place, and suddenly the Holy of Holies was filled with the glory of the Lord. The breathtaking spectacle of thick cloud and fire was evidence of God’s presence in the place.

What do we learn from the Tabernacle?

The Tabernacle serves as a kind of guide. It takes us through a path that leads to a final destination, to the Most Holy Place, to the only place that is filled with the presence of God. There is order and method in the way God designed the Tabernacle. Today too, if we want to see the glory of God in some area of our life, we must build a Tabernacle. This is especially true if this area is a source of guilt and shame. The only difference is that in Bible times, while the Tabernacle was still standing, the priests served in a visible Tabernacle. Today, however, we need to perform the same actions not externally but deep inside ourselves, at the level of our soul and spirit. If we desire to behold that spectacular vision of the glory of God, the glory that will capture those areas that shame us and bring us down, we must do as Moses did in his day and set every object in its proper place within us.

Entryway and courtyard

This is a process and there can be no shortcuts. The high priest was not allowed to jump over the outside fence of the Tabernacle and go directly into the Most Holy Place. He had to enter through the only available opening, the gate of the Tabernacle (Exodus 27:16). If we want the glory of God to capture our hearts, we too must come in through the single entrance. This gateway is the necessary first step. We must not try to skip it or try to come into the presence of God in other ways.

Jesus is the only way provided for us to come into God’s presence (John 10:7-9). Whoever comes in through this gate, recognizing the opening that Jesus has made for us into the eternal kingdom, will find themselves in the courtyard. In the time of the Tanach two large objects stood in the courtyard: the altar for sacrifices, which was made of bronze, and the washbasin, which was made out of bronze mirrors. The altar was not a particularly pleasant site. It was surrounded by the disgusting smell of blood and death, with the cries of animals being slaughtered for sacrifice.

This is how our heart looks to God. This is how every area of our life looks, things we try to repress and keep hidden. But God is not interested in suppressing things or pretending. However we may try to hide it, he still sees all that is inside us. In his great love he has provided us with a way that will help us completely uproot those areas from our lives. For this to happen, we need to do a simple but profound thing: acknowledge the blood that was shed on the wooden altar in the shape of a cross; on that altar we must leave all of those sinful habits and negative feelings that overwhelm us. How do we do that? By repentance and forgiveness.

The bronze altar – repentance and forgiveness

When we repent, we must choose one of the four sides of the sacrificial altar. Will we prefer to stand facing the entrance into the courtyard, keeping one eye on what is happening in the world outside the courtyard, perhaps even reserving for ourselves the option to return there at some stage? Yes, this is a choice we make as we stand at the altar; it may sound like repentance, but actually it only reveals a heart that is not full of regret.

There are some who will choose to stand next to one of the sides of the altar, facing neither the entrance nor the Holy Place. This choice too shows that there has not been true, full repentance. In this position our eyes are looking at other people who are moving around in the courtyard. Indeed, they may be people who are serving in the Holy Place and who may be able to help us, but the real meaning of this position is that our eyes are on people and not on the presence of God.

If we truly desire to be changed once and for all, the only side of the altar we can stand on is the one that lets us look into the depths of the Tabernacle, into the Most Holy Place, to the only place filled with God’s presence. From that side of the altar we will not be able to look back at the world outside the gate, and it will be very hard for us even to look at other people. Standing on this side of the altar, we will be able mainly to see our sin contrasted on the background of the spectacular presence of God. It may be hard to look at, heavy, greatly troubling, but this is the side of the altar that carries the promise of victory.

There is something else we have to do next to the bronze altar and at the foot of the cross: we must cleanse our hearts of all those negative feelings that overwhelm us. This is the place where we must forgive all those who have hurt us, even those who may have hurt us unintentionally. This is also the place where we have to ask forgiveness of those whom we have hurt.

The washbasin – washed by the word of God

Next we approach the washbasin, which is made of polished bronze mirrors (Exodus 38:8). The washbasin is a symbol for the Scriptures. When we read the word of God with our full attention, especially what it has to say about that particular problematic area of our lives, we are like a person who looks at his or her face in a mirror (James 1:22-25). The washbasin makes it possible for us to check where we have been contaminated by the dirt of the world. It provides us with living water that washes off all contamination.

We must nurture those two habits, taking care to do the work of the priests next to the altar (repentance and forgiveness) and next to the washbasin (by the pure word of God cleansing how we view the world). As we do so, we will discover that at a certain point the closed curtain of the Tabernacle will be opened, and our walk with God will grow deeper. Now we have arrived at the first room of the Tabernacle, the Holy Place.

Inside the Holy Place: menorah, table, and golden altar

The only source of light in the Holy Place is the menorah, and our eyes are naturally drawn to it. The menorah is where God can shed his light into the darkness of our hearts. It burns olive oil, one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, God’s glory will take captive the source of our shame if we now allow the Spirit of God to bring into the light those lies we have believed, as well as those dark worldly ideas that are dictating the way we live.

With the insights given by the Spirit at the menorah, we can now move to the next object, the table of the bread of God’s presence. This table too represents the Scriptures. However, while the washbasin symbolizes a general cleansing of our understanding by means of the word of God, the table provides us with bread. The loaves on the table are very precisely made, designed to satisfy our deep hunger. After the menorah uncovers some lie hiding away in our hearts, we need to learn what the truth of the Scriptures says to counter that lie. We will hold in our hands a loaf of bread which God has given to satisfy our spiritual hunger. We have to internalize that bread, to eat it and allow it to go deep into those blocked places in our personality (Psalms 51:6). Only as we are willing to do this can God’s truth change us from the inside.

Finally, we must approach the golden altar. In Bible times the priests offered incense here. Incense symbolizes prayer. The prayers that we offer next to the golden altar should not be intellectual or too general. No, they should be the prayers of one who recognizes their weaknesses and chooses to raise up from those very weaknesses a Tabernacle filled with glory. The entire Tabernacle was constructed of temporary and extremely fragile materials (the wood of the desert acacia, for example, is thin and breaks easily). Today too, when we build a Tabernacle inside ourselves, we don’t need to descend to the lowest parts of the earth or soar up to the heavens to find material worthy of constructing the Tabernacle. We only need to enter into the gateway in those problematic areas of our lives, allowing God to change us from within.

If we will only do this, next to the golden altar we will discover that our heart is praying profound prayers of thanksgiving, completely meaning everything we pray. Our prayers will ascend to God as a pleasing aroma and will fill the golden basins in heaven (Revelation 8:3-4).

And if we set each piece of Tabernacle furniture in its proper place within ourselves and in the proper order, we are sure to come to the point where the process has been completed. That area of our lives that had been a source of shame will be filled with the presence of God and will be transformed into a Tabernacle for his glory (Exodus 40:34-35).

[OG]

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Exodus 25.6: The words “lamp” and “My anointed” are viewed as synonyms of “oil,” since both lamp and anointing require oil. More specifically, a lamp can only be lit if it has oil. Messiah can be viewed as “Light” since he too shines with oil; hence the image: “Arise, shine; for your light has come!” (lsa 60:1). This means that the very name Messiah (mashiach, “anointed”) can be replaced with the name Oil.

The oil for the lamp of the tabernacle and for anointing had to be pure olive oil. This unique requirement of using only one type of oil has led to seeing the olive tree as representing Messiah. “’Oil for light’—this is King Messiah, who is called ‘Green Olive Tree, Lovely and of Good Fruit’ (Jeremiah 11:16). [And he is also called] ‘pure oil of pressed olives’ (Exodus 27:20), since out of darkness he will be a light for Israel, as it says ‘That you may say to the prisoners, go forth’ (Isaiah 49:9), and, it is also written, ‘The Gentiles shall come to your light’ (Isaiah 60:3)” (Otzar Midrashim, 138).

This last interpretation gives a new meaning to the concept of Israel as a “light for the nations” (Isaiah 49:6). Though some will say that Israel will be a light for the nations if they succeed in living a moral life beyond reproach, the midrash above believes that the nations will respond to Israel’s divine calling only through Messiah, the Oil that becomes the Light of Israel, which shines in her midst for all people.

[TS]

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Exodus 27:20-21: “And you shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may be set up to burn continually. In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the Lord. It shall be a statute for ever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel.”

This lamp was seen as a symbol for the Messiah. Rabbi David Kimchi commented on Psalms 132:17, “There I will make the horn of David grow; I will prepare a Lamp for My Anointed”:

“’Horn’ means strength and kingdom. This is learned from ‘l will cause the horn of the house of Israel to spring forth’ (Ezekiel 29:21) and from ‘[He will give strength to His king,] and exalt the horn of his anointed’ (1 Samuel 2:10). And he spoke this verse about the future Messiah, which is why he said, ‘l will make.’ In other words, although he withered, I will make it grow ... ‘l will prepare a lamp for My Anointed,’ like he said, ‘that My servant David may always have a lamp before Me’ (1 Kings 11:36), because the king is like a lamp that lights for the people” (Radak on Psalms 132:17).

The lamp the psalmist talks about was not an ordinary one. Most likely he has in mind the lamp (the Menorah) that was part of the tabernacle, the lamp that was to burn continually (Leviticus 24:2). The lamp actually had seven lamps that had to burn without ceasing. This lamp, which is also called “continuous lamp” (ner tamid), did not stand in the Most Holy Place but in the Holy Place, as it says, “the lamp to burn continually, in the tabernacle of meeting, outside the veil” (Exodus 27:20-21).

Trying to understand why the Most Holy Place was actually unlit, the sages concluded that people are the ones who need light, not God who “dwells” in the Most Holy Place.

“You find that the one who is in the darkness sees what is in the light, but the one who is in the light cannot see what is in the darkness. But with God it is not so, since he is light and light camps around him, and he sees what is in the light and he sees what is in darkness, as it says, ‘He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with him’ (Daniel 2:22). God said to Israel, ‘.... I will redeem you through Messiah’ who is likened to a lamp, as it says, ‘I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed “’” (Midrash Aggadah, on Exodus 27:21).

 Accordingly, the light that comes out of the Menorah or the lampstand is the representation of Messiah. That “light” is he who enabled entrance to the Most Holy Place. Without him the High Priest could not approach the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement to atone for people of Israel. The Lamp is that which leads to God, the light that enables direct access to him.

[TS]

 

Haftarah: 1 Kings 5:26 — 1 Kings 6:13

Shabbat Shalom!

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