Pocket Change Creates Lasting Change
Terumah means “donation.” You’d think that the parshah that deals with the so much of the construction of the mishkan, the sanctuary, would have a more building-oriented name, wouldn’t you? What’s so important about the donations?
Hashem created this world to be His home. Unfortunately, after one blip of perfection at the beginning of creation, things started going downhill and the Divine Presence retreated higher and higher, away from the our lower earthly realms. It all began to look up when Avraham Avinu came into the picture and started to teach the world about G-d. With each of the seven generation after him, the Divine Presence was coaxed downward a little bit more, until the time of Moshe Rabbeinu and the giving of the Torah. At Matan Torah, the nature of the world changed. Spiritual and material became intertwined, and more importantly, we got our instruction manual on exactly how to build this home for Hashem. We have to nullify the sense of self in the material world and reveal its spiritual core. At Matan Torah, the world was still and all that could be heard, seen, or felt, was G-dliness, essentially revealing this very G-dly truth.
The thing is, Matan Torah was an incredibly spiritual and supranatural event initiated by G-d rather than the people. As something so totally divine and above nature, the effect was fleeting. And that’s where our donations come in.
If we’re going to build a permanent home for Hashem down here in this world, we have to be the ones to start it. Before the foundations are even laid, there’s a call for a donation. And a donation is an acknowledgement that there is something more important than yourself. You are the custodian of the money you currently possess. You can choose to spend it on yourself, but when you choose to spend it on something or someone else, you are saying that that other thing needs this money more than you do – it is more important than you are. By donating to the building of the mishkan, the Jewish people were acknowledging the core reality of existence and initiating the process of self-nullification. It was the human effort needed to make the slow steady transformation of this world into G-d’s home a lasting change.
(Adapted from לקוטי שיחות, חלק כ"א, תרומה as quoted in the Kehot Chumash.)
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