Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Terumah (“gift” or “offering”): Shemot (Exodus) 25:1 – 27:19

Terumah (“gift” or “offering”): Shemot (Exodus) 25:1 – 27:19

As I read this parashah I am struck by the exactness of HaShem’s directives to Moshe.  The tabernacle is a model, a shadow of the heavenly tabernacle.  Scale models, by definition, must be made to scale, whatever the dimensions of that scale may be.  Hence the meticulous attention given to the dimensions and materials to be used in the construction of the mishkan.  The scale must be accurate so as to not diminish the glory of the one to which it is being compared.

Why build a mishkan?  What is its purpose?  We need look no further than eight verses into this week’s reading: “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”  The word “sanctuary” used here is not the word for mishkan, but mikdash.  “Mishkan,” “tabernacle,” is not mentioned until the next verse where we read “(a)ccording to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and all the instruments thereof, even so shall you make it.”

What is the difference between a mishkan and a mikdash?  A mikdash (H 6942) is a sacred place, sanctuary, holy place; meanwhile a mishkan (H 4908, from H 7931) is a dwelling place, a tabernacle.  The mishkan, as defined here, refers to the tabernacle itself, the whole unit, whereas the mikdash refers to the Holy of Holies.  What is being presented to us is similar to a home (mishkan) which has a special room (mikdash) within it. 

A man’s home is his castle; it is a place for him and his family.  Strangers must knock before entering, but family may just waltz right in.  At the same time, that man, or any other family member, may have a private office or den within his abode, a room for him; one that the other members of the family must honor as his special, private place.  Even family members may not come into that room without permission.

How does this relate to the tabernacle?  Well, the priests had a daily duty of offering sacrifices, and they could only be offered within the confines of the tabernacle, though outside in the uncovered, unroofed portion.  Incense had to be burned, and that setting was within the covered portion, and the priests had to enter there twice a day.  However, further within, was the Holy of Holies, HaShem’s place.  No one could enter there without permission, and there would only be one person permitted to enter, and that would only happen once per year.

He dwelt in the tabernacle, but His presence was in the Holy of Holies.  This leads us back to the question of why was a mikdash, a sacred place, necessary within the mishkan.  Let us look back at 25:8 again – “that I may dwell among them.”  The word “dwell” (H 7931) is the Hebrew word “sha-kan.’”  Its meaning is “to settle down, abide, dwell, tabernacle, reside.”  Back in B’resheet 3:8 – 10 we find the Lord walking in the garden, wanting to spend some time with His creation, specifically Adan and Chavah.  Later He and two angels abode with Abraham, He spent time with Moshe, and He even had Moshe and the 70 elders  go on the mountain to enjoy a feast with Him.  The upshot of these examples is that He wants to spend time with us.

There is another point in this portion that I would like to address as well, and that is the word entitling our parashah – “terumah.”  It is translated as “offering” (KJV), “contribution” (NASB), and “heave offering” (YLT).  Each of those pulls something from the definition of the Hebrew (H 8641), but it is my opinion that just taking that definition is woefully insufficient, especially to the Greek-thinking mindset.

The word “terumah” delineates from the root “ruwm” [(H 7311) resh-vav-mem].  It means “to rise, be high, be lofty, be exalted.”  The first time it is used in Scripture occurs in Genesis 7:17, “(a)nd the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark and it was lift up above the earth. 

Please bear with me as I quote from bereansonline.org and a portion of their teaching for the week:

“T'rumah is about "lifting up." That is why some translations render this                    ‘heave offering’ instead of the theologically scrubbed "offering." It is speaking of what is done with the t'rumah. It is lifted up. Hold that thought for a moment as we explore how that word might be used in the Apostolic Scriptures. To do that, we need to take a brief excursion into our ‘Rosetta Stone’ for moving between Greek and Hebrew – that is, the Septuagint [also known as LXX]. Since the LXX was translated 300 years before the Apostolic Scriptures, we can have confidence that it was not tainted with the biases between Judaism and Christianity as is evidenced in so many later works.

“How does the LXX translate t'rumah? It uses the Greek word aparche. Some Greek dictionaries will translate this into English as ‘first fruits.’ There are other Hebrew words for the offering known as ‘first fruits,’ but the reason the Seventy sages of the Septuagint chose to translate t'rumah to aparche is not to denote what kind of offering it was - but what was done with it: to lift it up.
“Aparche is a word used eight times in the Apostolic Scriptures, and usually translated into English as ‘first fruits’ because the Greek construction of the word speaks of either chronology or hierarchy. It is this last meaning that our LXX translators honed in on - this t'rumah was to be lifted up and to be their chief contribution.
“Beloved, t'rumah, aparche, is about lifting up, in order that we may experience the Presence of the Almighty dwelling among us. In those heady days at the foot of Mount Sinai, we lifted up thematerials used to construct the Mish'kan, the Tabernacle. After we lifted up, Moses' faithfully recounted the pattern. Betzalel, filled with the Spirit of Wisdom, constructed the Ark and the furnishings. Aaron and his sons were anointed. The Mish'kan and all of its furnishings were anointed. And then... the Presence of the Almighty came down and filled that place.

This is His Word; bless HaShem for His revelations to us.  What have I learned?  As there is a difference between the mikdash and the mishkan, there is also a difference between my previous perception of the word “offering”, terumah, andthat to which it really seems refers.  

May His name be blessed above all others for eternity.

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