Parashah of the week: Terumah

“You should construct for Me a sanctuary and I shall dwell within them” Exodus 25:8


A simchah function comprises many overlapping priorities. The band, caterer and speakers’ needs must be taken into account, hence disagreements sometimes arise regarding order and timings. Yet all parties agree on the common theme — they want the evening to be memorable.

Similarly, there is a debate as to the order of events in Chumash Shemot, but much like our simchah example above, all views agree on one central theme, as we shall see.

Rashi opines that the Shemot crib sheet order of events reads: the Ten Commandments, the sin of the golden calf, the instructions and construction of the Tabernacle. The Ramban disagrees, writing that the running order is: Ten Commandments, instruction to create a Tabernacle, golden calf, construction of the Tabernacle.

According to both views, what stands out is the astounding ability of the nation to bounce back from spiritual depravity and setback. The nation left Egypt not long before, their bitter slavery finally behind them. They were now ready to receive the Torah, but that momentous event was sullied by a section of people who committed the idolatrous-esque sin of the golden calf.

The nation could have been forgiven for giving up. But they bounced back and constructed the Tabernacle. This quality of resilience has been needed all too often throughout history. As a friend of mine mused, ‘“The Jewish people has to be the only nation in history to go from near annihilation to being comfortable enough to complain about table-seating plans at a simchah in the space of the last 80 years!”

One man who personified this ability to change perspective from hopelessness to higher purpose was Victor Frankl. Frankl hid the manuscript of his book in his coat when he arrived at Auschwitz. But his coat was seized, forcing him to ponder whether any meaning remained and what legacy he would leave. But the response and perspective-change came when he was given a new coat, in which he found a torn page of the siddur containing the Shema prayer hidden in its pocket.

In Frankl’s words, “Our generation is realistic. For we have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz. However, he is also that being who has entered those gates upright with the Lord’s prayer of Shema Yisrael on his lips.”

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