Parashat Terumah - Give a Little Bit

by Rebbetzin Malkah

"Give a little bit
Give a little bit of your love to me
Give a little bit
I'll give a little bit of my love to you
There's so much that we need to share..."
Supertramp, "Give A Little Bit"

These lyrics ring into our day a warm feeling of sharing and reciprocation.  Ahh...if only all relationships would be so easy.  But in this week's parasha, this is precisely how Hashem is trying to train us in order to function in meaningful relationships.  Give, and in turn, the other will give back.  This give and take forms the basis of how the Mishkan was built, and how the Children of Israel would operate through eternity with G-d:  committing and receiving.  As we walk into this portion, Hashem charges Moshe to tell the Israelites to take for Him [Hashem] gifts, or t'rumah.  Not only are these gifts very specific to the needs of the Mishkan, they provide a unique parallel to the gift that we can give in accordance with this parasha today:  our positive character traits, or middot.

The Engagement

Just as in a budding relationship with a friend or a close companion, there are always concessions that are made in the beginning of a relationship.  Before two people are married, many times a token of affection is exchanged between these two people to make real the very love that exists between them.   Whether it is a pendant or a ring, this token represents that outward connection between these two people.  For B'nei Yisrael, Hashem chose to give them the gold and jewels of the Egyptians.  This symbolic engagement ring, or this physical token, elevated them to a higher rank than when they were slaves in Mitzrayim.  They were laden with gold and jewels which spoke of a G-d who chose to not only satisfy their physical needs, but lavish upon them His love and His promise of something greater.  As He wooed them through the desert by way of His personal guide, Moshe, the people drew close to His chamber, Mt. Sinai.  Here they would receive their ketubah and began to live according to a new way.  They would embark on a new life with their creator and enter a honeymoon phase.  This phase included learning the ways of their new love - what was expected, and what would be given by their benevolent and faithful partner.

Divine Design

Hashem spoke to Moshe , saying, ‘"Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts [terumot] for Me from every person whose heart so moves him.  And these are the terumot that you shall accept from them: gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple, and crimson yarns, fine linen, goats' hair, tanned ram skins, dolphin skins, and acacia wood; oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the aromatic incense; lapis lazuli and other stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece.  And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them."  (Shemot 25 :1-8)

Now comes the best part for the bride - B'nei Yisrael :  decorating.  A s we enter this week's parasha, Hashem commands Moshe to tell the Children of Israel to bring Him t'rumah - gifts.  Hashem was very specific regarding the materials for this special sanctuary.  But how does this description of resources have any relevance to us today besides being a history lesson, or a lesson on giving?

The relevance of the materials used to construct the Mishkan can be related to our middot - or character traits - that we bring to our own temples today to build a dwelling place for Hashem and our communities.  The root of the word  t'rumah is:  Resh - Vav - Mem ; this  means "to uplift." This is appropriate  if we consider that our gifts  should such that uplift and raise up a community.

During the time that Messiah Yeshua walked the earth, he provoked the people around him, from the sages to the everyday Israelites, to consider and hone their ethical character in order to increase their Torah observance and love of G-d.  The premise for this revolution is that the roots of all of our thoughts and actions can be traced to the depths of the soul, far beyond the scope of the light of consciousness.  By tapping into motivations and character,  Mashiach Yeshua tried to promote a deeper and more honest walk in Torah, inspiring people to return to Hashem.  Just having knowledge of Torah and halacha was insignificant without the well-maintained vehicle to carry it.   In his d'rash on the mount, he spoke of the virtues of humility, frugality, righteousness,

How interesting that this sort of revival happened in Europe during the mid 1800's.   The Mussar movement (which in Hebrew means "ethics") developed among the non-Hasidic Orthodox Lithuanian Jews and was widely taught throughout their yeshivas.  Its founder was Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin Salanter (1810-1883).  Just as Mashiach Yeshua's goal was for inner transformation, the goal of this movement was to help people overcome the inner obstacles that hinder them from living up to properly performing the mitzvot. The objective of mussar practice is to release the light of holiness that lives in each soul.  Rabbi Salanter also addressed middot - character traits - that his talmidim should focus on in order to create proper balance in their lives for the sake of Heaven.  Just as each t'rumah have a specific purpose in the Mishkan, so too do these middot among our modern day Mishkans, our bodily temples.   What is remarkable is that this philosophy of self-improvement, 1800 years apart, is the key in the establishment and maintenance of a fruitful, Torah lifestyle.

The Gift of You

"Hashem spoke to Moshe , saying, ‘Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts [terumot] for Me from every person whose heart so moves him.  (Shemot 25:1)


This line holds to key to the connection between the t'rumah and the middot of Rabbi Salanter:  that gifts shall be accepted from every person whose heart so moves him/her.  In grasping hold of this, we can more deeply understand the concept of the offering given by each individual.  Each person might have had one or all of the requested items by Hashem.  But certainly, one person did not come with all the required gifts; each person probably came with the item that was in abundance.  This leads us to better understand what makes the Mishkan so beautiful: it was made through the wealth of all that Hashem had given to the people, each according to their own wealth.

So, as members in our own communities, how do we build our modern day Mishkans? Besides the necessary elements of an ark, Torah scrolls, Ner Talmid, bema, etc..., how do we build places that are more than buildings - organic, living dwellings for Hashem and us?  This is where the relationship of Mashiach Yeshua and Rabbi Salanter's middot and the t'rumah are strongly connected.  For while today's synagogues are not housing tachash skins and acacia wood, there must be something that we can bring to make very real the gifts that each one of us long to contribute.

Below is a chart showing the relationship between the t'rumah and the middot. The first element, gold, doesn't line up with one of Rabbi Salanter's middot; however, as the premise for the other materials to be functional and relational, it is assumed that the most precious element must come first and that our soul must be present, or given, for the others to exist.  Just as the tablets were placed in the ark that was surrounded by gold, so is the neshama/soul protected and required first.   This coincides with Yeshua's response to what is first and foremost in serving Hashem:

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, 'What Commandment is the foremost of all?' Yeshua answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel!  Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is one' and you shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart, and with all your soul (and with all your mind) and with all your strength.  (Mark 12 : 28-30)


Judaism utilizes a wide definition of love and how one truly uses the soul at maximum capacity, both between people and between man and Hashem. As for the former, the Torah states: "Love your neighbor like yourself" (Vayikra 19:18). As for the latter, one is commanded to love G-d "with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might" (Devarim 6:5).  This is taken by the Mishnah to refer to good deeds, willingness to sacrifice one's life rather than commit certain serious transgressions, willingness to sacrifice all one's possessions and being grateful to Hashem despite hardship (Tractate Berachoth 9:5). Throughout rabbinic literature various methods are explored as to how this love can be developed.  However, Mashiach Yeshua sets forth that all that we do hinges on this premise that we love:  completely and unequivocally.


Middah (Character Trait)


our soul  - the Divine spark





blue thread


purple thread

decisiveness - our power as humans

crimson thread


fine linen


goat fleece

tzedakah - righteousness

tanned skins


acacia wood

diligence, strength

oil for lighting (olive)



truth, separation


As we progress through the chart, silver is next.  Silver was very often used as currency, to equalize transactions or as compensation.  This element corresponds well with the middah of equanimity.  For in equanimity, there is balance and level-headedness, the desire for equality.  This trait that we bring into our kehilot can help in the easiest and hardest of times.  People who possess an abundance of this quality are helpful in mediator positions and useful in synagogue government.  Yeshua very much speaks of

Copper is the third gift requested by Hashem.  While not as precious as gold or silver, this metal has the ability to retain heat quite well.  Used as a conductor in our circuitry in our homes today, it also excellent in cooking because of its consistent heat and conductivity properties.  This element relates to the middah of patience.  Just as copper holds its heat well, consistently and equally, so too do people who have patience.  They possess the strength control their heat, or their temper.  They are able to hold their emotions in check and handle stressful situations.  People strong in this middah can bring stability and strength to a congregation, especially one in need of growth, learning and healing.

Concerning the blue thread to be brought, we are immediately aware that it is the color of the heavens.  The techeilet represents the middah of order: one of a higher origin and a respect for a reality above our comprehension.  Those who possess the middah of order live their lives in such a way that is a beacon to those around them that something beyond them enlightens and informs them.  This trait is also coupled with faithfulness and the ability to stay on task.  This element of order to Mashiach Yeshua as he laments to the P'rushim:

"Woe to you hypocritical Torah teachers and P'rushim!  You pay your tithes of mint, dill and cumin; but you have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah - justice, mercy, trust." (Mattityahu 23 : 23)


In the same vein, the purple thread required represents the middah of decisiveness; for historically linked to purple has been the concept of royalty and leadership  - all of which posses the inherit trait of being decisive since no kingdom could survive without such a middah. When people of a decisive nature stand up, participate and commit fully in congregational activities, they bring a sense of leadership and security to the members.  Mashiach speaks against wavering and half-hearted observance when he spoke to the P'rushim:

" The Torah teachers and P'rushim sit in the seat of Moshe.  So whatever they tell you, take to do it.  But don't do what they do, because they talk but don't act.  They tie heavy loads onto people's shoulders but lift a finger to help carry them."  (Mattityahu 23 : 2-4)


Crimson thread, while not on the same status as the other threads, is reminiscent of the animal soul, or blood.  It is through this that we are made spiritually clean throughout history; therefore, it is fitting that it is linked to the middah of cleanliness.  Bound to this middah are people who have a vested interest in the upkeep and beauty of our synagogue and temples; for this middah does not merely speak of just personal cleanliness but of cleanliness on a larger scale.  People balanced in this trait also have aesthetic  concerns and seek to maintain the image of the community.

Fine linen represents the best of the vegetable world; for it is a lowly plant, grows, and is made into something which elevates.  This represents the middah of humility - neither low nor high, but serving both places.  People who possess this trait are conscientious in their relationships with each other and in their demeanor.  They seek neither to degrade nor puff up those around them.  This refined trait in the synagogue results in a functioning body where leaders and congregants are serving wholeheartedly and not for namesake.  Mashiach Yeshua plainly says,

"The greatest among you must be your servant, for whoever promotes himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be promoted."  (Mattityahu 23 : 11-12)

How does goat fleece operate in the Mishkan? It was used to make the coverings in the Mishkan - this can be related to the middah of tzedakah or righteousness.  Rashi comments that the women spun the goat's hair directly from the backs of the goats!  By not sheering the entire coat off, the luster remains and make it more wholesome and valuable.  By committing this righteous act, they spare the goat any discomfort by stripping all of its hair in the desert; for truly their hair provided a barrier from the heat and rays of the sun.  By clothing ourselves with garments of righteous works and gemilut chasidim (acts of kindness), it is similar to the function of goat-hair in the Mishkan. Those who promote the garb of dignity may rise to a higher level and see the face of Hashem without deficiency, while at the same time bringing honor to those who need it most.

"How blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."  (Mattityahu 5 : 6)


As Hashem commanded tanned skins, we see the protective quality of the skins linked to the middah of frugality.  When we think of books and other valuable articles either clad or made of tanned skins in order to protect them, we can associate this also with people who assume the task of preserving resources and are futuristic thinkers. They understand the importance of every soul, every resource and seek to not only derive meaning from it but to preserve it for its proper use.  These types of people can be called visionaries in our congregations, people who are foundational and instrumental in causing resources to grow.  This idea is very strong in Mashiach's telling of the Parable of the Talents. [ see Mattityahu 25-14-30 ]

Acacia wood is another special part of the Divine design.  The ark was made from this wood and lined inside and out with gold - primarily for its special properties of being light yet solid and strong.  It would hold and protect the tablets, yet not be cumbersome to its bearers.  This material represents the middah of diligence; for in our own pursuits of being light enough to be moved about in learning and positive growth, we are strong enough to pursue these goals without being shaken or giving up.  People bearing this trait can also endure change and are promoters of change - a quality sometimes so vital in sustaining a space for the sake of Heaven.

Oil for lighting in this case speaks of pure olive oil, representing the highest quality of intent.  It also meshes well with  the middah of silence, which is the ultimate purity in speech.  Just as the pure flame of the menorah burns with brilliance like the soul itself,  so too do we shine when we understand that there are times to be a light, and times for silence so as to not commit lashon hara.  This quality in a congregation can prevent the unsavory spread of information which can not only damage members, but the sanctity of an institution or kehilat itself.  Members who have the ability to be a light and do it silently wield great power when they can inspire, motivate and uplift others with their life example - just like a beautiful menorah burning olive oil.

Hashem also commanded that spices be brought.  And how does this, beyond the context of incense, come into play into a congregant's life today?  This invariably can be found in the middah of calmness.  How is this so?  When we savor spices, we close our eyes and take in the sensory stimulation, processing it, absorbing it, and making it a part of us.  People who have calmness are able to be thoughtful and contemplative, allowing for creativity to permeate their very existence and help to bring to their community a new flavor, a new presence, an introduction to a new taste of Hashem and His creation.

And what about the stones that were commanded as an offering?  Each of them was different, beautiful, and distinct.  They represent the middah of truth and separation.  Just as the umin v'tumin would give truth when disputes would arise, the stones would also serve to be distinctive in showing tribal separation on the choshen, or breastplate.   Anyone possessing truth is able to live a more conflict-free life; for as truth brings clarity, so too does it bring purpose and determination.  People who are well-versed in this middah are not prone to insecurities, as they know their place and space.  In addition, they understand the distinctions that the Torah places upon certain tribes and accepts the appropriate responsibilities and seeks to fulfill them and them alone.

Putting It All Together

Without proper middot, we do not reflect G-d's image and is thereby have difficulty manifesting the Torah. Only by improving and bettering our "Tzelem Elokim" will we have a vessel in which to receive the Torah and hold onto it.  As we ponder each of these elements and seek to adapt them into modern settings, may we recognize that the way to beautify our own temples, our own synagogues is to work on our middot and bring to Hashem as every heart is  so moved.

Shabbat Shalom.....

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