Terumah – A Better World

We must build a better world.

This ideal seems quaint and hopelessly out of reach. The world around us raises constant reminders of the distance we must travel to achieve goodness. We are overwhelmed by the amount of man-made pain and harm being constantly inflicted. Stories of painful abuses within our community mingle with accounts of antisemitic attacks from outsiders, while the pursuit of truth becomes an exercise in futility as those charged with championing human rights act with racism and hatred.

Where do we even begin?

Our Parsha give us very practical guidance. It teaches us not to start with trying to fill the entire world with G-d’s presence. Rather, we are instructed to build a modest space, beautiful and pure, ordered and defined by G-d with His Torah at its center. That small corner of the world, the mishkan, is to reflect and represent what the world as a whole was meant to be, hence the requirement for its builder, Betzalel, to know the secrets of the creation of heaven and earth (Brachos 51a). The mishkan may have been a small project, but in truth it was the world. This little corner would, for a time, be the world’s sole vestige of holiness and truth, and ultimately the light and the Torah that would emanate from the mishkan  would transform and uplift the world in its entirety.

That guidance remains relevant. We must not become overwhelmed or menaced by the falsehood and the threats that often seem to surround us. We must instead do that which is clearly within our reach, building our own personal framework of truth and purity, ethics and spirituality, goodness and faith. That will serve as a powerful source of personal strength and security and provide us with a genuine sense of Hashem’s presence. “I will fear no evil for You are with me.”

Let each of us do that. Bilvavi mishkan evneh. Let us build those sacred corners within ourselves, our families, and our communities, and we will ultimately make a better world.