The JPS Rashi Discussion Torah Commentary

By Steven; Sarah Levy | Go to book overview

TERUMAH

❖ Collective Responsibility
Parashat Terumah centers on the Tabernacle (mishkan), the portable sanctuary where the Jews congregated to worship during their journey through the wilderness to the Land of Israel. Describing the Tabernacle’s construction, the parashah specifies the required building materials:

And these are the gifts that you shall accept from them:
gold, silver, and copper. (Exod. 25:3)

Rashi comments on how the building materials were provided:

gold, silver, and copper, etc.: They were all given voluntarily,
each person according to how his heart moved him, except
for the silver, which was given by everyone equally, a half-
shekel by each person. (Rashi, Exod. 25:3)

Rashi explains that all construction materials were donated according to the benefactor’s generosity, with the exception of a half-shekel of silver, given equally by all.It is understandable that the people’s support of the Tabernacle varied according to both their means and their desire to contribute. Why, then, was it necessary to require a minimum contribution from each person? An answer is that the Tabernacle, the focal point of the Jews’ relationship with God, served all members of the Jewish nation—irrespective of wealth, piety, or standing within the community. The stipulation that all Jews contribute to it was therefore a reflection of each Jew’s connection with the Tabernacle.Maimonides states that the weight of the biblical half-shekel is 160 grains of barley (see Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Shekalim 1:5). This is equivalent to about eight grams—worth around five dollars at silver’s current value. This seems to have been an insignificant sum for the typical person, and thus represented a symbolic gesture by which each Jew joined in supporting the Tabernacle’s construction. The choice of a half-shekel can therefore be understood to signify that the Jewish community remains incomplete—unable to reach its full potential—without each and every member’s participation.
Questions for Discussion
1. If you are affiliated with a synagogue, is there a minimum level of support or involvement that is expected of you? How would you describe your contribution to it?
2. When you are choosing how much to give to a charity or an individual, do you decide “according to how your heart moves you”? What factors influence your decision?
3. Describe a cause for which you have extended yourself or your support generously. Why is this important to you?

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The JPS Rashi Discussion Torah Commentary
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction - Introducing Rashi xv
  • Genesis 1
  • Bere’shit 3
  • NoaḤ 6
  • Lekh Lekha 9
  • Va-Yera’ 12
  • Hayyei Sarah 15
  • Toledot 18
  • Va-Yetse’ 21
  • Va-YishlaḤ 24
  • Va-Yeshev 27
  • Mikkets 30
  • Va-Yiggash 33
  • Va-YeḤi 36
  • Exodus 39
  • Shemot 41
  • Val-‘Era’ 44
  • Bo’ 47
  • Be-ShallaḤ 50
  • Yitro 53
  • Mishpatim 56
  • Terumah 59
  • Tetsavveh 62
  • Ki Tissa’ 65
  • Va-Yak’Hel 68
  • Pekudei 71
  • Leviticus 75
  • Va-Yikra’ 77
  • Tsav 80
  • Shemini 83
  • Tazria’ 86
  • Metsora’ 90
  • ’AḤarei Mot 93
  • Kedoshim 97
  • ‘Emor 100
  • Be-Har 103
  • Be-Ḥukkotai 106
  • Numbers 111
  • Be-Midbar 113
  • Naso’ 116
  • Be-Ha’Alotekha 120
  • ShelaḤ-Lekha 123
  • KoraḤ 127
  • Ḥukkat 130
  • Balak 134
  • PinḤas 138
  • Mattot 141
  • Mase’Ei 144
  • Deuteronomy 147
  • Devarim 149
  • Va-EtḤannan 152
  • ‘Ekev 156
  • Re’Eh 160
  • Shofetim 163
  • Ki Tetse’ 167
  • Ki Tavo’ 171
  • Nits Avim/Va-Yelekh 174
  • Ha’Azinu 177
  • Ve-Zo’t Ha-Berakhah 181
  • Subject Index 185
  • Index of Sources 189
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