This week’s Torah portion is Terumah. This week I am in a temporary place, a hotel with my children for their basketball playoffs. Both of my children still living at home made it to the finals and it is very exciting. So just as I am in a temporary place, this week is all about the tabernacle which was a temporary dwelling for God. It was the stopgap until the children of Israel could build a permanent temple on the temple mount in Jerusalem.
We learn in this week’s portion about some of the materials used in building the tabernacle, specifically precious metals. We have gold, silver and bronze being used. Interesting that even today in the modern world we give out awards – for instance in Olympic competition – and the medals we give out are gold, silver and bronze. Each is valuable but obviously gold is the most valuable and bronze the least.
The rabbis of Israel tell us about these precious metals and that all three are needed for the construction of the mishkan, the tabernacle; all three are important although all have a different value. The rabbis tell us how each metal can be used to describe a person; three different types of Jews as it were. Gold is the person always trying to be heavenly, always to separate from the mundane or common existence. They are always trying to elevate to something more profound; a transcendent existence. That seems wonderful but we were given physical bodies in this physical world and it is not God’s intention for us to escape it or always be lofty or above the physical world. That’s where silver comes in, it represents the person in this world but not of this world. It is the person who tries to reach up and grab the holy things, the heavenly things, and bring them down into the world.
I would say that is what Yeshua did, that’s what he gave us. I would also say in imitation of him that is what we are supposed to be, living in this earthly existence but bringing heaven down. We also learn about the copper or bronze person. There is midrash about copper/bronze never being used for currency in the Torah as it is so common that it is devalued. Gold is so rare that it is also not used. Silver is also valuable but a little more common so it is used for currency. I talked, in another teaching, about the word kessef which actually means silver in Hebrew. In modern Israel it simply means money and if you were to speak of making money you would say oseh kessef. In the United States we use copper only for pennies, the least valuable.
The copper/bronze person can be described as the one who is only in the depths. The Hebrew word for copper is closely related to the word for snake or serpent. There is a bit of midrash here that we can make, calling copper the snake metal. It is the metal that signifies the person still in the clutches of the great serpent: Satan. Apparently all three types of people exist in the world; gold, silver and bronze.
We have people who are too lofty and need to be brought down to earth, we have people who are too lowly and need to be brought up out of the mire and mud of this world into holiness. And we need to be silver, in the world but not of it, bringing holiness down to earth. Not like gold, above it all and not like copper or bronze feeling that we can’t elevate to the next level. As you and I attempt to be the silver, bringing heaven down to earth and those we see in the depths – bringing them up; as it says in the book of James, to snatch them out of the fire. Be the silver.
This week I am praying for the safety and success of my children, I hope you will join my prayers. Ian in his last playoff, Hannah with a few more to go and Callie at university – stay warm. I am so proud of them all.
Shalom and Kol Tuv.