02/23/2012 12:18 pm ET Updated Apr 24, 2012

Parshat Terumah: Weekly Torah Portion Summary, Questions, Resources

Editor's note: The HuffTorah is an overview of the Torah reading of the week and includes links to additional resources for study and discussion. Read the full text of Parshat Terumah with interlinear Hebrew/English.

All of this, God says to Moses:

Say to Israel, "Dedicated to God a contribution." Then, collect my offering from every heart-inspired person: gold, silver, copper; turquoise, purple or crimson wool; linen, goat hair, red ram skin and multicolored tahash skin; acacia wood, lamp oil, spices for incense and anointing, and precious gems. Israel should make for me a sanctuary, and I will dwell among them.

Israel should make an acacia ark -- 2.5 cubits by 1.5 cubits by 1.5 cubits. Inside out, coated in gold. Edged in gold. Ringed in gold. Cornered by gold. Make poles of acacia, and coat them in gold. Place the poles in the rings. Carry the ark this way. Never remove them from the rings. The Tablets -- the ones I will show you -- place them in here.

Make a lid of pure gold. Make two golden angel children from the same piece of metal. Place them at each end so their wings face up and out, guarding the ark. They should face each other. They should face the lid. Place the lid on the ark from above. Place the tablets in the ark. I will meet you there and speak from between the angels. There, I will tell you what to command the Children of Israel.

Questions and resources:

Why does God instruct Israel to build a sanctuary now? Shouldn't God say, "...make for me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in it"? How can the angels face both each other and downward? Why would God need to speak from between the angels if Moses can already hear God's voice before the ark is built? And don't those angels seem a lot like idols?

The "Energy of the Week" explains why building this sanctuary now is a logical next step. Some commentators clarify the "dwell among them" verse, saying the sanctuary is within. Graven images they may be, but the fact that the angels have faces of children is significant.

Make a table of acacia -- 2 cubits by 1 cubit by 1.5 cubits -- coated and edged and framed and ringed and poled in gold. All the table's features should be covered in gold. There should always be multi-surface bread on the table.

Make a candelabrum from one block of pure, hammered gold. Roots, stem, flowers, spheres and cups, all of the same gold. Six branches should emerge diagonally from the stem -- three on the right and three on the left. Each branch, as well as the stem, should have a lamp. When lit, all the light should pour toward the center. All the tools for the candelabrum should be made of pure gold. Construct according to my instructions.

Make the roof of the tabernacle from 10 tapestries woven with threads of turquoise, purple and crimson. Animal designs should be professionally woven into them. Five should be woven together, and the other five woven the same. Make 50 turquoise loops on the edge of each super tapestry. Fasten the two together with 50 golden clasps so that the roof for the Tabernacle may be one.

Make 11 sheets of goats hair -- 30 cubits by 4 cubits -- to cover the Tabernacle. Join five sheets together. Join six sheets together. The overlap will form the entrance of the tent after the six and the five are joined together by 100 turquoise loops and 50 golden clasps. This way, the tent may be one. The excess cubits should cover the Tabernacle.

Make another covering for the tent with red-dyed rams' skin. Make another of the multicolored tahash skin.

Questions and resources:

The description of the candelabrum is pretty cryptic. How did Moses know what God meant? In the desert, how are the Israelites supposed to access acacia wood? And what is a tahash?

Truly trying to build something in the face of utter confusion, elicits God's help. An abundance of acacia came from a forefather's foresight, offering an important lesson about environmental sustainability. No one's really sure what the tahash is. Some suggest a kosher sort of antelope. Some say dolphin. Perhaps it's a unicorn?

The upright beams for the ark should be made of acacia -- 10 cubits by 1.5 cubits -- with two square pegs and two silver sockets in each. Twenty beams for the southern side. Twenty beams for the northern side. Eight beams for the western side. The beams should fit into each other closely. Make crossbars of acacia -- 15 in total for the three sides. Coat the beams in gold. Make gold holder rings. Coat the crossbars in gold. Make all these parts separately and then construct the Tabernacle as I will show you.

Make a partition of turquoise, purple and crimson wool twisted with fine linen. More animal designs, please. Place this on four gold-coated pillars with gold hook in four silver sockets. Place the Ark of the Testimony on the inside of the partition, which separates the Holy of Holies from the sanctuary. Place the lid on the Ark in the Holy of Holies. Place the table outside the partition on the northern side. Place the candelabrum opposite the table, on the southern side.

Make a curtain for the entrance of the same turquoise, purple and crimson wool and linen mix. The curtain should have five gold-coated acacia pillars with gold hooks and copper sockets.

Make the altar of acacia -- 5 cubits by 5 cubits, square, and 3 cubits tall. Make four protrusions on the four corners out o the same piece of wood. Coat the altar in copper. Make its utensils out of copper. Make a lattice of copper, and place it below the decorative border, extending downward to the middle. Make copper-coated acacia poles for the altar. The altar should be hollow. Make it as you were shown on the mountain.

Make a courtyard for the sanctuary using all these same materials. It should be 100 cubits long by 50 cubits wide. All the tools used to make the Tabernacle should be copper.

Questions and resources:

So what does all this even look like? And why should these nomads have to carry such this structure everywhere they go? Finally, what's significance of the different uses of gold, silver and copper?

For what it's worth, Wikipedia's got a diagram of the Tabernacle. The American Jewish World Service's weekly Torah study connects the building of the Tabernacle to today's economic crisis. G-dcast explains how all these beams and precious metals fit together.

Resources for further commentary, discussion and reflection: