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Areyah Kaltmann

All We Have is Each Other

Hostage Luis Har, left, is hugged by his family after being rescued from captivity in the Gaza Strip on Feb. 12, 2024. (Israeli Army via AP)

If only we—the Jewish people—derived the key lesson from this week’s parsha before October the 7th. 

In this week’s portion of “Terumah,” which means “donation” or “contribution” in Hebrew, G-d gives Moses detailed instructions on how the Jewish people should each contribute to the construction of the Mishkan, a portable dwelling place for G-d that was readily erected, dismantled, transported and reassembled on the Jewish nation’s journey through the desert. G-d says the people should “construct for me a sanctuary, and I shall dwell within them.”

Two mind blowing questions jump out at us. First, why did G-d require each Jew to give the same amount for the mishkan’s construction—half a shekel—when it would have made more sense for the rich to give more and the poor less? 

In this week’s Torah portion, G-d says the people should “construct for me a sanctuary, and I shall dwell within them.” (Photo: Chabad.org)

Second, why did G-d end his famous phrase with “I shall dwell within them,” when the grammatically correct phrase would have been “I shall within it.” Each letter, word and phrase in the Torah contain a divine perfection, so what’s the meaning behind this seemingly ungrammatical sentence?

The answer, which is just as relevant now as it was when G-d spoke these words 3500 years ago, is that when it comes to building G-d’s dwelling place, every single Jew, regardless of who they were, what they believed, or their financial standing, was crucial. Every single Jew gave the same amount to show that we each have a  share in the wellbeing and survival of every other Jew. The Sages of the Talmud stated “Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh” or “Every Jew is responsible for one another.”

The lesson that we learned from October the 7th and is reiterated in this parsha is that all we have is each other. When the UN turns its back on us and puts Israel on trial, we need to be there for one another. Today, just like in the building of the Mishkan in ancient times, every Jew counts, every Jew is important.

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Before Oct. 7, our enemies thought we were vulnerable because there was so much strife and disunity within Israel. But now, we realize that all we have is each other. 

In Tel Aviv, Jews from opposing sides of the political spectrum are marching together for the release of the hostages, when a few short months ago on these same streets, fierce demonstrations divided us.

This provides an answer to the question of why G-d said “I shall dwell within them,” instead of “within it.” G-d was making a radical statement that each Jew is part of the holy nation. Each Jew is like the half-shekel, incomplete on its own but able to become whole when he or she helps their fellow Jew.

At the end of the day, when the Jewish people are there for each other and ensure that our nation remains strong and steadfast, we have created a vessel for the divine to dwell among us.

Good Shabbos

About the Author
Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann is the Director of Chabad Columbus at the Lori Schottenstein Chabad Center. For over three decades, Rabbi Kaltmann and his wife Esther have put their heart and soul into serving the Columbus Jewish community. In addition to directing Chabad Columbus, the Rabbi and his family also operate LifeTown Columbus — which teaches essential life skills to more than 2,100 Ohio students with special needs in a 5,000-square-foot miniature city, Kitchen of Life — which fosters social-emotional skills for young people through culinary arts, Friendship Circle Columbus, the Jewish Business Network, and dozens of other programs. Areyah and Esther have adult children who serve Chabad of Downtown Columbus, oversee Chabad’s many programs and enthusiastically serve people throughout the state.
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