Leann Shamash
Author of the blog Words Have Wings

Be My Sanctuary

“And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.”

Exodus: 25:8 (Translation from Sefaria)

וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם׃


Parshat Terumah brings us to a new and very different portion of Sefer Shemot. For the next few weeks we will get a very detailed and specific blueprint for the construction of the mishkah, the portable tabernacle, which was God’s presence for the Israelites as they traveled. Of great interest to me was learning that the language of Parshat Terumah in some ways parallels the writing of the creation story, as though we are being recreated as a people through the building of the Mishkan.

Mishkan means dwelling; a place where God’s presence dwells among the people. Today’s sanctuaries are reminiscent of the Mishkan of old.  For the past few days I have been thinking about what sanctuary means, both in Torah, but also now. What does sanctuary feel like? Is God’s presence felt in other spaces that offer individuals sanctuary?

Is it God’s presence that makes a sanctuary holy space, or is it the combination of God and people who create that holiness?

Last, but not least, the word terumah means offering. The Hebrews were asked to build the mishkan through voluntary donations. This was not a God made portable structure, but a structure constructed by humans through their own donations. We all donate as we can and what we can. Even the poorest among us is able to contribute something of meaning.


Be My Sanctuary

Be my sanctuary.

Creak open your ancient windows.

Open your doors wide.

Raise the curtains of your tent.

Help me find my way in.


Be my sanctuary.

Beckon to me;

Notice who I am.

Open your arms,

despite my imperfections,

regardless of my disappointments,

pangs of disillusionment,

a confusion of doubts.

They weigh heavy upon me,

but still I seek a place in the tent.

Be my sanctuary.

Save me a small corner to rest,

for I arrive so weary.

I need just  a corner to lay my things.

A space on the bench,

a hand to hold,

a shoulder to cry on

and an ear to hear my story.

To listen;

maybe even to understand.



I don’t come empty handed.

I can offer my hand.

My shoulders have space

for a head to rest upon.

My ears are open to listen.

My mouth is ready to sing.

I bring no gifts of gold of silver,

but I bring you myself.


Be my sanctuary.

Let us sing together.

May we be, if not friends,

then community;

knit together

shoulder to shoulder.


Our feet sharing the same floor.

Our breaths mingling.


Let these walls,

these brightened windows,

these opening doors,

embrace us.



Can a space be holy?

Is it the doors,

the walls,

the ceilings above?




Or,  perhaps it is a combination.

The warmth of hands held.

The eloquence of shoulders offered.

The infinite potential of shared stories?

Maybe it is those who sit in its corners,

who grace its benches

and imbue this place with light;


Holiness is not easily defined.


Let us sit together.

About the Author
After a career in Jewish education, Leann Shamash is the author of the blog Words Have Wings, which addresses the parsha of the week through poetry.
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