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Israel-Gaza War 5784:Terumah – Brothers and Sisters in Holy Unity

Terumah opens with the children of Israel being directed to contribute toward the mishkan, “every man whose heart motivates him.” (Exodus 25:2) From ordinances in the last Torah portion, Mishpatim, we switch to free-will offerings. Terumah then moves on to describe in great detail the design for a portable sanctuary, called a mishkan, where the Israelis can encounter G-d as they journey through the wilderness.

The reason for the mishkan, or “dwelling place,” is clearly given: “They shall make for me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst.” (Exodus 25:8)

G-d will not be a remote presence shrouded in thunder and lightning atop a mountain, encountered only by Moses. In the mishkan, He will be accessible to everyone.

Reading the details of the mishkan’s design can be mind-numbingly boring. But in a time and place where there were no user manuals, no blueprints, and no YouTube videos showing how to put things together, such detailed instructions were necessary.

And in the midst of minute instructions directing everything from the colors of fabrics, to the dimensions of beams and curtains, to the numbers of hooks and sockets, there are some interesting phrases.

In describing the cherubs that will grace the cover for the box containing the Ten Commandments, the Torah says: “Ish el achiv.” While this is translated as “one toward the other” (Exodus 25:20; the cherubs are to face each other), literally, this means “a man to his brother.”

It makes some sense to refer to the cherubs, which are humanlike, as men and brothers. But later on, in directions for connecting woven panels and their loops, similar wording is used: “ishah el achotah,” translated as “one to another,” or literally, “a woman to her sister.” (Exodus 26:3, 5, 6)

One would expect a phrase like echad lesheni (“one to the second”) or zeh el zeh (“this to this,” used in the daily Kedushah prayer) here. But instead, the words ish and ishah are used to refer to inanimate objects.

Perhaps there is a deeper message here about unity, and, more, holy unity. All Israel is meant to be connected, every man to his brother, every woman to her sister. Before October 7th, there was great division in Israel, religious versus secular, left versus right. But since that black day, there has been perfect unity and amity, accompanied by an outpouring of love and free-will offerings, beautiful to see. And surely, as Israelis encounter each other, G-d is also encountered in these heartfelt connections and gifts of clothing, shelter, furniture, food, time, lovingkindness.

Israel could use some free-will offerings from Diaspora Jews right about now, in a showing of holy unity, a man to his brother, a woman to her sister. Here is an incomplete list of organizations to donate to; you can read about what they do and donate at the links below. I am sure there are many more worthwhile ones, and I apologize for omitting them due to ignorance. Please feel free to list them in the comments!

American Friends of Magen David Adom (MDA)

American Friends of NATAL (AFNATAL)-Israel Trauma and Resiliency Center

Belev Echad

Emunah of America

Friends of the IDF (FIDF)

Friends of Yad Sarah

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America

IsraAID

Koby Mandell Foundation

Ogen

Operation Israel

Shoresh Fund

Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO)

ZAKA Search and Rescue

About the Author
I was born in Washington, DC, and raised in the suburbs, but now reside in the temperate rain forest of the Pacific Northwest. I am a retired editor and proud Zionist. I can be found at https://kosherkitty.wordpress.com/about/ and @KosherKitty1.
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