David Kolinsky

T’rumah – Dwelling Upon What Can be Taken Up

In Parashat Terumah, HaShem instructs Moshe to have the children of Yisrael take up for God fifteen items for the purpose of making the mishkan, its furnishings and other ritual objects, as well as for the clothing of the priest. These items are: gold, silver, copper, blue, purple, scarlet yarn, fine linen, goats (hair), skins of rams – reddened, skins of manatees, woods of Shittim, oil for the light, spices for the oil of anointment and for incense of applications, stones of Shoham, and stones of fillings for the Ephod (אפוד) and the Choshen (חשן).

Allegorically, each of these items represent what is taken up from experience for the purpose of evaluating the details of a scene. The purpose of the mishkan (dwelling), the items contained within it and the clothing of the priests is to bring us closer to HaShem or God’s bringing forth of existence. The word for priest (KoHaeN – כוהן) is related to the noun KaWaNaH (כונה – precise intention, mindfulness). The verb is used only once in the TaNaKh outside of the context of the priestly duties: כחתן יכהן פאר “As a groom precisely sets a garland.” (Isaiah 61:10). The verb for officiating as a priest means “to perform with precise and mindful intention or to give something precise and mindful attention.” This is the way for us to engage with our every day experience, the experience created for us by HaShem, God’s bringing forth of existence.

The word miqdash (מקדש) means “place of sanctifying.” However, allegorically it means “a bringing forward (of God).” Usually understood as “separate,” the root QaDaSh (קדש) is related to other triliteral roots that evolved from the biliteral QaD (קד). All of these essentially mean “to put the head forward”: QaDaD (קדד – to bow), QaDQaD (קדקד – crown of head) and QaDaM (קדם to proceed, advance forward); QaDaR (קדר – to drop the head > to duck under, gloomy, potter), QaDaHh (קדח – (drop the head) > to bore into, pierce), ShaQaD (שקד – watch intently, be watchful of, be vigilant, be determined), \aQaD (עקד – to draw the head toward the feet; fix the eyes on something, to be determined to do something (Arabic)). The root QaDaSh (קדש) fundamentally means to advance something forward (so as to dedicate for sanctified use). Allegorically, the purpose of the miqdash is to bring forward God’s bringing forth of existence. The miqdash represents the place, be it physical or symbolic, where we are able to engage God. Since HaShem (Y-H-W-H) is God’s bringing forth of existence, the point of engagement, represented by the miqdash, is where we experience God in our life experience. This can be found in the details of our experience, the details with which we engage represented by these fifteen items. Here they are listed alongside there allegorical meaning:

1 – gold – fleeting impressions (found in experience)
2 – silver – lasting impressions (found in experience)
3 – copper – what can be coaxed out (from experience)
4 – blue – what can be contained-embraced (from experience)
5 – purple – what can be considered in going back and forth
6 – scarlet yarn – what can be chewed over repeatedly
7 – fine linen – what is complicated
8 – goats (hair) – things that are intense
9 – skins of rams – reddened – things exposed as a result of advancing forward into experience – being mentally absorbed with the scene
10 – skins of manatees – things exposed as a result of acts of wadding through a scene, plodding along, and feeling one’s way around
11 – woods of Shittim – many elusive things as a result of the acts of scanning-roaming about
12 – oil for the light – things exuding for shedding light
13 – spices for the oil of anointment and for incense of applications –
things driven into with respect to what exudes outward of what is surveyed
and (things driven into) with respect to what is engaged of things imposed (applied).
14 – stones of Shoham – things that stand out prominently as a result of the being stirred up
15 – stones of fillings-settings – things that stand out prominently as a result of the being completely involved and invested in experience

The later two are said to be for the Ephod (אפוד) and the Choshen (חשן). The word Ephod (אפוד) evolved from the verb PaDaH (פדה – to separate, place aside). Apparently an Ephod was a type of apron with its front and back portions separated by the body of the wearer. Because both verbs are related to the Arabic PYD (פידּ) meaning to acquaint or inform, allegorically the Ephod enables its wearer to become acquainted with a scene. Similarly, the Choshen (חשן) is related to the root HhuSh (חוש) meaning to experience, while its Arabic cognate means “to experience, sense, feel, feel compassion, and grope.” A related root in Akkadian means “to think, plan, ponder, and notice.” Considering that the Choshen is also referred to as the Choshen mishpat and Choshen ha-mishpat – where mishpat means a declared judgment or clarification – it is likely that allegorically the Choshen enables the wearer to ponder a scene so as to make a clarifying judgment of something. This is also consistent with the Arabic root cognate with Choshen (HhaSaN) meaning “to grasp or understand well, judge something favorably.” So while the Ephod represents one’s ability to become acquainted with things in a scene, the Choshen represents one’s ability to ponder a scene so as to understand well. These enable the kohaen or priest to do his job of giving a scene precise and mindful attention.

The word mishkan (משכן) means “dwelling” from the verb ShaKaN (שכן – to dwell). A verb which itself evolved from KuN (כון) meaning to set or fix in place. The mishkan represents one’s ability to dwell upon a scene or a situation. Likewise, each of the items of the mishkan represent various acts of observation as a means of engaging God’s bringing forth of existence.

Allegorically they are:

1 – Aron (ארון) – an act of repetitively bringing things to light
2 – Poles (בדים) unique things extracted
3 – Covering (כפרת) pouncing upon things or covering the scene
4 – K’ruvim (כרבים) acts of turning things over and over in one’s thoughts, meditating

5 – Table (שלחן) repetitively getting in very close to things
6 – Enclosure (around the edge of the table) (מסגרת) closing in upon something

7 – M’norah (מנרה) an act of shedding light (regarding the scene)

Mishkan (משכן) an act of dwelling upon a scene:

8 – Curtains (יריעה) acts of grazing things in experience
9 – Rings (ללאת) acts of clinging upon things so as to pay attention
10 – Clasps (קרסי זהב) acts of clasping upon things of many fleeting impressions

11 – Curtains of goat-skins for the tent (יריעת עזים לאהל)
acts of grazing intense things for becoming familiar
12 – Clasps of bronze (קרסי נחשת) acts of clasping upon things coaxed out from the scene
13 – Covering of the tent (מכסה לאהל) an act of making many impressions for the becoming familiar – of things exposed as a result of advancing forward into experience – being mentally absorbed with the scene and of things exposed as a result of acts of wadding through a scene, plodding along, and feeling one’s way around

12 – Boards (קרשים) acts of taking small bites from experience and chewing it over
13 – Tenons (ידות) acts of extended reach into a scene
14 – Sockets of silver (אדני כסף) contemplations of many lasting impressions
15 – Bars (בריחם) acts of going clear through the scene

16 – Veil (פרכת) the act of vigorously threshing over things
17 – Altar (מזבח) the act of freely flowing forth (so as to make observations)
18 – The courtyard of the mishkan (חצר המשכן) the act of condensing and abridging of the information

My apologies for this week’s blog being more of an outline than an essay and for the lack of footnotes. Here in Texas, we have had days of rolling blackouts and frigid conditions inside of our homes. B’ezrat HaShem, my family and our neighbors successfully made it through the worst of it (although I cannot say the same for my swimming pool) and we were even able to enjoy the snow and fights thereof.

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About the Author
David Kolinsky is a retired physician born and raised in Monsey, New York. While living in Monterey California, David initially lived as a secular, agnostic Jew. However, in his spare time, he delved into twenty years of daily study of Hebrew etymology and Torah study culminating in the writing of an etymological dictionary of Biblical Hebrew and a metaphorical translation of Torah. Abandoning his agnostic views, David was simultaneously a spiritual leader of the world's smallest conservative synagogue, a teacher in his local reform synagogue, and a gabbai at Chabad. He is currently sheltering in place with his family in his new home in Plano, Texas.
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