Exodus 25:1 – 27:19

The people are given instruction concerning the building of the Mishkan, the movable sanctuary that they are to carry throughout the wilderness journey.


OUR JOURNEY TAKES US AT LAST TO THE THRESHOLD of a great mystery. God has brought us out of Egypt, the place of narrow perception, for one reason: “to be Your God,” to exist in holy relationship. For this is the key to freedom: a conscious connection to the reality that lies beneath the surface of things frees us from the bonds of the material world and allows us to expand beyond the arbitrary limits of our particular conditioned perspective.

Yet freedom is elusive. When we left Egypt in search of it, we were blocked by the great impossible sea. When we crossed the sea and fled to the wilderness, we encountered within us the enslaving attitudes and habits of rebellion and complaint. And even after we stood at Sinai and received that moment of clarity, we still fell back into the habits of busy mind and cluttered heart.

And so God says to us, “Make for Me a holy place so that I can dwell inside you. Yes, it is possible to stay connected with me at all times in all places, even as you engage in the life of the world.” When we make a place for God to dwell in our lives, then we will never again be trapped in the illusion of separateness. God will be available and accessible to us in the innermost chamber of the heart and in the inner dimension of all Creation.

SPIRITUAL PRACTICE is about making our lives into a Mishkan, a dwelling place for Divine Presence. About one third of the Book of Exodus consists of the detailed instructions for building the Mishkan. As we build our spiritual practice, the details are important. The purpose of the Mishkan is to send us to the space within where we can receive the Mystery of Presence. Just as a great poem points us towards a truth that is beyond mere words, so the beauty that shines from the Mishkan of our lives illuminates the beyond that is within us.

The portion of Terumah begins with the invitation to explore and discern the true generosity of our hearts. For the Mishkan cannot be built solely out of a sense of duty, obligation or debt. Only the willing and generous heart can participate in this endeavor. The willing and generous heart is fueled by love and carries the motivation needed for spiritual practice.

What makes the artist choose one color over another? What inspires the composer to create a song that can open the heart? Where does the sculptor get her vision of the form that lies buried inside the block of marble? What moves the writer to express the inexpressible? Here is the blessing of Terumah: When the heart is willing and there is a commitment to the work, then the Divine Spirit will show us the pattern, the blueprint, the plan, the inspiration that births beauty into the world. And that beauty is designed to send us back to the Source of its inspiration.


AS ARTISTS OF THE HOLY we are given the spiritual challenge of opening to the creative flow and becoming a clear channel for Divine Will. To prepare for this purpose, we must heal our hearts that have contracted in stinginess born of fear. Terumah means “gift,” and ultimately the only gift we can give is ourselves, our full and available presence in each and every moment of our lives.

I remember a moment, years ago, when I was so vehemently disappointed in the circumstances of my life that I ran outside into the desert at three in the morning and screamed at God through the thick darkness, “What do you want from me?!!!!”

I was absolutely shocked to hear an answer within me whispering, “Everything! How else can you become a servant of The One?”

GIVING EVERYTHING MEANS ACCEPTING this moment, making myself completely available for the experience of being human — all of it, the torturous grief and jubilant triumph. It means not hiding or shrinking away from the experience of this “Now.” It is, after all, a two-way invitation that is being offered. I am making a home for God to dwell within me, and I am listening for God’s invitation to come home, which is to know this world as God’s house and to enter into it completely. With this gift of my presence, my wholeheartedness, I build the Mishkan. How else can I become a servant of the One?

We are called upon to sanctify the vessel of our lives, to become empty. Yet at the same time the spiritual challenge is to make those vessels so incredibly beautiful and compelling that Spirit will be drawn in to them.


Holy Ark Meditation

SIT QUIETLY and bring your attention to the breath. Imagine the breath entering directly into your heart and expanding your awareness of the space within.

WITH EACH BREATH, let that space expand. Bring your breath in to the very center of that space and imagine that you are breathing in and out of that very center.

AFTER ABOUT TEN MINUTES of concentrated breathing into the heart space, introduce the image of the Holy Ark sitting at the center of your heart. On either end of the Ark two winged cherubs face each other.

BRING YOUR ATTENTION to the point between them. From that holy space between, the voice of the Divine Presence speaks. Concentrate on that point and listen.

Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land
©2006 Shefa Gold. All rights reserved.