Parasha Terumah

Chim-Chim-Cherubim Our Torah portion for this week is Terumah.  Moses is asked by G-d to instruct the people to bring gifts and contributions from which a place of worship, called a Mishkan, or Tabernacle, will be built. In this parasha G-d also reveals the design of the mishkan, the ark, its furnishings and its vessels, and the priests’ clothing.  Central to the Tabernacle was the ark, in which were kept the tablets of the Ten Commandments.  Atop the ark were to be figures called “cherubim”.  These were creatures fashioned with the faces of children and the wings of birds.  Their faces were to look downward, toward the ark, and they were to face one another.  They were to be made of solid gold and sculpted out of one block of gold.  When G-d spoke to Moses, G-d’s voice would emerge from between the two Cherubim which sat at each end of the cover of the Ark. Interesting choice for an adornment on the ark, don’t you think? It certainly challenges us to consider the symbolism of such an adornment. Perhaps it can be a reminder of the values that we imbue in our own children, a subject worthy of thought on a night of a baby-naming!  The cherubim’s wings that are ascending to heaven might represent the ambitions that we have for our children, and that someday they will have for themselves.  The fact that their faces are turned down toward the Ten Commandments that sit within the ark could mean that no matter how high they may fly in the world, they must never lose sight of what grounds their existence, what makes their ambitions worthy of achievement and that is, the words of Torah.  No matter how high they may fly, may our children never lose our connection to G-d, or to the Jewish people.  Or perhaps, as someone else has suggested, the faces of the children look down toward the ark and toward one another, to teach that we must put the wisdom of the Torah to use in interacting with one another.  When our children face one another with love and with tenderness and with caring for one another, they make us feel golden.  Rabbi Shlomo Kruger of the 19th century taught that the cherubim were made of gold to remind us that we should never compromise on the quality of education that we give to our children. Even if that should cost us much gold, we should be happy to do spend it, for these are our children. This especially applies to Jewish education.  It is a financial sacrifice to be a member of a synagogue, to give your child a proper Jewish education, to send them to a Jewish summer camp, to send them on a trip to Israel.  The synagogue is the heir to the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. Like the Tabernacle of old, the synagogue is the place where Jews most often seek out G-d.  G-d speaks to us not from between the cherubim, but through study, through prayer, and through communal gatherings.  Just as the wings of the Cherubim stretch upward we must aspire to raise ourselves to a higher spiritual level.  Just as their faces are turned toward each other we can, through our communal life, help one another reach those higher spiritual levels.  Through our voluntary gifts of money, time, and other resources, we, like our ancestors in Biblical times, bring the realm of the holy into our lives and the lives of our children.  When we support our synagogue, we strengthen the Jewish people even as we strengthen ourselves as Jews.