God spoke to Moses, saying: “Tell the children of Israel to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him. And these are the gifts that you shall accept from them: gold, silver and copper; blue, purple and crimson yarns…oil for lighting…And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. Exactly as I show you – the design of the Tabernacle and the design of all its vessels – so shall you make it.” (Shemot 25:2-9)
What can we give You,
for the heavens and earth
and all that lie between are Yours?
Perhaps we can offer our merits
refined like precious metals
in the crucible of a willing heart.
Perhaps we can lovingly weave
the bright threads of our lives
into a tapestry of grace.
Perhaps we can purify the oil
to kindle the lamps
and banish the darkness.
Perhaps we can make of ourselves
a vessel, to hold
the essence of Your design.
In a blogpost on Terumah, http://www.rebjeff.com/1/category/terumah/1.html Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser asks what gift mortals can possibly bring to the God Who is “koneh shamayim va’aretz – the One Who owns heaven and earth.” He asks, “What do we truly possess that is not God’s already? What does one give to the Deity who has everything?” Reb Jeff cites Rabbi Haninah, “Everything is in the hand of Heaven except for the fear of heaven.” (B. Berachot 33b). Reb Jeff points out that this is understood as a statement about free will. God allows us to make our own choices and to act according to our inner moral compass. He adds, “… the conscious decisions we make are all we have to call our own. We have nothing to offer to God but our own willing hearts. The choices we make in life are the gold, silver and copper we bring up to God.”
The Sefat Emet tells us that if we seek intensely enough, we will merit that the Shechina will dwell within us. In his book, The Language of Truth* Rabbi Arthur Green elaborates that every soul is a chamber for God, a vessel containing the divine light. He says, “This is the message the hasidic masters repeatedly associate with the tabernacle and all the details of its making; in all these ways are we to fashion our inner chambers, to make them a proper dwelling place for God…”
The Etz Hayim commentary of the JPS points out on the phrase, “I may dwell among them,” that God’s presence is not found in a building but in the hearts and souls of those who fashion and sanctify it.
*The Torah commentary of the Sefat Emet translated and interpreted by Rabbi Arthur Green.