Our Offering – TERUMAH | WEEK 19
By Jeffery Seif
Ex 25:1 – 27:19
Covering Exodus 25:1-27:19, Parasha Terumah began with a materials collection for the Sanctuary (vv. 2-7), that followed with a declaration of the Sanctuary’s primary purpose (vv. 8-9). That attended to, by way of introduction, Moses pivoted to a description of the Ark needing built (vv. 10-22). From there, Moses alighted upon the Table of Showbread’s particulars (vv. 23-30), and the Candelabra (vv. 31-39), after which the chapter ended. Chapter 26 picked up with particulars for the Tabernacle’s curtains (vv. 1-14), boards (vv. 15-30), and veil (vv. 31-33), after which some text was devoted to the placement of some of the paraphernalia (vv. 34-37). A consideration of the altar followed in 27:1-8, with the parasha then ending with a telling of the Court of the Temple (vv. 9-19).
The word “parasha” harks to a section of text, with the word “Terumah” denoting the section’s title. Taken from v. 2, the word “offering,” or “terumah” in Hebrew, is the title. It speaks of something that is “separated,” i.e., “set apart” as a contribution for the Sanctuary. The title is indeed a fitting description of the reading, given that the whole of it deals with the Sanctuary’s particulars, and a call to assist with its manufacture. Beginning with receiving an offering for it, the text goes on to introduce some of the sacred items in the sacred space, along with descriptions of the space itself. The limits of a short article like this make an exhaustive telling of all of this prohibitive, but it does afford the writer an opportunity to alight upon one or two aspects. And, for our purposes here, the focus will be on the title itself: “offering.”
It has been said, and with very good reason, that it is very hard to get a man to part with his hard-earned money. While this is generally true, if one adds cynicism to the equation (as is the case today), it is particularly hard and particularly true. In the interest of beefing up contributions for religious non-profits, an American industry emerged peddling holy water, assorted magical trinkets, and the like, to gullible givers, the better part of whom hoped to get a special touch from the Divine in exchange for their gifts to the Lord. By way of contradistinction, worth noting at the outset here, is that Moses doesn’t make special offers in exchange for offerings, but instead says: “Tell Bnei-Yisrael,” i.e., the Sons of Israel, “to take up an offering for Me, from anyone whose heart compels him you are to take My offering” (v. 2, TLV). It’s voluntary; not hustled.
Twice noted in the text is that this is “My offering,” i.e., God’s offering. It is something for Him, received by those whose “heart compels” them toward Him. There are no Madison Avenue gimmicks. Given that the heart, itself, is little more than a pump–and granted it’s an important pump at that–one might wonder how an organ with no mind of its own can propel anyone to do anything. Literally, it can’t, of course. More precisely, the brain houses and processes thoughts; they, in turn, evolve from emotions and turn into emotions–which stimulate actions. It’s all quite complex. Here, of course, one needn’t take the text too literally, as it is speaking poetically. The expectation that hearts would be moved Godward is not the least bit unreasonable, given that the Israelites had recently experienced God’s deliverance on their behalf. Through the display of various signs and wonders, a once-enslaved people found themselves at the threshold of a brave, new world. Having worked marvelously on their behalf, God camped them at the side of a mountain where they were given a variety of instructions for how to live as a free people–and being givers was noted in short order.
Every day in the animal kingdom, various species awake from sleep. Some, of course, go on to get a meal; others go on to become a meal. It really is quite simple. Feeding and breeding occupies living creatures’ time and attention. The never-ending quest for necessary resources occupies the attention of most–and things can and do often get out of hand and turn violent in the quest to satisfy those impulses. Human beings, however, were manufactured to be more than just animals. While we have legitimate base needs and instincts, a kingdom of priests (such as we are) is to be about the business of making sacrifices to God and for others. The beginning place for this higher living is in us being sacrificial, ourselves.
The professional expenditures and personal examples of enough religious leaders have been found wanting. That some are left cynical is only to be expected. The fact that this is true, however, doesn’t diminish the necessity of the righteous being givers, much as it beckons the righteous to be more selective in their giving. Let the scoundrels be dammed. The mandate to be gracious still applies.
Like the Israelites of old, who were once beckoned with the words “…anyone whose heart compels him you are to take My offering” (v. 2, TLV), God’s New Covenant people are similarly encouraged with the following: “Let each one give as he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion–for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Paul/Sha’ul, the Rabbi from Tarsus, similarly elsewhere beckoned his constituents: “present your bodies as a living sacrifice,” something referred to as a “spiritual service” (Rom. 12:1, TLV). All said, and mindful of the exhortation in Exodus 25, let’s finish with another word from Rabbi Paul/Sha’ul: “So let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not give up. Therefore, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good toward all–especially those of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:9-10, TLV).
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About the Author
Along with his wife Barri, Jeff was born and raised in the Jewish culture and tradition. He eventually came to faith in Jesus, surrendered to a call to the ministry, and took theological studies at Moody Bible Institute, Chicago. Jeff holds a master’s degree and doctorate from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX. He also has an educational certificate from Harvard University. Dr. Seif retired as University Distinguished Professor of Bible and Jewish Studies – Kings University /Houston. He has taught at CFNI for 28 years in full time and part time capacities, and is an adjunct there still. Dr. Seif was the project manager of the Tree of Life Bible, published by Baker Books in 2017. Seif has authored over a dozen books and appeared on over 110 television programs shot in Israel. He appears on TV weekly, with Zola Levitt Presents—which airs on Daystar TV network and ABC/Family Channel. Jeff is also a proud graduate of the North Texas Regional Police Academy. He holds an active police commission, is a Master Peace Officer and holds the title/rank of Commander. Jeff also served as an assistant director and part time instructor at a Dallas County Police Academy. Jeffrey Seif is married to Dr. Barri Cae Seif, a university professor. Jeff was married for thirty years to Patricia Seif, and together they had two sons: Jacob and Zack. Pat died of ovarian cancer, and Jeff subsequently went on to remarry. Together, Jeff and Barri (who had never married) are the proud parents of two cats (Holly and Ho-Doo) and are the very proud owners of two Harley Davidson motorcycles.
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