Terumah 5779 – A Recipe and the Importance of Thirteen

By: Dr. Melissa Steiner

In parshat Terumah, Moses is given detailed instructions on how to construct this dwelling for God. The instructions address the need for the mishkan to be dismantled and portable, all in preparation for the journey across the desert. The instructions are VERY detailed, even to the specific dimensions. Is this whole parsha a blueprint? Yes, basically it is. BUT…

You could consider this as a recipe… perhaps a layered cake, filled with something yummy and then iced on top.

FIRST gather the ingredients (Aliyah 1):

The people of Israel are called upon to contribute specific materials—gold, silver and copper; blue-, purple- and red-dyed wool; flax, goat hair, animal skins, wood, olive oil, spices and gems.

God says to Moses, “They shall make for Me a Sanctuary, and I shall dwell amidst them.”

SECOND make the icing: Aliyah 2 describes the cover for the Ark which would hold the tablets.

The Ark, made of acacia wood, was to be covered with a slab of pure gold. Rings were to be attached to the corners of the Ark to facilitate the portability.

NEXT make the batter: Aliyot 3 and 4 describe the construction of the inside (sanctuary) of the mishkan.

The covering of the Sanctuary was to consist of several layers of tapestries. The first layer was to be a woven mixture of dyed wools and linen. The second layer was to be made of goat’s hair. These two oversized coverings also covered the outsides of the Tabernacle’s walls. The very top of the Tabernacle was then to be further covered by skins.

The Sanctuary’s three walls were fitted together from 48 upright wooden boards, each of which was overlaid with gold and held up by a pair of silver foundation sockets. The roof was formed of three layers of coverings…

THEN prepare the filling (Aliyah 5): Aliyah 5 describes building the inner sanctuary

The inner sanctuary was to consist of two sections: the innermost chamber was the Holy of Holies, wherein the Ark was to be placed; and the outer chamber was the Holy Chamber, which housed the Menorah and the Table. The two chambers were separated by a curtain which was to be woven of the dyed wools and linen.

LAST prepare the platter and presentation (Aliyot 6 and 7):

(6) God gave instructions for the construction of the Outdoor Altar. This altar was to be made of copper-plated acacia wood, and it was to have four “horns,” vertical projections, protruding from its uppermost corners. The altar, too, was equipped with rings and transportation poles.

(7) The Tabernacle courtyard design was also very specific with regard to size and orientation (entrance to the east, of course) and the entrance should be covered with a curtain made from the dyed wools and linen.

So… why did I include “the importance of thirteen” in the title of this dvar ? What does thirteen have to do with parshat Terumah?

If you recall, in Aliyah 1 When the people of Israel are called upon to contribute materials for the construction, they were told to bring thirteen specific materials – the gold, silver and copper; blue-, purple- and red-dyed wool; flax, goat hair, animal skins, wood, olive oil, spices and gems.

It caught my eye that there were 13 items (ingredients, if you will) … and you know, in Judaism, numbers must mean something. So, I started looking around for other mentions of Thirteen and I learned some fun things I wanted to share.

Let’s start with 2 obvious mentions of thirteen:

  • Age of Bar Mitzvah when a boy officially ‘counts’ as a member of the Jewish people
  • Thirteen Attributes of God

A little more digging and I found:

  • Abraham entered into 13 covenants with God through the commandment of Brit Milah, the covenant of ritual circumcision that God gave him.
    • This is derived from the fact that the word brit, covenant, is repeated 13 times in the passages in which God commands Abraham to perform circumcision on himself and his children. Lech-Lecha (Genesis 17:1-21)
  • In Gematria (Jewish numerology), both the words ahavah (love) and echad (one) equal 13.

Let’s explore that one a little more…

The gematria of echad – אחד is thirteen:
Aleph = 1, Chet = 8 and Daled = 4

The gematria of ahavah – אהבה is thirteen:
Aleph = 1, Hey = 5, Vet = 2, Hey = 5

Let’s go one more step and consider the Shema

Shema Yisrael. Adonoy Elohenu. Adonoy Echad.

If God is One (Adonoy = Echad = 13, and Ahavah = 13), then by the transitive property God is Love 😊

And as the Israelites built the mishkan to have God dwell with them, then God and Love dwells with each of us as well.


Shabbat Shalom








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