The Parsha of Terumah, part of the book of Exodus, describes the Israelites’ journey and process in building the Tabernacle (Mishkan), a portable house of worship which they carried through the desert with them until eventually the Temple of Jerusalem was built. Although this might seem like a mundane event at first, when put into context and examined, this Parsha has a lot to offer.
Throughout their journey in the desert, the Israelites constantly complained. Moses freed them from Egypt, and they complained about the lack of food, the lack of water, how they might have been better off in Egypt rather than wandering around the desert, and so on and so forth. G-d had bestowed all these blessings and gifts upon the Jewish people, yet all they could seem to do was always find fault in something. A few weeks before the momentous occasion when G-d bestowed the Ten Commandments upon the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, the people started to lose faith in G-d and made a Golden Calf to worship instead. It was after this occurrence that G-d tasked the Israelites with building a Tabernacle, a house of worship. The Jews complied their resources including gold, silver, and leather, as well as their time and skill, to build this house of worship. The difference, however, between this event and others before this, was that they built the Tabernacle without complaint. They all worked together, in harmony and in unison, to construct something far better than they would have constructed had they been tasked to do so alone, or had they done so whilst complaining.
Up until the point where they had been tasked with building the Tabernacle, all the Jews had done was receive G-d’s miracles and blessings passively, taking what was given to them without creating and taking action themselves. By making them build the Tabernacle, G-d taught them an important lesson about responsibility and adulthood, and that one must use the resources given to them and make something of them themselves rather than wait for things to be given to them on a silver platter. One must create from what is given to them.
We can draw from this Parsha the importance of taking the blessings, miracles, resources, and opportunities that are given to us and making something from them, because if we ignore them, we will never accomplish anything. Action is infinitely better than complacency. The importance of working together, as a community, is also demonstrated through this Parsha. If the Israelites had not pooled all their resources, time, and skill, they would never have fabricated such an impressive structure. This is mimicked throughout our modern world; look at our incredible BBYO community! Yes, individual members have the power to create with whatever resources and skill they have. But aren’t multiple individual members so much more powerful as a board, a chapter, a region, or as part of the International Order? It is because we work together that we can harvest the incredible experiences that we have. One member cannot coordinate IC alone, for instance. However, an international board and an international steering team, made up of so many incredible teens, can. We work best as a community, not as individuals.
Another important point to draw from this Parsha is the lesson that G-d learns; a leader cannot do everything themselves and hope for their people to make the most of it. A leader must give their people the opportunity to share, participate, and contribute to allow for a collaborative effort in the aim of producing a greater final product. BBYO follows this principle. Chapter or regional members come up with ideas for what they want to see happen, they take it to their leaders, in this case their board, and they will work together to make it happen. Leaders do not and in fact should not, do everything themselves. They must work collaboratively with their team and teach the people how to do things for themselves rather than doing it for them.
We are more powerful when we collaborate, share, envision, and unite as one, just as the Israelites did many thousands of years ago when building their Tabernacle. We must take what is given to us and make something from it, not sit idly and wait for things to happen. We must educate and aid instead of control. That is what the Parsha of Terumah teaches us. The importance of collaboration, leadership, and taking charge.
BBYO Melbourne Mazkirah
Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.
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