Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – T’rumah

Temporary. What an interesting word. I went to the dentist and she had to replace a broken crown. After removing the broken pieces and the dried glue, she fashioned a temporary crown. This “temporary” crown was supposed to last a week until the new one came in. It did. It served its purpose, but it was not exactly a good fit – it was not supposed to be. It was good enough.

Temporary is good enough. Good enough for what? Supposedly, it is good enough until a permanent “better” replacement arrives. What if it doesn’t arrive? What if it arrives too late for one’s use? More importantly, what if, in always looking for something better, we treat every “fix” as temporary?

We now live in a world where we treat everything as “temporary” and disposable. We think nothing of spending hundreds of dollars on cell phones, televisions, and computers, expecting to replace them in a relatively short period of time. I bought a printer that came with ink. Replacing the ink was almost as expensive as buying a whole new printer.

Most unfortunately, given the disposable nature of all of our stuff, it becomes easier to treat each other no differently. We live in a transient world. Growing up, only military families moved every few years, but today, the job search and career market drive us to regularly relocate. Buying a home every three to five years is unrealistic, so we rent. Investing in relationships with our neighbors becomes a much lower priority when you don’t expect to live near them long enough to make it worthwhile. Today’s youth only know disposability, even while we still talk about looking for permanence for them, settling down … someday.

This week’s Torah portion has Moses and God plan the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle is a temporary structure in the wilderness that provides an altar and meeting place for the tribes as they nomadically wander. It is portable and is relatively easy to construct and breakdown as the tribes set and break camp. This “temporary” structure is different, though. The text goes into great detail as to its measurements and the types of woods and metallurgy needed for construction.

The Tabernacle is not disposable and at the same time, most not be rooted and planted for permanency. It must travel with us and provide spiritual shelter and anchoring for us, even as we are not permanent in any piece of land. As God puts it, “Build for me a sanctuary.” This Tabernacle is not a building or a hut; it is a sanctuary, a place that fosters safety and security for our ancestors. The Tabernacle is not a stop-gap; it is a permanent fixture in our lives. Even without its structure, we never lose touch with its impact on our lives.

My late grandmother Bessie used to say, “Penny wise and dollar foolish. She said it in Yiddish (I don’t remember how), but that was what she bent. We make everything disposable to save some dollars and cut some corners. Societal culture trains us to always look for the less expensive choice, to stay unconcerned if we compromise value as we celebrate saving a few bucks. I can’t count the number of times I spent less for something and then had to pay again to replace it – costing me a great deal more overall. On long flights, I find it worth every penny to pay extra for extra legroom. I also know that we have no guarantee that the people in our lives will be with us tomorrow. We can never accept the excuse that “I won’t be here long enough, so it doesn’t matter.”

Torah teaches us that temporary is never an excuse for “second-rate.” It becomes easy to get away with “good enough,” but it should never be acceptable. When we bring an offering before God, tradition tells us that we must always bring our best. If not our best, we have to ask whether the endeavor is really worth doing. We choose life and blessing – in every case. Shabbat Shalom.