Parsha Terumah: Building Our Internal Mishkan

| parsha reflection |

This week’s parsha, or Torah portion, comes from the book of Exodus and is called Terumah, which can be roughly translated as “an offering.” In this parsha, G-d instructs Moses to tell the Israelites to build a Mishkan, a sacred sanctuary in which G-d can dwell and that the Hebrew people can transport through the desert. The instructions laid out in this parsha are incredibly detailed, from the types of donations the Israelites must make to this Mishkan (gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple, and crimson wool; oil and spices) to the materials (used to build the ark that lives inside the sanctuary (acacia wood and golden rings) to the decorations that adorn the ark (cherubs and menorahs).

When I read this, I thought about how much planning we put into things that are of great import to us. I myself am a big planner, especially when it comes to major decisions in my life. I’m not one of those people who would ever quit my job on a whim and travel the world for a year. For me, something like a job change or a move across the country requires many months of planning, and even more months prior to the event of just letting these plans marinate in the back of my mind.

One of the reasons I have to think over these decisions for such a long time is because I find big life changes to be overwhelming. They make me highly anxious, and plague my mind with negative thinking and self-doubt.

And so I thought: Perhaps it will always be necessary for me to plan out these life changes before I act on them, but wouldn’t it be nice if, while I’m thinking them through, I could support myself rather than berate myself? If this path to my decision could be a journey of self-discovery rather than one on which I second-guess myself nearly every step of the way? During the past few years of developing my practice, I’ve found that meditation helps me turn down the volume on those negative thoughts, so that I can hear the more positive and supportive thoughts that ultimately guide me toward the decision I’m trying to make.

As I thought some more about this sanctuary G-d told Moses to have built, I realized one thing that I would like to build for myself: a sacred place that would shelter me from self-doubt. And so my kavanah, or intention, is that our meditation practice helps us build our own internal Mishkan, in which only our most positive and supportive thoughts dwell. That seems like something worth building with care.