This week’s Torah portion, Terumah, begins a stretch of parshiyot whose primary concern is the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary that God instructs Moshe to build for the wilderness phase of Israel’s experience. But it’s not the first time we get details on sacred worship. In fact, right after the report on revelation that we call The Ten Commandments, we were told about the altar-building enterprise. “And if you make for Me an altar of stones, do not build it of hewn stones; for by wielding your tool upon them you have profaned them” (Exodus 20:22).
While this passage doesn’t make the kind of tool explicit, other Biblical passages (Deuteronomy 27:5, I Kings 6:7) do specify tools of iron. The Hebrew term translated here as “tool” is herev, which usually means “sword.” The Torah is saying that in constructing an altar, an item designated for sacred worship. it is forbidden to utilize building materials that can be used to fashion weapons.
The overlap of modern worship and weaponry showed itself yet again this week. On Shabbat morning, I will share thoughts on the intersection between the two; and since so many people are interested in how this plays out in Israel, I will share a teshuvah, a legal responsum, on soldiers and synagogues.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,