The New Shul

Parshat T’rumah

On the surface, this week’s parashah, T’rumah, seems to have nothing to do with last week’s parashah, Mishpatim. Mishpatim dealt with matters of justice and fairness. T’rumah teaches us how to create space for the transcendent, how to use the power of ritual structures to bring God into our lives.

Why does the Torah place these two parshiyot side by side? The author of Mekor Barukh suggested a reason. He noted that a sacred offering that the giver has acquired through theft or fraud is not a valid offering. Only a justly-acquired offering is acceptable to God.

In other words, the interpersonal and spiritual domains are not as separate as they seem. To be spiritually authentic, religious life must be infused with ethical integrity. For example, if we wish to make our shul a truly prayerful space, we must begin by treating the people in it as images of God.

Recognition of that overlap between the ethical and spiritual can open up new avenues for spiritual searching. If we are struggling to find a way to reach upward, we can begin by reaching outward. Our love for others can provide a window to God’s love. The Torah’s path, from Mishpatim to T’rumah, can be our path as well.