Terumah II: Gift Giving with A Generous Heart as Teshuva
Welcome to Awakening: Torah Mussar Mindfulness, where we at The Institute for Holiness: Kehilat Mussar meet weekly at 15:00/3pm EST on Sundays to learn from the Torah/Hebrew Bible portion that we just observed on the Jewish Sabbath/Shabbat from the unique lens of Mussar Mindfulness and then apply what we learn to our seated Insight Meditation and Mindfulness practice. You may join us on Zoom (link here) or LIVE on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. All sessions are recorded and can be found at our website (www.kehilatmussar.com) in the Blog section.
Before we begin delving into the weekly Torah/Hebrew Bible portion/parasha, this week being Vayakhel, we pray that our Intention/Kavannah be of learning Torah, Mussar, and the Dharma together and practicing Mussar Mindfulness. We commit to learn and practice together once a week to strengthen our Middot/soul-traits and souls, to be of service to others and God/Hashem; indeed, to bring God’s Good to others.
We always begin our practice with our Kavanah/Intention for today’s practice: to do this type of practice and care as an act of self-care and to connect us with the Divine, and ultimately, to other people. So, before doing this engagement of learning and practice together we say: this is something I am doing to strengthen my own soul in order to be of benefit to others in the future; and then our last paragraph: this is something that I’m doing to strengthen my relationship with the Creator so that I can be a better conduit of God’s Good to others when they need me. (See below)
We use the first and third Kavanot/Intentions listed below for today’s learning and practice:
We begin our investigation of Vayakhel with our ancestors being called upon by God to offer very specific gifts from the generosity of their hearts. This time, this round of Terumah, they are told what these gifts will be for, how the gifts will be used, how they will be of service. And our ancestors give so much of the specified gifts that Moshe has to command them to bring no more. Why the overabundance of giving?
If you recall from Ki Tisa, our ancestors also gave their gold earrings to Aharon to assist in building a replacement Moshe or God. However, they did not give an abundance of gold so that Aharon had to command them to stop bringing. Rather, their gold gifting seemed to be just the right amount to pop out that golden calf from the fire, as Aharon explained to Moshe.
Over-gifting here is most likely over-compensation to God to continue to seek forgiveness and/or to feel forgiven. The people feel vulnerable and most likely guilty (not a healthy remorse). And what better way to seek that God actually forgive and forget your responsibility for the golden calf than through giving too much with a generous heart.
Hashem, God in God’s great wisdom and generosity creates the conditions necessary for the whole community to return to the upright path, to fulfill God’s commandments, and to begin the engage in the process of reconciliation. The Israelites are being engaged in a spiritual practice, a training, where what they are commanded to bring as gifts with a generous heart is specified precisely so that they will learn to follow orders and give what God wants; not what they may necessarily have wanted to give as a gift to God (like a golden calf).
And that desire and need for connection will only be met by a physical gathering place: the Tabernacle, a sacred sanctuary that will become holiness in space for the community. It is no coincidence that God commands the observance of holiness in time, the Sabbath, at the beginning of this parasha. We are witnesses to what our Israelite ancestors do not know yet: that God is creating a framework to manifest the invisible in the visible. That through our ancestors deeds, the work of their hands through applied wisdom, they will create with God’s help holiness in space while also observing a day of ceasing from applied wisdom and deeds to allow holiness in time to manifest: To allow God’s presence in the world.
This renewed relationship between God and the people will allow the terms of their relationship to be more transparent. The double holiness approach of space and time will strengthen the Israelites ability to remain on the commanded path. A spiritual training in ceasing from doing takes practice and time to allow its wisdom to unfold, and there is no better way to engage in this spiritual practice than by seriously engaging the people in labor, that of building the Tabernacle! Six days you share do labor (so that) you will be able to be and witness God’s creation and perfection on the day of rest, Shabbat.
We too witness God’s wisdom in this path and double holiness model: if we too engage in directed labor with purpose to benefit our communities and God, to create holiness in space, then we too will embrace and practice the wisdom and holiness in time of ceasing our labor on Shabbat. One cannot create holiness in space to benefit all by laboring day-in and day-out. There is no sustained wisdom in that model and we witness this in the redemption of our ancestors from slavery.
For our own practice around this Torah portion, begin to take inventory in your labor that you do six days a week. You are partners with God in creation and recreating all the time except on the Sabbath. It is in the Sabbath that we honor God’s creation and our own contribution to holiness in space. Holiness in time is a gift not to be taken for granted and can only be fully realized by participating in benefiting others six other days of the week. The act of ceasing on the Sabbath is the most radical act of self-care and communal-care, where we honor being, a gift from God every day.
Thank you to God, our ancestors, our Mussar teachers, and the wisdom of the Buddha and Buddhist traditions for enabling us to share this Torah, this Awakening of Torah through Mussar Mindfulness. May we merit that our learning and awakening of Vayakhel bring comfort and wisdom to all beings and to alleviate the suffering of all beings. Thank you. Shalom, Namaste, Peace.
Join us at The Institute for Holiness: Kehilat Mussar to begin this beautiful, holy, life-long journey in the practice of Mussar Mindfulness. For the those who are already practitioners, come make your spiritual home with us. Learn and practice Mussar Mindfulness, taking refuge in our community, in God and the wisdom of the Dharma, in the teachings of the Torah and Mussar and the Buddha. Membership information here: https://kehilatmussar.com/membership/
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Any questions, comments, or concerns, please do be in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We value hearing from you about how this practice is going for you: of what benefit is this learning and practice to you.
Podcast Audio Below:
Awakening Nitzavim: Torah Mussar Mindfulness, 52nd Sitting – Mussar Mindfulness with Rabbi Chasya of The Institute for Holiness: Kehilat Mussar
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We accept sponsorships for our weekly teaching and sitting that are in honor of someone or in memory of someone, may their memory be for a blessing. Sponsorships are $50 to sponsor one day of teaching and we include your honoree or deceased in the announcements and teaching so that we may lift up their souls and merit our practice together to make this a better world.
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