Sign In Forgot Password

Terumah 5783 - Golden on the Inside and Out

February 25, 2023 - 4 Adar, 5783

Throughout the first half of King David’s story, he shapes his public persona as one of holiness, compassion, and mercy. So that no one suspects his involvement in their deaths, King David weeps when King Saul and later, Saul’s general Abner are killed. After fearing the holy ark’s presence by rerouting its path, David twirls around with abandon to celebrate its eventual arrival to Jerusalem. In our 929 reading this week, David performs the ultimate act of defying his public persona in private. In Chapter 12 of the book of Samuel II, David sleeps with the married Batsheva and secretly orders her righteous husband’s death so that no one will know David’s involvement in her resulting pregnancy. 

In order to hold a mirror up to David’s actions, the prophet Nathan comes to the King with the parable of a rich man who owns many sheep, and yet, takes a poor man’s sole, beloved lamb. When David rails against the rich man in the story, Nathan reminds David, “Atah ha-ish! You are the man!” Up until this point, David had not realized his own self-righteousness; he had not realized the dissonance between his secretive defiance of two of the Ten Commandments and his public image, his insides and his outsides.

Within the detailed materials list of Parashat Terumah, we learn that the ark that the Israelites carry through the desert, the seat of communication between God and Moses, is overlaid with gold מבית ומחוץ, on the inside and the outside. In Talmud Bavli Masekhet Yoma, Rava connects the fully golden ark to the notion that any Torah scholar whose insides are not like his outsides (מבית ומחוץ) is not a Torah scholar at all. Like King David, when we proclaim our righteous ideals in public but act differently in private, we are mistaken in our view of our own righteousness. 

In public, we may say we support housing for the homeless, but behind the scenes, we may fight against a shelter’s presence in our neighborhood. We may sneer at the way another parent acts at the supermarket, and yet, we may lose our temper with our kids at home. The next time, before we criticize someone else, we must check with ourselves to make sure we fit the standards we claim to hold for others. Before we present ourselves as champions of a cause, we must make sure our actions fit the words we preach.

In order for our insides to match our outsides, we have to hold up that mirror and ask how we can act out the ideals we claim to keep. Before we claim environmentalism, we check our own home usage of water, electricity, and waste. Before we claim dedicated Judaism, we check our practices of not only kashrut and Shabbat, but of loving our neighbor as ourselves. We demonstrate our ideals not just by saying them but by acting on them, both in private and in public. We become great Torah scholars מבית ומחוץ by not only accumulating knowledge but finding ways to bring that knowledge into the lives of our loved ones and our greater community. Like the Biblical aron, we strive for private and public lives of gold. In the process, we stay aware of both the inspiration our public lives can bring to the greater world and the effect our private lives will have not just on us, but on our dearest loved ones.

In a world dominated by social media, we are constantly bombarded with images of beaming friends and family, seemingly afraid of and worried about nothing at all. We see pictures of vacations, great health, and decadent food. We have become accustomed to a world of golden, flawless outsides. And yet, we know that what people display does not always match their inner lives. As even the great King David struggles for his inner ideals to match his outer actions, we know we are not alone in that struggle. Rather than getting rid of our ideals and aspirations and giving up entirely, we use those golden images as reminders of where we already thrive and as inspirations for what our insides could be. As we work towards insides that match our outsides, we strive to become individual aronot, arks of the covenant, worthy representatives of Torah and the Presence of God with our every word and step.

Wed, February 21 2024 12 Adar I 5784