Gathering Sources: Terumah

This is the first of what I hope will be a post per week “gathering sources” from previous material on the weekly Torah portion. This is is response to one reader’s confusion about navigating what is now more than a decade of posts and pages and project and portfolios (depending on WordPress organizational flavor of the season), and to my own realization that I rely on “A Song Every Day,” more and more, to find — and remember — things I cannot.

As it happens, this is the anniversary of my first dvar torah, so it seems a good place to start. In addition, beginning here gives me the opportunity to honor Esther Ticktin (z”l, 1925-2017), who provided moral support for that first presentation, Max Ticktin (z”l, 1922-2016), who spoke while others were “gathering their thoughts,” so I wouldn’t be too freaked out by the silence that followed my remarks; and the Fabrangen community for listening on Shabbat Terumah 5758 (2/28/98) and responding after Max gave folks a moment.

Here is the first drash, “I will meet with you there.” And a follow-up missive in response to a request for my materials.

Here are four posts in an old Weekly Torah series: Great Sources, Great Sources-2, Language and Translation, and A Path to Follow.

And, just for the sake of organization, ultimately, I am including a link to “The wingCatz of Terumah” so it will be with other Terumah resources later on.

Graphic: 1728 illustration of the Ark at the erection of the Tabernacle and the sacred vessels, as in Exodus 40:17-19. By illustrators of the 1728 Figures de la Bible, Gerard Hoet (1648–1733) and others, published by P. de Hondt in The Hague in 1728 –

“Sacred Religious Duty”

In 1877, Rabbi Leopold Stein, a prominent figure in the Reform movement, published a 36-point catalog of religious ordinances for “present-day Israelites,” entitled “Torath-Chajim” [Living Torah]. This was one of the readings in Temple Micah‘s recent class on “‘Challenges’ in Contemporary Jewish Faith.”

Class reactions to Stein’s specific ordinances were varied. As were responses to his use of “law”: distinguishing between “divine laws of the Bible” and “rabbinical ordinances…which excessively weigh down and impede life,” on the one hand, and, on the other, labeling some “rabbinical institutions” as “sacred obligations to us in the ordering of our religious life and law.”

I was personally struck by two spots in Stein’s text where one form of “obligation” is seen to trump another:

Ordinance #19 of Torath-Chajim insists that “we have both the right and obligation” to set aside rules which make it impossible for a modern business person to observe Shabbat. Ordinance #20 states that it is “a sacred religious duty” to do away with second-day festival celebrations. While the idea of “sacred religious duty” could launch many volumes of discussion, my most powerful response was to wish I heard this phrase more often in contemporary Reform discourse. I particularly miss it when speaking — as Stein is doing — about variant understandings of such duties.
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