During my senior year of high school, I focused on which college I would attend, and when the Vietnam war would end. In my woodshop class, I carved a sign which conveyed a message that we should transform War into Peace. I symbolized this by moving the “a” out of “war” into “peace.”
This week’s Torah portion Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19), is also about transformation. The section focuses on the building of the Tabernacle that accompanied the Jewish people in the desert. With wood beams and colored curtains, the Tabernacle stood for hundreds of years in Israel until King Solomon built a permanent Temple in Jerusalem.
Our Sages explain that the materials of the Tabernacle were elevated from the mundane to the holy. This transformation is why the tabernacle was not discarded. According to 2 Chronicles 5:1, it was stored away in the subterranean chambers of the Temple Mount.
Transforming and elevating the material world into consecrated spirituality is the mission of the soul while dwelling in a body. The Torah instructs us how.
While attending college, I delved into my Jewish heritage from a more spiritual perspective.
As I progressed, one of the teachings I heard reminded me of the wood carving I did in high school.
In Hebrew, “exile” is called “Golah -גולה.” But this word also hints the path to redemption. By inserting the letter “Alef – א” into the word “Golah -גולה” it is transformed into “Geulah – גאולה” the word for redemption.
The “Alef – א” is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Its numerical value is “one,” which refers to the one God who is the "Master (Aluf - אלוף) of the World.”
It felt like my high school artwork was a premonition, and I had discovered the Jewish secret of transforming a world of chaos and war into a world of harmony and peace.
By bringing the oneness of God into the world through the Torah’s teachings, we contribute spiritually toward the ultimate redemption. This redemption will be a time when “Nation shall not take up sword against nation; They shall never again know war” (Isaiah 2:4), and “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God” (Isaiah 11:9).
May the Shabbat give us a taste of the peace and spirituality the entire world will experience when we are redeemed from the last and final exile.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz