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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Be My Sanctuary

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

Parshat Terumah brings us to a new and very different portion of Sefer Shemot. For the next few weeks we will get a very detailed and specific blueprint for the construction of the mishkah, the portable tabernacle, which was God's presence for the Israelites as they traveled. Of great interest to me was learning that the language of Parshat Terumah in some ways parallels the writing of the creation story, as though we are being recreated as a people through the building of the Mishkan.

Mishkan means sanctuary; a place where God's presence dwells. For the past few days I have been thinking about what sanctuary means, both in Torah, but also now. What does sanctuary feel like? Is God's presence felt in other spaces that offer individuals sanctuary?

Is it God's presence that makes a sanctuary holy space, or is it the combination of God and people who create that holiness?

Last, but not least, the word terumah means offering. The Hebrews were asked to build the mishkan through voluntary donations. This was not a God made portable structure, but a structure constructed by humans through their own donations. We all donate as we can and what we can. Even the poorest among us is able to contribute something of meaning.

I hope that when you read the parsha on your own, that you will not skip over these parshiyot. They are enormously interesting, from the vocabulary to the detailed description of items.

I am working on more poem for this week on this important parsha (aren't they all?) I hope to get to it by the close of the week before Shabbat.

As always, your comments and thoughts are always welcome and I am most grateful for each of them.

Kol tuv,


Be My Sanctuary

Be my sanctuary

Creak open your ancient windows.

Open your doors wide.

Raise the curtains of your tent.

Help me find my way in.

Be my sanctuary

Beckon to me;

Notice who I am.

Open your arms,

despite my imperfections ,

regardless of my disappointments,

pangs of disillusionment,

a confusion of

doubts and debates.

They weigh heavy upon me,

but still

I seek a place in the tent.

Be my sanctuary

Save me a small corner to rest


I arrive so weary.

I need


a corner to lay my things.

A space on the bench,

a hand to hold,

a shoulder to cry on

and an ear

to hear

my story.

To listen;

maybe even to


I don’t come empty handed.

I, too, can offer my hand.

My shoulders have space

for a head to rest upon.

My ears are open to listen.

My mouth is ready to sing.

I bring no gifts of


of silver,

but I bring you myself.

Be my sanctuary

Let us sing together.

May we be,

if not friends,

then community;

knit together

shoulder to shoulder.

Our feet sharing the same floor.

Our breaths mingling.

And let these walls,

these brightened windows,

these gliding doors,

embrace us.


Can a space be holy?

Is it the doors,

The walls,

The ceilings above?




it is a combination.

The warmth of hands held.

The eloquence of shoulders offered.

The infinite


of stories shared?

Maybe it is

those who sit in its corners

and grace its benches

who imbue this place with


that which is not easily defined.

Let us sit together.

And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.

Exodus: 25:8 (Translation from Sefaria)

וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם׃



It has been interesting to find music on the theme of sanctuary. This piece of music, composed by Simon Franglen, for the film Avatar, seems to project what I want to convey in this piece.


For other posts on Parshat Terumah please see:

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