Matter & Spirit – The Blog

21 בFebruary 2015

Material That Matters! Terumah

In Hebrew, the word terumah means donation, contribution. The Jewish world abounds with chessed and giving; as soon as we’re asked to donate from our time or resources, the wheels of giving start to turn. But in this week’s parshah, we witness an incredible revolution in the concept of terumah and giving. Hashem asks His people to fashion the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the holy place upon which Hashem rests His Divine Presence, from personal donations. This request isn’t, of course, an expression of neediness, but of supreme partnership.  The materials employed to build the Mishkan were eagerly bestowed from the private coffers of each individual, and the money used to purchase the sacrifices were collected from them annually. These exalted terumot, donations, were not an expression of giving only to the other, but also for the person himself. “V’yikchu Li terumah me’et kol ish asher yidveinu libo—And they shall take for Me a donation from every man whose heart is generous to give” (25:2).



A celebration of building

Reading through the parsha, I find a celebration of materials, sizes, measurements and weights. In the Wilderness, there were no stores, factories or industrial zones to be found, or even one major design fair, but only dunes of hot yellow sand, tents and sukkot. Yet color grew against a backdrop of desolation and Am Yisrael discovered a wealth of raw materials.  “Gold and silver and copper, blue and purple and scarlet and fine linen and goats’ hair…and rams’ skins and goats’ skins and shittim wood, and onyx stones and stones to be set in the breastplate… (25:3-7). Each of these raw materials was designated for a unique purpose. There was the House itself—the Mishkan; the Furniture—the vessels that filled the Mishkan including the Menorah, Ark, Table and Cistern; and finally the Decor—the wall hangings, and assorted fabrics, woven and embroidered, used for the Parochet.



Adding to the bill

A person who builds, expands or renovates his house is invariably flabbergasted by the endless potential and possibilities. Aside from just gaping at the ocean of design opportunities, one can positively drown in it!   The ones with the life ring to save him are the professionals. Selecting building and design materials is a major job that begins with a general list of several important components: The theme of the house that reflects the homeowner’s personal style; quality and durability of materials; practicality and aesthetics. Some choices are based solely on practical functioning, whereas others can be cast after the aesthetic element.

matter-spirit-Terumah-10Material board developed collaboratively with my clients during the working process.


Naturally, practicality also encompasses budgetary considerations. Professionals joke that the most expensive element in construction and design is the saying that goes, “If we’re going to do it anyway, then we might as well…”   Classic examples are, “If I’m going to lift the bathroom tiles, then I might as well change the floors in the house to parquet…” “If I’m renovating the kitchen, then I might as well invest in new appliances too…”


Caesarstone and other riches

Most popular building materials in use today are the same that have escorted construction since time immemorial, and these are earth, wood, stone and marble. (Gold and silver are used a little less often in this day and age!) Other raw materials introduced into the industry more recently include metal, glass and cement. Finally, components added in contemporary times include aluminum, plastic, granite porcelain and processed materials like caesarstone which is made of quartz mixed with pigments and polymers that develop an incredibly strong, durable material.

matter-spirit-Terumah-14caesar stone

The development of processed materials has introduced a more heavy-duty, colorful, transparent, and affordable side to building and renovating.


Can’t see the forest for the trees

A good example that lends credence to the wealth of existing materials is the most natural and popular one of all—wood. The Mishkan and Beit Mikdash were built of shittim wood and cedar wood; and the current market is filled with various types of woods that differ in quality, color, texture and strength.  Different types of wood are used for different purposes in construction ranging from railings to beds to tables and chairs to kitchen cabinets, etc. Wood comes in several forms including solid, veneer, or as a base material in sandwich boards or fiberboards which a carpenter varnishes or coats in veneer or Formica to complete the aesthetic look. But the question remains: What wood should I choose for my kitchen cabinets? good question…

matter-spirit-Terumah-11wood table    flowered chest


The primary goal: Select materials. The secondary goal: Leave the store without a headache. The secret agent: An interior designer!

Every element creates a different atmosphere and ambiance in the house. You can’t compare a bare concrete wall to a wall that was sanded and painted in silky-smooth color. White ceramic sink, wooden sink or metallic sink – each one lends its own unique touch to the bathroom.

matter-spirit-Terumah-9White ceramic sink       wooden sink       metallic sink


A brass or glass railing gives a different face to a staircase than a plain wooden one. And what about the stairs themselves? Wooden, cement or carpeted for a warm, cozy look?


Which floors will complement the furniture? Should the windows be aluminum or metal? What about the doors – interior and exterior? What color should we paint the girls’ room and dining room? Which chairs will match the table we purchased yesterday?  Wow! So much to choose…


matter-spirit-Terumah-3plastic yellow chair    fur chair     orange chair     vintage chair with handles


And that’s just a tip off the iceberg in the world of design and home décor! Are you feeling confused already? To minimize the headache, expense and frustrating conclusion that the floor doesn’t match the room, I highly recommend engaging the services of an interior designer to help you navigate the world of building and design materials. An interior designer is an expert in discerning quality and can guide you in selecting the materials that will suit your needs, tastes and budget and ensure the harmony between the materials, house and above all, people inside.

And…One small tip: Start your journey by window shopping in stores and showrooms to give yourself a picture of what appeals to you (and what does not appeal to you!) and to glean a general idea about prices. After you’ve looked around, go home and try selecting concept, style and colors. You can even create your own inspiration board! Then, figure out your budget. With these clear parameters, you can return for a second round of browsing. This time, choose a type of floor, bathtub style and kitchen colors. Come prepared with a chart listing measurements and precise quantities of every item you plan to purchase. Leave an empty column beside each item which you’ll fill with estimated prices. This method helps you remain focused, saves wasted time and confusion and even lets you enjoy the experience!

matter-spirit-Terumah-4Choosing flooring, tiles & faucets  - Oz Ceramica

matter-spirit-Terumah-13choosing wood floor & doors – Mey Hasahron

matter-spirit-Terumah-12Choosin Light Fixtures - Lighting Warehouse

matter-spirit-Terumah-6Choosing  fabrics – Photo: Joël Tettamant –  from Archijob


An imperative commandment

Aside from the myriads of materials mentioned in Parshat Terumah, there is constant repetition of the root word “asa” – do.  Delving deeply into this parsha, it’s clear to me that the essence of the Mishkan - it’s Spirit as the place of connection between Am Yisrael and Hashem – is supported and expressed through the material - the Matter. And what Matters above all is that it is our personal Terumah – our unique contribution to the cause.


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