Haftarah Terumah: The Missing Ingredient
Kings I 5:26 – 6:13 King Solomon did all he could to avoid the mistake of Cain, but the response he gets seems echo God’s reply to Cain’s sacrifice. Whatever we believe Cain’s mistake to have been,
there is no question that God challenged him to improve his offering: “Surely you will be forgiven if you improve yourself!” (Genesis 4:7)
Only the wisest, wealthiest, most powerful biblical character could build the most magnificent Temple for God, one that would never need improvement. Everything from material to design and workmanship had to be the best. The building would reflect the quintessential human endeavor to honor the Creator and provide a place for the Divine Presence. Solomon was certain that God would not challenge him as He challenged Cain.
But God does challenge the young king! “The word of Hashem came to Solomon, saying, ‘This Temple that you build – if you follow my decrees, perform My statutes, and observe all My commandments to follow them, then I shall uphold My word with you, that I spoke to David your father. I shall dwell among the Children of Israel, and I shall not forsake My people Israel.’” (6:11-13)
There is something missing in God’s promise to King Solomon. Solomon is building a magnificent Temple and God responds by promising not to forsake Israel! The verse begins with “This Temple” then switches its emphasis to the Children of Israel with a “reassuring” promise not to forsake them. God’s response quickly shifts from mention of the Temple to a reminder of the basics of following the commandments.
I hear the missing words louder than the spoken: “This Temple will be blessed.” “This Temple will unite Israel.” “You succeeded in building a home for Me.”
Much is missing in God’s words because something essential was missing from Solomon’s magnificent Temple. There is an unspoken demand in God’s message because there was an unspoken demand in the construction of the Temple.
“King Solomon levied a tax upon all of Israel.” (5:27) Solomon demanded taxes, not donations. The great king would express all his own magnificence and greatness in this building that would host the Divine Presence. Only a person, in fact only a king, a king as great as Solomon, could build the Temple
This was not a traveling Tabernacle constructed in middle of the desert, but the permanent House of God, representing God’s Presence in Jerusalem. This structure would shine on the entire city, on Israel, on the king and his successors. This building was not an expression of human effort reaching for the skies, but God’s Presence flowing upon Israel from the heavens above.
This building could not be a collection of melted earrings and bracelets made from old mirrors and material remnants. This House would be constructed from the best, the newest, the finest, the freshest, the holiest, and the most precious. This building would rise far above the heads of the people as a reminder to strive, to reach, to climb … to grow.
Because Solomon’s Temple would be a challenge of this magnitude, he levied taxes not donations. He hired the most skilled craftsmen in the world, not the average men and women o Israel. Solomon used the best to build the best. And that was the missing ingredient – the people as they were.
God’s unspoken demand to improve was a response to Solomon’s vision of the Temple as a demand to live a greater life. Of course God wants us to constantly reach higher and higher. Yes, Torah demands that we achieve greatness. However, the demand and challenge do not come from above; they are a reflection of who and what we are. The demand is not to reach a distant heaven, but to reach our potential. Our challenge is not to rise to the heights of Solomon’s wisdom, but to rise to our vision of us at our best. We, as we were, were missing from Solomon’s Temple. Our melted earrings have far more meaning than the finest gold.
Solomon’s Temple was critically unfinished as was the word of Hashem to Solomon: ”This Temple that you build…” That sentence, too, remains unfinished, waiting for its completion by our reaching hands.