Parashat Teruma

Dedicated for a Refuah Shelemah for Yaakov Hayim Ben Malka Sarah by Benjamin Mortob

Parashat Teruma

In last week’s parasha we discussed many of the commandments between man and man; that is, between ourselves and others. This week’s parasha is Teruma, and it describes the building of the Mishkan and the donations necessary for this holy undertaking.

The Best Investment Plan

The parasha begins with the passuk, “Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to the children of Israel and let them take for Me an offering (teruma); from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My offering.”

Why is the opening sentence of this parasha worded this way? Should it not read, “Let Beneh Yisrael give Me a teruma,” rather than “take for Me a terumah?”

The answer is that when you give, you actually get more than what you give away, because as we discussed in last week’s parasha, when you give you will receive so much more berachot from Hashem!

Rabbi Diamond would often quote us a Gemara that just as we must salt our meat in order to preserve it, so too the way for us to preserve our money is to give it away to charitable causes.

I heard Ralph Tawil a”h speak many times about his personal experience that he kept giving tzedaka again and again and Hashem continued to bless him with more and more wealth. Mr. Tawil said, “I keep trying to test Hashem, but He keeps giving me more!”

I heard his words as a formula for success. In parashat Re’eh (14:22) Hashem says “aser te’aser.” This is a double lashon, because Hashem says, “Give 10% and I will make you rich!” This is the only thing that Hashem says that we can test Him on.

Many people search for different segulot for earning more money. It is well known that giving charity is an effective and powerful means of increasing one’s wealth, as Chazal teach us (Taanit 9a): Aseir bishvil shetisasheir – by tithing our income, we become wealthy.

A certain wealthy man told me that he once received a phone call from Walmart informing him that the company was discontinuing its annual $10-million order from his business. His efforts to convince the buyer to reconsider were unsuccessful.

That night, a worthy organization was holding a parlor meeting to which he was invited. He really did not want to go, as he was feeling too distressed over what had happened. However, after three different people called an implored him to attend, he went. He was very inspired by what he heard at the meeting, and pledged $250,000 to the organization. Two days later, his corporate contact called and told him that Walmart had reassessed the situation and wished to reinstate its standing order with his business. Indeed, charity brings wealth.

Tzedaka will save us from Death...

The passuk continues to say, “From every man whose heart motivates him you shall take My portion.” What does this mean?

We are all aware that when you give to a worthy cause, you have to give with your heart. I know from my own personal experiences that whenever my heart became motivated to give because of a heartwarming speech or a sincere personal encounter, I would give much more and I would give it with simha! Many times the speech would bring me to tears.

There is a famous story about the brothers Nathan and Isadore Straus, who built a retail empire at the end of the 1800s which included the department stores Macy’s and Abraham & Straus. In 1912, they both took a trip with their wives to pre-state Israel.

Nathan and his wife Lina saw the poverty there and established soup kitchens and other charitable institutions. Both couples were planning on sailing home on the luxurious Titanic. Nathan and Lina stayed behind to help the needy, leaving their berths on the Titanic empty.

Isadore and Ida, however, boarded the Titanic. Both of them lost their lives heroically. Isadore refused to take the place of the women in the lifeboats. Ida refused to leave her husband, and urged her maid to take her place instead.

The surviving brother, Nathan, saw this as a sign from above, and the couple decided to devote the rest of their lives to charitable causes in Israel. They opened a school and a health clinic, and offered one of the first major gifts to Hadassah Hospital. Over their lifetime they gave away two-thirds of their fortune to many charitable institutions. Straus street in Yerushalayim was named after them, and in 1927 the city of Netanya was named after Nathan.

We learn from this story how true the famous phrase from the Gemara in Baba Batra (10a) is “tzedaka tatzil mimavet — Charity saves a person from death!”

Sanctuaries for Hashem

A few pesukim later (25:8), Hashem says, “ve’asu li mikdash ve’shachanti betocham — They shall make a sanctuary for Me so that I shall dwell among them.” Grammatically, we would expect the passuk to say, “I will dwell in it.” Instead, the Torah uses the word betocham, “among them” or “in their midst.” Hashem chose the Jewish people as His nation, and He is saying that He wants to rest the Shechina among us always.

Today, we don’t have the Mishkan or the Bet Hamikdash, but we do have our synagogues, our homes, and our hearts, where we want Hashem’s spirit to reside always. So, when possible, we must build our synagogues with the finest materials, as the passuk instructs: “with gold, and silver, and copper….”

But most importantly, we must keep the decorum of our shul at the highest level, because we are there for just one purpose — to pray to Hashem with kavana (concentration) and devotion!

Directly following the general command to take up collections and build the Mishkan, the Torah describes all the parts of the Mishkan and the vessels that are to be brought in the Mishkan.

The first item described by the Torah is the Aron (Ark) that held the Luchot (Tablets) and a Sefer Torah.

Rabbi Frand points out that interestingly in Parashat Vayakhel we read that when it came time to build the Mishkan, Betzalel chose to erect the Mishkan before making the Aron. The Midrash explains that Betzalel felt that it would be disrespectful to the Torah to keep the Aron out in the open without a building to house it. At first Moshe reprimanded Betzalel for changing the order, but Hashem agreed with Betzalel, and the Mishkan was erected first.

If so, why does the Torah give us the specifications for the Aron first?

The Midrash explains that discussing the specifications for the Aron first teaches us that if any endeavor is to succeed, it must be built on a strong foundation of Torah. The Midrash adds that this is why the first thing Hashem created was light, which symbolizes Torah.

Perhaps the most interesting objects in the Mishkan were the keruvim (the Cherubs) that towered over the Aron HaBrit in the Kodesh HaKodashim (the Holy of Holies).

While we do not have an exact picture of what the Keruvim looked like, we are given several descriptions of them. Chazal tell us that their faces were those of Children, and that one had masculine characteristics and the other had feminine characteristic. Rav Nosson Adler, the Chasam Sofer’s rebbi, derives from a verse that although they faced each other, they did not look into each other’s eyes.

Of all images to choose for that awe-inspiring spot, why would Hashem choose the faces of young children? Why not the Faces of mature talmidei Chachamim or tzaddikim?

Rav Shmuel Rozovsky, Rosh Yeshivah of Ponovezh, explains that Torah can be taught by the best rebbi to the best disciple, under the best conditions, but the person receiving it must have some childlike characteristics: enthusiasm and innocence. Only enthusiasm and innocence will enable a person to accept the Torah wholeheartedly and integrate it into his persona.

For those who really want to keep growing in learning beyond their teens, a childlike excitement must remain with them for their entire lives. I’ve noted in the past that the term we generally use to describe a Torah scholar is not chacham, but talmid chacham. Even a great scholar must consider himself a student, not a fully developed sage.

To us, there is no such thing as stopping to study. We have gedolim alive today who have passed their 100th birthdays, but they are still talmidei chachamim, a title they will carry with honor until 120.

The Holy Ark

The Torah gives exact instructions of how the Ark was built of acacia wood: “Two and a half cubits its length; a cubit and a half its width; and a cubit and a half its height. You shall cover it with pure gold, from within and from without you shall cover it, and you shall make on it a gold crown all around.” (25:10–11)

The Ark represented Torah. From the fact that its dimensions were in half-measurements, we learn that that there is no end to Torah learning. You can never finish learning. There is always more to learn. Hacham Ovadia, Rav Moshe Feinstein, and great Rabbis of previous generations and the present day, continued their learning right up to their last breath.

According to Rabenu Hananel, the phrase “from within and from without” symbolizes the Talmudic dictum that a talmid hacham’s inner character must match his public demeanor. His actions must conform to his professed beliefs.

The Bet Halevi derives from the reference to the inner and outer coating of gold that the community should feel a responsibility to provide an adequate livelihood to its Torah teachers. They should be prosperous inside their own homes, as well as in their services to the public.

May we all be motivated to give as much as we can to worthy causes for altruistic reasons, and not in order to gain honor from our peers. Also, may we maintain our synagogues with the highest level of decorum and kedusha so that we may be worthy of always having the Shechina rest among us. Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!

Discussion Points:

· Have we ever “tested” Hashem by giving tzedaka and seeing if He paid us back? Did it work?

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Leiluiy Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

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