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Parashat Terumah

Dedicated in Honor of Our New Baby Granddaughter Ceryse Sasson

by Her Grandparents Eddie & Ceryse Mizrahi

Parashat Terumah

In last week’s parasha we discussed many of the commandments between man and man, between others and ourselves. This week’s parasha is Terumah, 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 (terumah). 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 B’nei Yisrael give Me a terumah,” 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 a Gemara that says, 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 with giving tzedaka. Mr. Tawil said, “I keep trying to test Hashem, but He keeps giving me more!” Hashem continued to bless him with more wealth whenever he gave. I heard his words as a formula for success. In Parashat Re’eh Hashem says “Aser te’aser (14:22).” 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 with.

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 “Aseir bishvil shetisasheir—share income to become wealthy (Taanit 9a).”

Sanctuaries for Hashem

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

Hashem gave B’nei Yisrael the most important gift, the Torah, but He was unwilling to separate Himself from it, so to speak. So he asked the Jewish nation to make dwelling places—like the Mishkan, the Bet Hamikdash, and our shuls today—for the Torah, so Hashem can accompany it wherever it may be. Rabbi Frand compares this passuk to a father who marries off his daughter, but can’t bring himself to part with her. He asks her to build him a room in her new house so that he may visit and still enjoy her company.

Rabbi Frand teaches us to learn a lesson from G-d. Although Hashem lacked nothing, He would not separate Himself from the Torah because of His fierce love for it. We must emulate Hashem and love the Torah so much that we can’t part with it. The rabbi related a story about someone who had immense love for Torah, that he was willing to do something that most people would find incredibly difficult.

When Rabbi Yaakov Dovid ben Ze’ev Willowski (The Ridbaz) was an old man, a young boy had walked into the rabbi’s study and noticed him crying hysterically while hunched over his desk. The young boy asked him why he was crying, and the Ridbaz answered it was his father’s Yahrtzeit. The boy knew the Rav’s father had passed away over 50 years before, so he asked him to explain a little more.

The Ridbaz told him a story. “I remember how much my learning meant to my father.” He recounted that when he was six years old, his father hired a tutor to teach him Torah. But his father could not afford to pay him, and he was two months behind in the tutor’s payment. One day, the tutor sent home a note with the Ridbaz giving the father an ultimatum. If the tutor did not get paid, he would need to find other employment and stop learning with the child.

His father was beside himself with anxiety. He went to shul and overheard a wealthy man saying that he wanted to build a house for his future son-in-law who just got married, but he could not find the necessary bricks to make the chimney. Without a chimney, he could not build the house. The father of the Ridbaz went home and dismantled his own chimney brick by brick, sold the bricks to the wealthy person, paid the tutor the back wages and then had enough money to pay him for the next six months.

The Ridbaz said that he remembered the bitter cold of those winters. There was no heat in the house. The father took apart the chimney so that his son could learn Torah. This, he explained, was why he was crying on the Yahrtzeit. He was not just crying over the loss of his father 50 years later. He was mourning the loss of someone who had an unimaginable love of Torah.

The Holy Ark

Directly following the general command to collect materials to build the Mishkan, the Torah describes all the parts of the Mishkan and the vessels that are to be made with the materials. The first item described by the Torah is the Aron—Ark that held the Luchot—Tablets and a Sefer Torah.

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).”

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.

Perhaps the most interesting objects in the Mishkan were the Keruvim—Cherubs that towered over the Aron HaBrit in the Kodesh HaKodashim—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 characteristics.

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

Rav Shmuel Rozovsky, Rosh Yeshivah of Ponovezh, explains that Torah can be taught by the best rabbi to the best student, under the best conditions, but the person learning it must have some childlike characteristics, like 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 hacham, but talmid hacham. Even a great scholar must consider himself a student, not a fully developed sage.

The Ark as a whole represented Torah. From the fact that its dimensions were in half-measurements, we learn that that there is no end to Torah 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 their whole lives, keeping that innocence of talmidim with them until their last breath. We have gedolim alive today who have passed their 100th birthdays but are still talmidei hachamim, a title they will carry with honor until 120.

May we all be motivated to give as much as we can to worthy causes for altruistic reasons. 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. May we learn from Hashem to love Torah and never part with it. And may we always know that there is so much more to learn and keep our childlike enthusiasm when learning Torah! Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Discussion Points:

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


  • The parasha says, “Take for Me a terumah,” instead of “Give me a terumah,” because when a person gives, they actually receive so much more in the form of berachot from Hashem!

  • Hashem gave B’nei Yisrael the most important gift, the Torah, but He was unwilling to separate Himself from it, so to speak. So he asked the Jewish nation to make dwelling places—like the Mishkan, the Bet Hamikdash, and our shuls today—for the Torah, so Hashem can accompany it wherever it may be.

  • Although Hashem lacked nothing, He would not separate Himself from the Torah because of His fierce love for it. We must emulate Hashem and love the Torah so much that we can’t part with it.

  • Chazal tell us that the faces of the keruvim—cherubs that sat atop the Holy Ark were those of children, not an older face of a great rabbi. This teaches us that one must maintain a childlike innocence and enthusiasm while learning Torah.

Le’ilui Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel

Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Avraham Ben Garaz

Sarah Bat Chanah

Esther Bat Sarah

Avraham Ben Mazal

Shulamit Bat Helaina

Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Rahamim Ben Mazal

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther

Rafael Ben Miriam

Ovadia Ben Esther

Rav Haim Ben Rivka

Moshe Ben Mazal

Moshe Ben Yael

Yitzchak Ben Adele

Avraham Ben Mazal

Meir Ben Latifa

Chanah Bat Esther

Yaakov Ben Rachel

Malka Bat Garaz

Moshe Ben Garaz

Avraham Ben Kami

Yaakov Ben Leah

Mordechai Ben Rachel

Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal

Natan Ben Rachel

Saadia Ben Miriam

Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon

Margalit Bat Mazal

Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky

Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama

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