Dedicated for a Refuah Shelemah for Rachel bat Sarah, Mrs. Shelly Rahmey, from her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
The Best Investment Plan
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 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 when you give, you will receive so many more berachot from Hashem! 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).” We will discuss this further in the parasha.
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 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 Rabbenu Hananel, the phrase “From within and from without” symbolizes the Talmudic dictum that a talmid chacham’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 generous inside their own homes, as well as in their services to the public.
The following story was told in Torah Wellsprings. A community near Monsey was renovating their Bet Midrash. They decided, “If we're spending thousands of dollars to make our Bet Midrash more beautiful, we should also invest in checking and beautifying the Sefer Torah.” A sofer reviewed the Sefer Torah and discovered that it was passul—invalid. He said it would cost five thousand dollars to fix it.
The Rosh Hakahal refused to give so much money. “I'll pay you five hundred dollars, but not a penny more.” It didn’t really make sense. He was paying tens of thousands of dollars to beautify the Bet Midrash, but for the most important part – the Sefer Torah – he wasn't ready to spend money. The sofer explained the immense work involved in fixing a Sefer Torah, to no avail. The Rosh Hakahal refused to pay more than five hundred dollars.
The sofer called up a colleague and requested help towards correcting the Sefer Torah. He said, “This community is using a passul Sefer Torah, and if we don’t fix it, they will continue using it. Let's work together to make the Torah kosher. We will only be paid five hundred dollars — but we'll do it for a mitzvah.” His friend agreed.
On the day they completed fixing the Sefer Torah, satisfied that they were able to do this mitzvah, they began their trek to Monsey. On the way there, they needed to make a stop to use the restroom. The only restroom in the area was in a Christian cemetery, so they went there.
The guard stationed at the entrance asked for their names, addresses, and telephone numbers. The men gave the information and went inside. A few weeks later, they received a phone call from a lawyer. At first, they were afraid that they were being accused of some crime, but the lawyer was telling them that they would each receive $62,000. The day they were in the cemetery, a funeral of a wealthy person was taking place. This wealthy man didn’t have any children, so he stipulated in his will that his money should be distributed among those who attended his funeral. Being that they had registered with the guard at the entrance, they were endowed with this large sum of money.
These men made a sacrifice to help a congregation have a kosher Sefer Torah, and Hashem paid them for their dedication. The word נתן – give is a palindrome; it reads the same way forward and backwards, because when you give, it comes back to you.
“And you shall make two golden keruvim… and I will speak with you from atop the ark cover from between the two keruvim (25:18-22).” 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. The Gemara (Sukkah 5b) says that their faces were those of children, and that one had masculine characteristics and the other had feminine characteristics.
Rav Avigdor Miller asks a question in his book Toras Avigdor. To fashion an image is a terrible sin, a violation of the second commandment. If this is the one exception in the whole Torah where images are permitted, of all the images to assign for this awe-inspiring spot, why did Hashem choose the faces of young children? Why not the faces of mature talmidei chachamim or tzaddikim?
Rabbi Miller explains that the answer is that the lesson that we’re expected to learn from these images is so important, so fundamental, that it’s worth it. Hakadosh Baruch Hu made this one exception to the law of making images because He wants us to study these images of when we come to serve Him. In the book of Kohelet, Shlomo urges us, saying, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth (12:1).” Youth is the time when remembering one’s Creator will have the biggest effect. When we’re young, we have plenty of energy to serve Hashem! But we must learn from the keruvim that although youth may pass us by, youthful characteristics have no age.
Rav Shmuel Rozovsky explains further 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. The term we generally use to describe a Torah scholar is not just chacham, but talmid chacham. 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. Chacham Ovadia, Rav Moshe Feinstein, and great Rabbis of previous generations and the present day continued 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 chachamim, a title they will carry with honor until 120.
Shlomo Horwitz told an amazing story about a 17-year-old yeshivah student named Rafi who was eager and ready to do mitzvot and change the world. Rafi was on a bus in Jerusalem and having an existential moment, wondering what his purpose in life was. The radio was playing, and the talk-show host interrupted the music to answer an urgent call into the radio station. A young boy called in crying and said. “I’m one of five children. My father died this year and my mother can’t pay the electric bill. The electric company shut our power and we’re freezing. We need 1,800 shekel to have it turned back on.” The radio host got back on and left the number of the station for any donations.
Rafi heard this and immediately decided this was his purpose. He had a mission! He ran off the bus at the next stop and grabbed a payphone and called the radio station. He said, “I heard the broadcast and I will raise the money. Tell the family now that everything is going to be okay!” He opened his wallet, and he started with the 300 shekel he had on him. He started going into store after store to raise the money. He started to tell the store owners, “There was something on the radio…” And the owners said, “Yes! We heard it! Are you that guy that’s going to be collecting?” Rafi said, “Yes, that’s me,” and he quickly got donations of 50 shekel, 100 shekel, 700 shekel, 20 shekel; everyone gave what they were able to. He raised the money and quickly got to the station to drop it off. The host looked at this young boy in awe and said, “Who are you!” Rafi only gave his first name and left.
10 years later, Rafi was married with two children, struggling financially as an aspiring rabbi. He was telling his friend that the electric company had shut off his power because he has an outstanding bill of 3,800 shekel. Another man overheard them chatting, and said, “Wait one second. What’s the meter number on your bill?” Rafi happened to have the bill on him and showed the man. The man pulled out his cell phone and walked out and came back in to tell Rafi it’s all settled, and his power will be turned back on in a few hours. Rafi, shocked, asked, “Why would you do that? How?!” The man said, “It’s not me, it’s my aunt Shoshana. She always told me to call her if anyone ever can’t pay their electric bill.”
Rafi got home and called Shoshana with his wife to thank her. Aunt Shoshana said, “Ten years ago, I had just lost my husband, and I was widowed with five kids and couldn’t pay my bill. Some angel out of nowhere raised the money in two hours for me!! What an amazing power of the Jewish people. I told myself that when my financial situation was better, I would do the same for people struggling with their electric bill. I don’t know anything about the boy that helped me, just that his name was Rafi.” Rafi told her he was the boy who helped her ten years ago. They both started to cry and wished each other heartfelt blessings, because they both recognized the power of Am Yisrael, always looking out for each other, and always eager to be inspired to serve Hashem.
May we all be motivated to give as much as we can to others 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!
Rabbi Amram Sananes, written by Jack Rahmey
· Have we ever “tested” Hashem by giving tzedaka and seeing if He paid us back? Did it work?
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