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 Parshas Terumah - Vol. 4, Issue 19
Compiled by Oizer Alport


V’asu Aron atzei shittim (25:10)

            Parshas Terumah introduces us to the Mishkan that Hashem commanded the Jewish people to build as a resting place for the Shechinah. Hashem instructed Moshe regarding all of the vessels for the Mishkan, relating to him their appearance, dimensions, and the material from which they should be made.

            For each of the vessels, Hashem gave the command to Moshe in the first-person singular: “You shall make a Menorah.” “You shall make an Altar.” “You shall make a Table.” The commentaries point out one curious exception. The commandment regarding the construction of the Aron which housed a Torah scroll and the Tablets which Moshe received at Mount Sinai was given in the third-person plural: “And they shall make an Ark.”

            As Moshe didn’t actually build any of the vessels himself, it was clear that in commanding him to do so Hashem intended for him to appoint others to do so on his behalf. If so, why was the Holy Ark any different? Why did Hashem emphasize that all of the Jewish people should be involved in its construction instead of simply allowing Moshe to delegate responsibility for it as he did for the other vessels?

            An insight into understanding this difficulty can be gleaned from a story told by Rav Yissochar Frand at the most recent Siyum HaShas in Madison Square Garden. There was once a Jewish boxer who was very far removed from Judaism. His son didn’t have a Bar Mitzvah, but as he grew up, he became interested in learning more about his roots and found himself studying with great diligence in a local yeshiva. When he came home each night, he immersed himself in the review of that day’s studies.

            His father, who was himself engrossed in watching television, couldn’t fathom what could be so stimulating and enjoyable about the study of the Gemora. Eventually, the father began begging his son to teach him the Talmud. The son dismissed him, explaining that he didn’t even know Hebrew and certainly couldn’t understand a page of difficult Aramaic text. The father pressed his son to at least give him a taste by teaching him just one daf (page) of the Gemora. The son relented, but it was a long, arduous project. Line by line they continued, forgetting, reviewing, and plodding forward until after one full year they finally realized their goal and completed the study of an entire page of the Talmud.

            The father asked his son to make a siyum to celebrate their accomplishment, but the son explained that one must complete an entire tractate to make a siyum. The father persisted with his request, and the son agreed to ask Rav Moshe Feinstein. Rav Moshe not only ruled that under the circumstances was it permissible to make a siyum, but insisted that he himself would attend.

The night after the siyum, the boxer died in his sleep. Eulogizing the man, Rav Moshe commented that just as the Gemora teaches (Avodah Zara 17a) that some people acquire their portion in the World to Come through one deed, this man acquired it through one daf.

            In light of this story, we can appreciate the answer to our question given by many of the commentators. The Aron, with the Torah scroll and Tablets inside, represents the study of Torah. Although Hashem was able to individually command Moshe to make the other vessels, the Torah belongs to every one of the Jewish people to study on his individual level. The Aron could not be made by one man because the Torah cannot be learned by one man.

Each of us has his own unique portion in Torah. It may be completing the entire Shas, it may be finishing one daf, and it may be studying on the phone one hour weekly. The key is to always remember Rav Frand’s message: “Whatever we do, it’s never too little, it’s never too late, and it’s never enough.”


V’nasata el ha’Aron es ha’Eidus asher etein aleicha (25:16)

Hashem commanded Moshe to place in the Ark the “testimony” which Hashem would give him. Rashi explains that this is a reference to the Torah and the Tablets which bear witness to the fact that Hashem commanded us regarding the mitzvos that are contained therein. Rav Zalman Sorotzkin questions the value of having a Sefer Torah placed in the Aron in the Kodesh Kodashim, a place where it would never be used or even seen as nobody but the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur was allowed to enter there.

The Medrash explains (Devorim Rabbah 9:9) that the public awareness that hidden deep in the inner recesses of the Beis HaMikdash was a 100% authentic Sefer Torah written by Moshe himself acted as a powerful deterrent to any would-be forger. Anybody who entertained the possibility of denying some of the mitzvos and supporting his claims by writing a falsified Sefer Torah which omits them would refrain due to the recognition that if he did so, it would be possible to bring out Moshe’s authentic Torah from the Aron to compare, thereby proving him wrong and exposing his malicious intent.

In a eulogy on the great Brisker Rav, Rav Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik, Rav Sorotzkin suggested that the Brisker Rav had similarly isolated himself from most of the world, confining himself all day to the learning and teaching of Torah to a few select students in his house. Although he eschewed a public and social role, his value as the last remaining vestige of the Torah-true Judaism of Brisk was inestimable. As long as the Brisker Rav was alive, anybody who dared question the smallest custom and attempted to alter the mesorah (tradition) from Europe knew that his claims would be immediately and sharply rebuffed by the Brisker Rav, the authentic Sefer Torah who was no longer.


V’asisa Paroches teheiles v’argaman v’tola’as shani v’sheish mashzar ma’asei choshev ya’aseh osah keruvim (26:31)

            The Mishnah in Shekalim (8:5) teaches that the Paroches (Partition) was 40 cubits long and 20 cubits wide. It required 82,000 women to weave it and 300 Kohanim to immerse it in the mikvah if it became ritually impure. Why did it require so many Kohanim to submerge it in the mikvah?

            The Vilna Gaon calculates that if it was 40 cubits by 20 cubits, its total perimeter was 120 cubits. The Mishnah in Keilim (17:10) teaches that the cubit which was used to measure items in the Beis HaMikdash was five hands-breadths long, which means that 120 cubits was 600 hands-breadths. As every Kohen would want to take part in the mitzvah of immersing the Paroches to purify it, it is reasonable to assume that the entire perimeter was covered by the hands of Kohanim. As each Kohen had two hands, the 600 hands-breadths of the perimeter required precisely 300 Kohanim to carry it and immerse it!

As brilliant as the Vilna Gaon’s calculation is, the Tiferes Yisroel notes that it seems to be completely unnecessary. The Gemora in Chullin (90b) teaches that there are three numbers mentioned throughout the Gemora which are exaggerations, and names this Mishnah as one of the three.

Although there are those who answer that the exaggeration in the Mishnah is the number of women needed to weave the Paroches (82,000), this explanation is difficult in light of the fact that the other two exaggerations mentioned by the Gemora both involve the number 300.

Some explain that while the Vilna Gaon’s calculation is valid, the exaggeration lies in the fact that there weren’t always 300 Kohanim involved in the immersion of the Paroches. The Ein Yaakov suggests that the Gaon’s line of reasoning is correct, yet it still represents an exaggeration. According to his calculation, the corners of the Paroches would be covered by two hands, one from each Kohen at the end of each of the sides which meet at the corner. These four extra and unneeded hands translate into two additional people, which means that only 298 were needed to immerse it and 300 is an exaggeration!


Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     Why is Parshas Mishpatim, which contains the Torah’s code of civil law, juxtaposed to Parshas Terumah, which discusses the Mishkan and its utensils? (Beis HaLevi, Oznayim L’Torah)

2)     What is the significance of the fact that all of the measurements of the Ark – its length, width, and height – are fractions (25:10) instead of whole numbers, yet the length and width of the Shulchan are whole numbers (25:23) and its height is a fraction, while all of the measurements of the Altar are whole? (Rabbeinu Bechaye, Baal HaTurim, Kli Yakar, Lekach Tov)

3)     As gold is more precious and valuable than wood, why was the Aron made of wood instead of gold like its coverings (25:10-11), which would seem to give more honor to the Torah housed therein? (Daas Z’keinim, Chizkuni, Kol Dodi)

4)     The Yerushalmi in Shabbos (12:3) derives from 26:30 that the planks for the Mishkan were labeled so that they would always be used in the same area of the Mishkan each time that it was reassembled. May one derive from here that a person should similarly label the boards of his sukkah so that each of them should always be in the same place? (Be’er Heitev Orach Chaim 630:6, Bikkurei Yaakov 630:16, Bishvilei HaParsha, Chavatzeles HaSharon)

 © 2009 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to


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