Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 16   No. 19

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Tzvi Meir ben R' Shimon Baruch Itzkowitz a"l
whose Yohrzeit was on 28 Shevat
by his family

Parshas Terumah

The Copper Altar
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

"And you shall make the Mizbei'ach of acacia-wood (atzei shitim), five Amos its length and five Amos its width, the Mizbei'ach shall be square, and three Amos its height" (27:1).


The Mizbei'ach ha'Olah (as it is commonly called, due to the fact that the bi-daily Korban Tamid was an Olah [a burnt-offering]) was placed in the Courtyard of the Mishkan, and it was overlaid with copper.

Its basic structure consisted of boards of acacia-wood on all four sides, and hollow in the middle (as the Torah specifies in Pasuk 8), which they filled in with earth whenever they encamped, during the forty years that they traveled in the Desert. When they traveled, they carried the outer structure, leaving the the mound of earth in its place.

The Mizbei'ach was five Amos long and five Amos wide, the author explains, corresponding to the five commandments on the one Lu'ach, and the five, on the other; whereas its three Amos height corresponded to the three redeemers Moshe, Aharon and Miriam.


Conforming with the opinion of Rashi, R. Bachye maintains that, even though the Torah gives the Mizbei'ach's height as three Amos, in actual fact, it was ten Amos tall (though this is actually a Machlokes Tana'im in the Gemara in Zevachim). The three Amos mentioned by the Torah, he explains, was from the Soveiv (the ledge, around which the Kohanim sometimes had to walk). And he backs up this statement with three proofs (not to mention the fact that the Pasuk in Divrei-Hayamim specifically gives the height as ten Amos [though admittedly, it is referring to the third Beis-Hamikdash, whose area is given there as twenty Amos by twenty Amos]).

Proof 1: From a Medrash, which learns, via a 'Gezeirah-Shavah' "Ravu'a" "Ravu'a" from the Mizbei'ach Haketores (which was one Amah wide and two Amos tall), that the Mizbei'ach ho'Olah (which was five Amos wide), needed to be built according to the same proportions - in which case it had to be ten Amos tall!

Proof 2: From the Gemara in Succah (45a), which discusses the willow-branches that they placed at the foot of the Mizbei'ach on Succos. These were eleven Amos tall, so that they bent one Amah over the Mizbei'ach. This would make no sense if the height of the Mizbei'ach was only three Amos.

Proof 3: From the Gemara in Zevachim (59b), which learns from the Pasuk in Bamidbar (4:26), which compares the Mizbei'ach that Moshe made to the Mishkan, that, like the Mishkan, it was ten Amos tall.


The letters of "Mizbei'ach", says R. Bachye, is equivalent to the first letters of Mechilah, Z'chus, B'rachah, Chayim; whereas that of "Shitim" is Sholom, Tovoh, Yeshu'ah, Mechilah.

Kabalistically, the Mizbei'ach represents the fourth leg of G-d's Throne (alias the Sefirah of Malchus); Presumably, the Aron, the Menorah and the Shulchan represent the other three. And it atoned for Chutzpah (also known as 'Metzach Nechushah') which explains why it was made of copper (Nechoshes).


The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (5:7) records two constant miracles that occurred in connection with the Mizbei'ach in the Beis-Hamikdash. Although just like its predecessor in the Mishkan, it was situated in the uncovered Courtyard, open to the elements, neither the wind nor the rain ever succeeded in extinguishing the fire (which burned on it permanently), nor in disturbing the pillar of smoke that arose in a straight line Heavenwards from the burning Korbanos.

Rabeinu Bachye discusses a third miracle that, for some reason, the Mishnah does not record. Even though, as we just mentioned, the fire burned permanently on the Mizbei'ach, it never burned through the thin layer of copper on which the Korbanos were sacrificed. See Parshah Pearls 'The Fire that Burned but Didn't'.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Mishkan & Har Sinai

The Mishkan, says R. Bachye, was a replica of Sinai; the Kavod (i.e. the Shechinah) that had dwelt openly on Har Sinai now dwelt in the Mishkan, but hidden from view.

This explains why various expressions that are said by the former, are virtually repeated by the latter. For example, the Torah writes in Va'eschanan (5:21, quoting the people at Har Sinai) "Behold Hashem has shown us His Glory and His Greatness", whereas with regard to the Mishkan, it writes (twice) in Pikudei " and the Glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan"; and just as it writes in connection with Har Sinai "From the Heaven He let you hear His Voice " (Va'eschanan 4:36), so too, it writes in Naso (7:89) " and he (Moshe) heard the Voice from between the two Keruvim". And by the same token, the author cites a combination of Pesukim to demonstrate that just as they saw the Shechinah at Har Sinai, so too, did they see the Shechinah in the Mishkan.


No Silk in the Mishkan

"And this is the separation (gift) which you shall take from them " (25:3).

The Torah's list includes three kinds of metal (gold, silver and copper) and three kinds of dyed wool (dark blue wool, purple wool and crimson wool). It does not mention silk, because silk comes from a non-Kasher creature. So does crimson dye (tola'as shani [which is extracted from a type of worm]), only the latter does not come from the body of the worm itself, but from berries that are inside the worm.


The Avnei Shoham
and the Avnei Milu'im

"The onyx stones and the Milu'im stones for the Eifod and the Choshen" (25:6).

R. Bachye agrees with Rashi that "the onyx stones" refers to the two stones that were attached to the shoulder-straps of the Eifod (although one of the stones of the Choshen - that of Yosef - was an onyx-stone, too) He disagrees however, with Rashi's interpretation of "Avnei Milu'im" (i.e. filling stones, based on the fact that the twelve stones filled the golden settings). He prefers that of the Ramban, who in turn, bases his explanation on Targum Unklus ('avnei ashlemusa'), which means 'complete stones'. As we know, the value of a precious stone is determined largely by its completeness. And this applies not only to its value, but also to the Segulah (the special power) that each stone possesses (as the author explains in Parshas Tetzaveh). That is why it was important that the stones of the Choshen should be set in the Choshen whole, exactly as they were extracted from the ground; and that is exactly what "Milu'im" means. Not so the two onyx stones of the Eifod, which were carved into the specified shape that the Torah describes in Tetzaveh (28:11).


Interestingly, the Ramban also disagrees with Rashi's definition of "Mishb'tzos" (i.e. the square-shaped golden settings which housed the twelve stones of the Choshen). According to him, just as the stones of the Choshen remained uncut to preserve their full value, by the same token, they had to be placed not in settings, where their beauty would be hidden on five of their six sides, but held by three-pronged clasps, which allowed the stones to be seen from all sides. And that is why he translates "mishb'tzos zohov" (not as golden settings, but) as golden prongs. Here too, he bases his interpretation on Targum Unklus, who translates it as 'meramtzan di'dehav' (prongs of gold).


Mishkan - Mikdash

"And they shall make for Me a Mikdash, and I will dwell in their midst" (25:8).

The Pasuk refers to the Mishkan as 'Mikdash', says R. Bachye, because it was 'sanctified' by the Shechinah dwelling there, and also because of its similarity to the Celestial Beis-Hamikdash (which is not referred to as 'Mishkan').


Making an Abode for Hashem


Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu, R. Bachye quotes a Medrash (based on a series of Pesukim), said to K'lal Yisrael
'You are my sheep and I am your Shepherd! Prepare a shepherd's pen, so that I may come and shepherd you;
You are a vine-yard and I am the guard! Prepare for Me a guard's-hut, so that I may come and guard you;
You are My children and I am your Father! It is an honour for the children to be with their father and for the father to be with his children! Prepare a house for the Father, so that He may rest His Shechinah among you.'

That is why the Torah writes "And they shall make for Me a Mikdash and I will dwell in their midst".


The Beis-Hamikdash served three major functions, It sustained Yisrael, it protected them against their enemies and created a special bond between G-d and Yisrael, giving them access to communicate with Him freely, like a father to a son. Hence the three parables.


'The Fire that Burned but Didn't'

"Hollow boards you shall make it" (27:8).

The Medrash describes how Moshe was worried that the fire might burn the wood of the Mizbei'ach (see end of main article). G-d reassured him however, by reminding him how, when he was on Har Sinai, inside the 'Arafel of Fire', he walked among the fiery angels that he met there, and what's more, he came close to G-d Himself, whom the Pasuk describes as 'a consuming fire' (see Devarim 4:24), without as much as a hair of his head becoming singed.

By the same token, He assured him, that with regard to the copper Altar, about which the Torah writes "An everlasting fire shall burn on the Mizbei'ach, never to be extinguished", the copper will not melt and the wood will not burn.

Nor should one think that the layer of copper was thick; for it was no more than the thickness of a Dinar coin.


The Medrash concludes with an interesting thought: The Mizbei'ach that Moshe made was more precious in the eyes of Hashem than the one which Shlomoh made, even though the one which Shlomoh made was much larger, as the Pasuk writes "a thousand burnt-offerings Shlomoh brought on that day!"

* * *


The bottom hangings comprised ten curtains, two groups of five joined together by a series of fifty loops at the edge of each set, hooked together by means of fifty golden hooks (26:1, 5 & 6).

This is symbolical, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, of the Aseres ha'Dibros, five on one Lu'ach and five on the other, and of the fifty Gates of understanding, respectively.

Note, that Moshe Rabeinu mastered forty-nine of them.


"And the Mishkan (the lower set of hangings) you shall make of twined linen (sheish moshzor)" 26:1.

The Gematriyah of "sheish moshzor" is equivalent to that of 'chut kefel shemonah' (an eight-ply thread).


" and a cover of Tachash-skins on top" (26:14).

Unklus translates Tachash as 'Sasgona', which Rashi (25:5) explains as the acronym of 'sas bi'gevonim (shelah)' - it prides itself with its colours.

The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that the gematriyah of 'Tachash" is 'sas gevanim' (prides itself with its colours') - or does he mean 'sheish gevanim' (six colours), bearing in mind that he spells the word with two 'Sinim', rather than with two 'Samechs' like Targum Unklus.


"And you shall make the planks for the Mishkan, acacia-wood, standing" (26:15).

"la'Mishka atzei shitim omdim", the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, has the same gematriyah as "lechaper le'ma'aseh Shitim" (to atone for the episode with Shitim (when Yisrael committed adultery with the daughters of Midyan).


Twenty-four times the word 'Shitim' appears in this Parshah, corresponding to the twenty-four thousand who fell there.


There were forty-eight planks, corresponding to the forty-eight prophets and forty-eight groups of Kohanim twenty-four groups of Kohanim, and twenty-four groups of Levi'im.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 128:
The Korban Asham Taluy

It is a Mitzvah for anyone who is not sure whether he inadvertently transgressed a La'av for which be'Meizid, he would be Chayav Kareis, and be'Shogeg, a Chatas, to bring a Korban. An example of this is if there are two pieces of fat lying in front of him, one cheilev (suet, which is not Kasher) and the other shuman (Kasher fat), and he then ate one of them, whilst the other one got lost, and he does not know which one he ate. This Korban, which comes to cover the Safek, is called an 'Ashem Taluy' (a guilt-offering that hangs in abeyance), which means by definition, a sin that is waiting to be clarified as to whether one sinned or not. Consequently, should it become known that the sinner did indeed eat cheilev, the Asham that he brought will not suffice, and he will remain Chayav to bring a Chatas Kevu'ah (a fixed Chatas) to complete his Kaparah; whereas if he discovers that what he ate was Shuman, then the Korban that he brought will suffice and no further Kaparah will be necessary. We learn this Korban from the Pasuk in Vayikra (5:17) "And if a person sins, and transgresses one of all the Mitzvos of Hashem and he does not know and is guilty, he shall bring an unblemished ram ... and he does not know") - meaning 'he does know whether he inadvertently sinned or not'. This is what the Chachamim refer to as 'Lo Hoda'.

A reason for the Mitzvah because a person should be careful and fear transgerssion. He should be wary, in whatever he does, not to stumble in a matter of sin. That is why the Torah obligates him to bring a Korban for not taking care that such a doubt should not occur. And a proof that the Korban comes exclusively for his laxness in this matter, is the fact that, once he discovers that he did indeed sin, he is not required to atone for the sin at all, other than by bringing the Korban that he would have had to bring anyway had he known immediately (before having brought the Asham Taluy) that he sinned.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah The Gemara in K'riysus restricts the Korban to where there was a definite piece of Isur - for example, if he ate one of two pieces of fat (as we described above), in which case one of them is definitely cheilev, or where there was one piece of cheilev, only he is unsure as to whether it contained the measurement of a k'Zayis or not; this too, is considered a definite piece of Isur. But if he ate the only piece of fat that there was, and he is not sure whether it was cheilev or shuman, he is Patur from am Asham Taluy, due to the possibility that there was no Isur there at all. And it is for the same reason that the Chachamim said that if a man has relations with a woman who is safek megureshes (it is not sure as to whether she is divorced or not) he is Chayav an Asham Taluy (since she has a Chazakah of being married); whereas if he has relations with a woman who is Safek mekudeshes (he is not sure as to whether she is betrothed or not), he is Patur (since we place her on a Chezakah that she is not married, in which case it is not a fixed Isur, and it is in fact, comparable to one piece of fat on which one has a doubt as to whether it is cheilev or shuman. This Mitzvah applies in the time of the Beis-Hamikdash to both men and women. Anyone who contravenes it and fails to bring this Korban should the relevant Safek arise, has nullified a Mitzvas Asei.

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