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

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Vol. 4 No. 19

Parshas Terumah

The Mishkon and Matan Torah

"And they will take for Me Terumah" (a separation, a gift in the form of thirteen raw materials with which to construct the Mishkon). This is what the possuk says: "Because I have given you a good acquisition - My Torah - don't forsake it!" (Tanchumah)

It is, at first, difficult to understand as to why G-d deems it necessary to dwell with us here on earth, a place of sin and impurity. Would it not have been more befitting for Him to fix His abode, so to speak, in the Heavens with the pure and righteous Angels? Unless, of course, He found it difficult to part with "His beloved daughter", the Torah. The Medrash gives a moshol to a king who was marrying off his only daughter - with whom he was extremely close. "I entreat you," he implored his future son-in-law, as the wedding day approached, "prepare me a room near my daughter, as I cannot bear to part from her."

It was because Hashem was about to hand over the Torah to the B'nei Yisroel that He asked them to build Him a Mishkon - a central dwelling for His Shechinah, so that He could dwell in close proximity to His "daughter" - and automatically, in so doing, he would create the triumvirate of Yisroel, Torah and G-d - here on earth. In this way, Klal Yisroel and Torah would be united - and that unity would be forever guided by the Divine Spirit. (This idea, incidentally, does not concur with Rashi's interpretation of the Mishkon as being purely an atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf, but rather with that of the Ramban, who views the construction of the Mishkon as a positive, intrinsic Mitzvah, to replace Har Sinai as the chosen central location for G-d's Divine Presence.)

The Medrash Tanchumah, which we cited earlier, now becomes clear. The giving of the Torah was indeed the very reason that Hashem ordained the construction of the Mishkon.

We can also now understand the hint cited in the Ba'al Ha'turim. "The letters of "Terumah", he explains, "spell 'Torah Mem' to tell us that Yisroel were commanded to construct the Mishkon, because of the Torah that was to be given in 40 days."

What we still need to understand is what did Klal Yisroel do to deserve this unique privilege of having Hashem in their midst? We know that Divine Inspiration always follows in the wake of an arousal on our part. What form did that arousal take, there in the desert?

The answer lies in another Medrash. The Tanno de'Bei Eliyohu writes that no sooner had the B'nei Yisroel proclaimed "Na'aseh ve'nishma", than Hashem said to Moshe: "And they shall take for Me a Terumah" (to construct the Mishkon).

The chief prerequisite required for Hashro'as Ha'Shechinah, explains the Yokor Mi'poz, is "self-nullification", for this is what the prophet Yeshayoh writes (66): "The Heaven is My Throne and the earth is My foot-stool. What sort of a house will you build for Me and where will My resting place be? I will look to the humble man and to the one broken in spirit and who trembles to carry out My word". In other words, he explains, it is because of the humble man and the man of broken spirit, who totally submits himself to the will of G-d, that it is possible to build a central dwelling for Hashem's Divine Presence.

When B'nei Yisroel proclaimed "Na'aseh ve'nishma", accepting willingly and unconditionally whatever Hashem demanded of them, without having the least idea of what that would entail, they negated their own will before the will of Hashem, thus earning themselves the exclusive right to build a House for G-d, to bring the Shechinah down into their midst. In this way, the building of the Mishkon did not only coincide with the giving of the Torah, but was also inextricably linked to it, for it was the manner in which they received the Torah, the total self-nullification, that sparked off the building of the Mishkon.

It is possibly the proximity of the Parshah of Terumah, containing as it does the construction of the Mishkon, to that of Na'aseh ve'nishma at the end of Mishpotim, which led Chazal to the above connection. But in any event, we see from here that the manifestation of G-d's Divine Presence is linked to the acceptance of the Torah, and is therefore confined exclusively to the only nation to accept the Torah as was hinted in the first Medrash that we cited. And we see also that that acceptance must be total and unconditional, for should the slightest reservation prevail, Torah becomes subject to human limitations and, in that capacity, Hashem's Divine Presence cannot be justified.


Adapted from the Gro

Adding - Subtracting

The Gemoro in Sanhedrin (29a) brings a proof that someone who adds actually detracts, from the Possuk in this week's Parshah which writes (25:10) that the length of the Oron should be two and a half Amos.

Rashi explains that this refers to the words "amosayim va'chetzi orko" (two and a half Amos is its length), and if one were to omit the Aleph in "Amosayim", it would read "mosayim" meaning "two hundred". So we see that one can add (many amos on to the two of the Torah), and in doing so, one actually detracts from the Torah's intention.

The Maharsho asks on Rashi that it would be senseless to omit the aleph from "amosayim" , because then we would not know whether the Torah was referring to two hundred amos, two hundred tefochim or two hundred finger-breadths. So the Maharsho learns the Gemoro differently.

The Gro explains that the Gemoro is referring, not to the aleph in "amosayim", but to the vov in "vochetzi", which, if the vov were missing, would read "amosayim chatzi amoh" - meaning "two amos equals half the length", in other words, the full length of the Oron should be four amos; and that is the addition to which the Torah refers.

The Keruvim

The Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim, explains that the Keruvim symbolised the angels. The reason that there were two, was in order to negate the idea of Divinity, since G-d is one. Nor is it likely that people will now ascribe Divine power to two G-ds (chas ve'sholom) because, by spreading their wings upwards, the angels were demonstrating that they drew their supernatural abilities from above - in other words, the influence that they were bringing to bear upon the physical beings was not self-generated, but was received from a source that was superior to themselves, namely that of Hashem.

The importance of the angels, the Rambam explains, is second only to the importance of Hashem Himself. Why is that?

Because the angels are responsible for presenting prophecy into the mouths of the prophets. In other words, G-d's communication with us, through the words of the prophets, is possible only through the medium of the angels.

In similar vein, one could also apply the explanation of Rabeinu Bachye, regarding the ladder in Ya'akov's dream, which he explains, represented the way in which all of Hashem's decisions were implemented through the angels to this world via the world of the sun, moon and stars - the heaven.

Similarly here, the Oron represented G-d's throne, the Keruvim, the angels, to teach us that although everything that transpires in this world, comes to us through the angels, ultimately it is G-d who is Master of the world and who is directly responsible for all that happens to us.

The above explanation explains G-d's communication with us. But how about our communication with Him?

That too, is symbolised by the Keruvim, but in a completely different way.

Rabeinu Bachye writes how Chazal depict the two Keruvim as demonstrating G-d's love towards Yisroel, and the unifying force that binds them together. And in one of two explanations he explains how the purpose of that demonstration was to arouse Yisroel to daven directly to Hashem, and not through a medium.

At one and the same time, the Keruvim on the Oron served as a reminder that Hashem's communication with us comes through the angels, but that our communication through to Him is direct.

All Hands on Deck

The Mishneh in Shekolim gives the measurements of the Poroches as forty amos by twenty, adding that three hundred Cohanim used to touch it when it became tomei.

Indeed, the Gro explains that that was precisely the number of Cohanim needed to tovel it. How is that?

The area of the Poroches amounted to 120 amos. Since the vessels of the Beis Ha'Mikdosh were made of amos consisting of 5 tefochim, the area of the Poroches in tefochim was 600. Considering that each Cohen had two hands, that would allow exactly 300 Cohanim to help hold it as it was being tovelled. It appears that, in their eagerness to participate in the mitzvah, every Cohen who was able, held on to the Poroches to help tovel it, there would have been room for exactly three hundred Cohanim.

The Tiferes Yisroel in Shekolim asks on the Gro from a Gemoro in Chullin (90b), where it includes this Mishnah in one of three Chazal which it calls an exaggeration, and Rashi explains that it certainly did not require so many Cohanim to tovel it and that that is the exaggeration to which the Gemoro is referring.

The Gro himself, however raises this point, and he explains that it is not the number of Cohanim which is the exaggeration, but the number of 820,000 threads (or, some say, the number of girls that helped to weave it), to which the Mishnah also refers, which is the exaggeration of which the Gemoro is speaking.


(Terumah) (Melochim I, 5:26 - 6:13)

It was G-d's intention to rest His Shechinah with Klal Yisroel, to enable them to have easy access to Him and for them to be inspired by His Kedushah. This relationship began almost immediately after His revelation at Har Sinai, when Yisroel built the Mishkon. The era of Mishkon lasted 479 years, until it was replaced by the Beis Ha'mikdosh. The construction of the Beis Ha'mikdosh, built by Shlomoh Ha'melech, is the theme discussed by the Novi in the Haftorah, so the similarity to the Parshah is self-evident. The final possuk in the Haftorah too, "And I will dwell among the B'nei Yisroel and I will not forsake My people Yisroel" bears a striking resemblance to the possuk "And they shall construct a Mikdosh for Me, and I will dwell in their midst," which appears in the Parshah (25:8). The fact that the Torah uses the word "Mikdosh" and not "Mishkon", only serves to strengthen that resemblance.

The Haftorah opens with the covenant that Chirom, King of Tyre, made with Shlomoh, on account of his wisdom. That, the Malbim explains, has nothing to do with the covenant that he had previously made with Shlomoh's father Dovid - that was on account of his fighting abilities. As a matter of fact, Chirom's friendship with Yisroel, and particularly with the tribe of Yehudah, had begun long before, since, according to the Medrash, he was alias Chiroh ho'Adulomi, the friend of Yehudah ben Ya'akov, mentioned in Parshas Vayeishev (38). This would make him around 1200 years at this time - Ishey ha'Tenach. And the same Seifer quotes various Medrashim which describe: 1) his extreme righteousness, based largely presumably, on the tremendous helping hand that he extended to Shlomoh in providing cedars from the Lebanon for the Beis Ha'mikdosh; 2) his entry alive into Gan Eden, where he spent a further thousand years; 3) his eventual deterioration, when his long life went to his head and he believed himself to be Divine; and 4. both his entry into Gehinom and his horrible death at the hand of Nevuchadnetzar.

The Novi (Melochim was written by Chizkiyohu ha'Melech and his company) then describes how Shlomoh made use of the manpower available to build the House of G-d, and, when we see the huge number of labourers involved in the construction work, it enables us to understand how it was possible to construct a building with the huge dimensions of the Beis Ha'mikdosh, without any of the modern techniques used today.

Thirty thousand men were sent to the Lebanon to help Chirom's men to fell the cedar trees - they worked in rotation, ten thousand at a time, so that they would spend one month in the Lebanon followed by two months at home.

There were seventy thousand porters to carry the heavy stones from the quarries to the location of the Beis Ha'mikdosh, and eighty thousand to do the actual hewing. All of these were converts (possibly from the Giv'onim, who were anyway designated by Yehoshua bin Nun to perform this type of menial work). Added to this, were the three and a half thousand overseers. Shlomoh ha'Melech's distribution of labour must surely have been, at least in part, the Divine wisdom referred to in the opening possuk.

The posuk also describes how Shlomoh made a series of rooms adjoining the walls of the Beis Ha'mikdosh from the outside. The rooms encircled the Beis Ha'mikdosh on three sides and the rooms were built on three floors: the ground floor was five amos wide, the first floor six amos and seven amos the second. The reason for this was because, in this way, the planks that served as the ceiling for the lower floor and as the floor for the upper one, would now be placed on the amoh that the top of the wall of that floor extended, to give the upper room an extra width of one amoh. The purpose of this was twofold: one, in order to avoid spoiling the completeness of the walls, by knocking holes in them to support the floor. And the other, to avoid using metal tools, which was certainly forbidden on the actual building site and according to some, even to hew from the rock surface, they used to Shamir-worm, and not metal tools.

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