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

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to this week's Parsha Previous Issues

Vol. 6 No. 19

Parshas Terumah

Musar or Money
(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)

"Take my musar (ethics) and not money, and knowledge is preferable to chorutz (a type of gold)" (Mishlei 8:10).

King Shlomoh is stressing here the importance of the quality of 'zrizus' (diligence), indicating that one's efforts should be geared towards Torah-ethics rather than towards the acquisition of wealth. This is because with Torah-ethics, one is able to obtain many advantages both in this world and in the next, whereas a lot of money per se, has no advantages at all to offer. On the contrary, it causes much damage and creates numerous stumbling-blocks, which in turn, are at the root of endless worry, as Chazal have said in Pirkei Ovos (2:7) 'The more property (one owns) the more worries!'


It is well-known that the only commodity that is worthwhile amassing is Torah. This is why Shlomoh wrote "and knowledge is preferable to chorutz", meaning that one should also direct one's efforts towards acquiring knowledge ... The word 'take' implies with alacrity - meaning that one should go for Musar and Torah with agility, to approach them with the same sort of energy as one would if they were material benefits - and not lazily and with an air of despondency. For someone who fulfills Torah in this way cannot possibly escape punishment, even if, in the process he performs mitzvos. Because if one unifies G-d with one's mouth and one's lips, but his heart is distant, then his sin is too great to bear; on the one hand, he may well receive reward for the mitzvos that he performed, but on the other, he will be punished for not performing them to perfection - only begrudgingly.


And exactly the same applies to prayer: someone who davens but does so without devotion, to the point that his mind wanders off to his business deals and to his money, is a sinner. One can virtually apply to him the possuk "Do not make with Me silver gods and golden gods", which could well mean "When you are standing in prayer before Me, don't think of your silver and gold". Someone who davens in this way, estranges himself from the King of Kings. To be sure, he would not do this before a human king!

And the same will apply to someone who is performing the mitzvah of Tefillin, but casually, without taking due care not to sleep in them or to treat them with the respect that they deserve. The mitzvah will remain incomplete. And so it is with all the mitzvos.


So we see that a lazy person may well perform many mitzvos, yet, due to his laziness, he sins, and the great benefits that he achieves for fulfilling those mitzvos, will not absolve him from being punished for the sins that he transgresses, even as he performs the mitzvos. This can be compared to someone who drinks vinegar to cure an ailment. It will cure the ailment, but it will also harm his teeth; or to someone who lights a fire against the cold - the fire will keep him warm, but the smoke will harm his eyes - which is precisely what Shlomoh meant when he wrote: "Like vinegar to the teeth, and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy man (harmful) to those who send him" (Mishlei 10:26). That is why he is constantly castigating the lazy man. "(If) someone who desires something and fails to obtain it, (it is because) he is lazy" (Mishlei 13:4) - he simply did not make the necessary effort, for if he had, he would have succeeded in obtaining it, as Chazal said "(If someone says) 'I did not toil, but I nevertheless found it,' don't believe him; 'I toiled but did not find it', don't believe it; 'I toiled and I found, it' believe him!" (Megillah 6b).


He also urges the lazy man to learn from the ant: "Go to the ant, lazy man, see its ways, and learn from it" (Mishlei 6:6). Because there is so much that one can indeed, learn from it. It is the smallest of creatures, yet it is so diligent and hard-working. It plans for the future, collecting in summer what it is going to eat in winter.


It is known that someone who is diligent in the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvos, as well as the one who is diligent in matters concerning the perfecting of one's character-traits, rises to ever-increasing levels of knowledge and saintliness; he experiences only improvement, and never regression. The lazy person on the other hand, is constantly regressing, which is why elsewhere (Mishlei 15:19), he compares the path of the lazy man to a wall blocked by thorns - he ruins his own chances of progressing, like an untended field that grows thistles instead of wheat, and whose protective walls have crumbled. The lazy man destroys both his body and his soul, from sheer inactivity, both internally and externally, like the field that lies devastated from within and from without, from sheer lack of care.


Therefore Shlomoh says here "Take musar and not money," so that, contrary to the customary practice of placing one's efforts towards earning money with diligence and with agility, and not towards Torah and mitzvos, we should get our priorities right and expend our energy on Torah and mitzvos rather than on the acquisition of fortunes.

And when he says "Take musar"' he is referring to Torah, which is called 'musar'. With Torah, one merits eternal life, to enjoy the glory of the Shechinah, because the Shechinah cleaves to Torah.


By Matan Torah it is written "And the glory of Hashem dwelt on Har Sinai," because it (the Torah) is what causes the Shechinah to rest in Yisroel - at Har Sinai in the open, "like a fire before the eyes of Yisroel" (Sh'mos 24:17), and in the Mishkon in a concealed state. That is why we were commanded to construct a special house for G-d , so that He could dwell there, concealed, and that is the reason that Yisroel donated the materials with which to construct a Mishkon, as the Torah describes in the first pesukim of Terumah.


Parshah Pearls


Adapted from the Chofetz Chaim

Every Man Must Do His Best

"And they shall make Me a Mikdosh, and I will dwell in their midst" (28:8).

The P'sikta writes that, when G-d said to Moshe "Make Me a Mikdosh," he shuddered. 'How can man make a dwelling for G-d?' he wondered. G-d, about whom is written "The Heavens ... cannot contain You!" So G-d set his mind at rest. 'Don't worry,' He reassured him, 'I am not asking you to build it according to My dimensions, but according to yours (since it was in their domain that they were going to build it, not in His!). Twenty planks in the north, twenty planks in the south, and eight in the west'.

And when He said "My sacrifice, My bread" (by the Korban Tomid - the bi-daily communal burnt-offering), Moshe said 'Is it possible to bring all the animals in the world to 'satisfy' G-d? Will all the wood in the world suffice to burn all the animals that are due to him?' So G-d set his mind at rest. 'It is not as you think at all,' He consoled him. 'All I ask is "one lamb in the morning and one lamb in the afternoon" '.

And when He said "And each man shall pay the ransom of his soul", Moshe said 'How can a person possibly pay the ransom for his (priceless) soul?' So G-d set his mind at rest. 'It is not like you imagine,' he explained. 'All they need to give is half a holy Shekel' (the equivalent of two ordinary ones).


We see from this Chazal, the Chofetz Chayim observes, that G-d does not make excessive demands of us - but everyone is expected to serve Him according to his strength and according to his means. And this is what Shlomoh ha'Melech said in Koheles (9:10) "Whatever you are able to do, do" - according to your strength and no more. That is why the Zohar says 'Open for Me like the eye of a needle and I will open for you like the entrance of a hall;. As long as we try our utmost, however little that is capable of achieving, G-d will see to it that we succeed, beyond all our aspirations.


Everyone is duty-bound to fix himself a time to learn Torah according to his means - one man Mishnayos, the other Gemoro, and the third Halochoh - each according to his ability. And so it is with giving Tzedokoh to those who study Torah - each person must give according to his means: the poor man is not expected to give like a rich one (indeed, his perutah may be more valuable in the eyes of G-d than the thousand shekel of the rich man). Nor is the rich man authorised to give like a poor one, as the Gemoro says in Pesochim (118a) 'the wealthy man with his ox and the poor man with his lamb".

In fact, the Chofetz Chayim concludes, we see that (in certain cases) a rich man who brings G-d the sacrifice of a poor man, has not only failed to fulfill his duty, but he has sinned by bringing chullin to the Azoroh.


Torah for All

"And they shall construct the Oron out of acacia wood" (25:10).

By all of the other Holy vessels, the Torah writes "and you (referring to Moshe, although it is Betzalel who was directly in charge) shall construct ...". Why then, does the Torah write 'they' with regard to the Oron?

The Medrash Tanchuma explains that it is so that nobody should later be able to boast that he has more rights in the Torah than his friend, because he had put in so much (effort or money) into the Oron, whereas his friend put in nothing. The Torah ordered every Jew to participate in the construction of the Oron, so that nobody should feel that he had no portion in the Torah.


The Torah belongs to all of Yisroel, and the reward for Torah-study is shared equally by those who study it and those who support them. It is up to us to ensure that we obtain a good share in the proceeds, either by studying it ourselves, says the Chofetz Chayim, or by supporting those who study - each person with the means that Hashem has provided him with - one with a good head and diligence, the other with wealth (and some with both).



The Shema

(Part XXIII)

... if You Will Surely Listen

In the same vein as one mitzvah leads to another, so too does one sin lead to another, explains Rashi, which is why the Torah writes above (8:19) "If you will surely forget ("... im shocho'ach tishkach") - 'once you begin to forget G-d, you will forget Him completely'. And Rashi cites an idiom: 'If you forget me one day, I will forget you two'. To explain this, the Yerushalmi gives a moshol to two people who part ways, one to the east and one to the west. Although they will have travelled only one day, they will be two day's journey apart. In other words, when a Jew departs from Hashem, Hashem also departs from him.

Presumably, the same happens in the reverse case - someone who does teshuvah and moves closer towards Hashem, Hashem is also moving closer towards him. As a result, he will find that Hashem is not nearly as distant from him as he thought He was.


... And to Serve Him with All Your Heart

Service of the heart refers to Tefillah. As Rashi explains, this Parshah follows that of rain, in which case, we would be speaking about praying for rain, and that explains why the Torah continues about Hashem sending rain in its right time. The Ba'al ha'Turim explains the juxtaposition of the words "with all your heart and with all your soul" to "and I shall give the rain ..." that it is only if our prayers are uttered sincerely and with devotion that they will bring rain (how lucky we are in the knowledge that whenever we pray to Hashem with devotion, He sends rain!).


... And I Will Give the Rain of Your Land

In two short sentences, the Torah is about to incorporate all the blessings that mark material success - good rains that fall in the right-time, and the successful harvesting of corn (including wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt), wine and oil, comprising the staple diet of food and drink, as well as that of fuel. And the Torah continues with grass for the animals (fodder), which means healthy animals - large flocks of sheep and goats and herds of cows, which in turn, translates into meat and milk, hide (for leather) and wool (for clothes).


... And You Will Eat and be Satisfied ...

... after eating only a little (Rashi). In this way you will not become overweight, nor will you contract all the illnesses that result from over-eating (to conform with the Rambam, who stresses the importance of eating less than the amount that one needs, to be fully satisfied).

In that case, one may well ask, what is the purpose of the abundance of food?
The answer is two-fold. Firstly, to feed the poor and the needy, and secondly, for export, which in turn, boosts the national economy.

Perhaps one can even offer a third explanation, based on what Chazal have taught in Yumo (18b), that one cannot compare someone who has no bread in his basket to someone who has. The mere fact that there is an abundance of food creates a feeling of satisfaction and contentment, even if not all the food is needed.


For sponsorships and adverts call 6519 502

Back to this week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel