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

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Vol. 7   No. 19

Parshas Terumah

The Shulchan - The Source of Blessing

If the Oron in the Mishkon served the purpose of housing the Luchos (the mainstay of the Mishkon and cause of the Shechinah resting in this world), and the K'ruvim, to convey to us the existence of the angels, who transmit the Divine Will to this world via the world of the luminaries, what purpose did the Shulchan serve, asks Rabeinu Bachye?


And he explains that the Shulchan with its twelve loaves was the source of the Divine material blessing, which G-d continually bestows upon this world. It was when the Kohanim, the servants of G-d, ate the loaves each Shabbos (the day that G-d designated as the source of blessing), that the Divine blessing, which manifested itself in what Chazal have taught us in Yuma (39a) "A Kohen who received as little as a bean-volume of bread was satisfied'. And that is why it is called "Shulchan" (from the word 'sholei'ach'); because G-d bestowed his blessing on it, and from it that blessing spread to the rest of the world, satisfying all its inhabitants. And perhaps the twelve loaves correspond to the twelve 'tubes' though which G-d bestows His blessings upon the world via the twelve tribes.


In this way, the blessing is based on an existing source, like all the acts performed by the prophets (as the Novi records by Elisha, in the story of the jar of oil and by Eliyohu, in the story of the barrel of flour.

Because the creation of something out of nothing is something that G-d did once - when He created the world, and from that time on, He limits Himself to forming something out of something tangible, but not out of nothing.


According to the Medrash, the Shulchan and the Oron were made out of acacia wood - "atzei shitim" - the acronym of 'sholom, tovoh, yeshu'oh, mechiloh', characteristics that are all inherent in these two vessels. And these characteristics are particularly relevant today, when we have no Mizbei'ach, and the Shulchan serves as an altar of atonement, and the bread on it as a sacrifice, as the Gemoro explains in B'rochos (58a).

This is based on the concept that the table is the symbol of the chesed that one performs with the poor, which is why Chazal said (ibid. 54b) 'Someone who sits long at table, will merit to live long'. (Perhaps we can also ascribe the merits of sitting long at table to the various mitzvos that one performs whilst eating: the b'rochos; the care one takes to eat the correct foods adequately prepared in the correct manner; the restraint; the act of transforming the mundane into something that is holy. And that may also well be the reason why the table serves as an altar of atonement.)

And it was the custom of the pious men of France, concludes Rabeinu Bachye, to construct their coffins from the table at which they ate in their lifetime, and in which they would ultinately be burried, demonstrating that the only thing that a man takes with him on his final journey is the charity that he gave in his lifetime and the good that he performed at his table.


The Shulchan was overlaid with gold, zohov; a hint says Rabeinu Bachye, at Birchas ha'Mozon, which min ha'Torah, comprises three b'rochos - 'Zon', 'Ho'oretz' and 'Boneh Yerusholayim'.


The measurements of the Shulchan (two amos by one) were complete amos, unlike those of the Oron (two and a half by one and a half amos) which were incomplete. That is because in matters of spirituality, a person must always strive to improve, in the knowledge that there are always levels to which he must aspire; whereas in material things, G-d's blessing is complete (because it is finite, as the Kli Yokor explains).

The height of the Shulchan on the other hand, was one and a half amos; a hint, says the Kli Yokor, that, on the one hand, one's wealth should not go to one's head, but that one should remain humble and broken before G-d; and that, on the other, one should restrain oneself from indulging fully in the complete b'rochoh with which one is graced, both for reasons of health and in order to grow to one's full potential in Torah-study.


Parshah Pearls


The Uniqueness of the Oron

"And they shall make the Oron ... " (25:10). By all the holy vessels the Torah writes "And you shall make", comments the Ba'al ha'Turim, with the sole exception of the Oron, where it writes "And they shall make ... "

And he explains that this is because Shlomoh ha'Melech made replicas of all the holy vessels, except for the Oron.

But the Medrash, cited by Rabeinu Bachye, explains that the Torah writes here "And they shall make", in order to hint that everyone should come and participate in the construction of the Oron. How?

By donating something towards it, as Rabeinu Bachye suggests, or, as the Ramban explains, by either donating a (small) golden trinket towards its construction, or by actually lending Betzalel a hand in the work itself, or at least by having the positive kavonoh to be a partner in its construction.


Oroin, Oiron Noiro

The Ba'al ha'Turim also points out that the word 'Oroin' contains the same letters as 'Oiron' (their light), because the Oron housed the Luchos, which was the light of Yisroel.

It also contains the asme letters as the word 'Noiro' (fearful), as the Oron with the Luchos is the representative of G-d, who is compared to "a consuming fire" (Sh'mos 24:17).


The Crown of Torah

And the numerical value of Oron is the equivalent to that of 'Nezer' (a crown). And it is because the crown of Torah rises above the crowns of Kehunah and Malchus, (as the Mishnah writes in Pirkei Ovos 4:13) that the Torah writes here with regard to the Oron "Ve'osiso olov zer zohov" (and you shall make on top of it a golden crown); whereas by the Shulchan it writes "Ve'osiso lo zer zohov" (And you shall make for it a golden crown).


All Hands On Deck

"And you shall make the Poroches ... " (26:31). The Mishnah in Sh'kolim (8:5) states that the Poroches was one tefach thick ... forty amos long and twenty amos wide ... and that three hundred Kohanim toveled it. The Gro explains that if the Poroches was forty amos by twenty, then its circumference was a hundred and twenty amos. And seeing as the amos of the vessels of the Beis ha'Mikdosh each consisted of five tefochim, that would have been the equivalent of six hundred tefochim.

Now, since every Kohen wanted a hand in the mitzvah, as many Kohanim as possible would have held onto it as it was being taken to be toveled. And since the total circumference was six hundred tefochim, that meant that a maximum of three hundred Kohanim would have been able to hold it with both hands, (since a hand is equal to a tefach) - just as the Mishnah in Sh'kolim taught.


Alternatively, the Gro explains, the Kohanim held the Poroches, not on all four sides, but on the two opposite sides of its length. Now its length was forty amos = two hundred and forty tefochim, since each amoh comprises six tefochim (assuming that the Poroches is considered part of the building, and not a vessel, as we explained earlier), and since each tefach in turn, comprises five finger-breadths, the circumference totalled 1200 finger breadths.

Each hand, however, comprises only four finger-breadths (since when one holds something tight, one folds the thumb on top of the fingers). Consequently, the twelve hundred finger-breadths on the one side could be held by three hundred hands (or a hundred and fifty Kohanim). And the same number of Kohanim held on to the other side, a total of three hundred Kohanim, just as the Mishnah taught.


The Curtain and the Screen

The Kli Yokor lists three distinctions between the curtain that divided the Kodesh from the Kodesh Kodoshim (known as 'the Poroches') and the screen that divided between the Kodesh and the Courtyard (known as 'the Mosoch'). The former, he says, was manufactured using a specialised form of craftsmanship called 'ma'aseh chosheiv' (which entailed weaving simultaneously different pictures on either side of the fabric, whereas the latter was manufactured through 'ma'aseh rokeim' (plain embroidery); the former hung on four pillars, the latter, on five; and whereas the pillars of the former were made of silver, those of the latter were made of copper.


He explains it allegorically in the following way: Because the Poroches closed the entrance to the Kodesh ha'Kodoshim, and it was only once a year that the Kohen Godol was permitted to enter it - on Yom Kipur, the day when Yisroel are compared to holy angels who are called K'ruvim(Cherubs). It is a day when Yisroel transcend the physical (based in the heart) and enter the spiritual (based in the mind). That is why the Poroches was manufactured by means of 'ma'aseh chosheiv' (whose root is 'machshovoh' - which is based in the mind), with pictures of K'ruvim woven into the fabric.

Similarly, the Angel mentioned in Yechezkel (9:3) is referred to as 'the One who wears the linen clothes', much in the same way as the Kohen Godol, who wore four white linen garments when he entered the Kodesh Kodoshim to obtain a pardon on behalf of Klal Yisroel. Hence the pillars were made of silver, symbolising the whiteness of purity and forgiveness, and there were four symbolising the four white garments of the Kohen Godol. The Mosoch on the other hand, divided between the Kodesh and the Mizbei'ach (the copper altar whose purpose it was to atone for sin). There are three major causes of sin, the Kli Yokor explains: Man's physical earhliness, the temptations of the snake (the embodiment of the Yeitzer ho'ra) and the workings of his five senses. And that explains why the Mosoch was 'ma'aseh rokeim' (used as an analogy to earthliness - see Tehilim 139:15); and it also explains why it was made of copper - nechoshes, a broad hint to the nochosh (the snake - see also Rashi Bamidbor, 21:9), and why it hung on five pillars, hinting to the five senses.



(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh) Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

48. Not to taunt one's fellow Jew - as the Torah writes in Behar (21:17) "And do not taunt your fellow Jew". One should not for example, say to a ba'al teshuvah 'Remember your deeds of the past!' or to the son of a convert 'Remember what your father used to do!'

Nor may one ask someone questions when one knows that he does not have the answers - in order to cause him pain.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


49-50. Not to taunt a convert with words - as the Torah writes in Mishpotim (22:20) "Do not taunt a convert" nor to cheat him financially - as it writes there "and do not oppress him". These la'avin take effect over and above the regular la'avin that pertain to all Jews.

These mitzvos apply everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


51. Not to mistreat a widow and an orphan - as the Torah writes there (22:21) "Do not mistreat any widow or orphan". This la'av applies even if they are wealthy, and even to the widow and orphans of a king, whom one must treat with respect.

One may not cause them distress or hurt them with harsh words, and one should treat their property more carefully than one's own. Someone who angers them or causes them anguish, and certainly if he hits or curses them, transgresses this la'av, and his punishment is spelled out clearly in the Torah (ibid. 22:23) "And My anger will burn and I will kill you by the sword, and your wives will become widows and your children, orphans".

It makes no difference whether it is an orphan from his mother or from his father, the la'av applies until such time as he grows up and is able to fend for himself like other grown-ups.

One may however 'afflict' them, to teach them Torah and to teach them a trade, in order to guide them along the right path. Nevertheless, one should do this with pity, to educate them gently, with kindness and with mercy.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


52. Not to claim one's debt when one knows that the debtor cannot afford to pay - as the Torah writes in Mishpotim (22:24) "Do not behave like a creditor". In fact, the lender may not even walk in front of the borrower if he knows that he is unable to pay, in order not to cause him embarrassment.

On the other hand, the debtor is not allowed to withhold the money from the lender, or even to ask him to return later for the money, if the money with which to pay his debt is available. Someone who does this transgresses a la'av from the words of 'Kaboloh" (Kesuvim) "Do not tell your friend to come back tomorrow and that you will give it to him then, if the money is available now" (Mishlei 3:28).

Nor is he permitted to spend the money unnecessarily, leaving himself without the means to repay the loan. Such a person is called a rosho, as the posuk writes in Tehilim (37:21) "The wicked borrower who does not pay back".

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


About the Mitzvos Motives (continued)

The commentaries deduce from the words of Rebbi Elozor ben Azaryah, who specifically forbids one to say that pig's meat makes him sick or that he could not possibly wear wear sha'atnez ... (as we discussed in the first part of "Motives" two weeks ago), that he deliberately restricts this prohibition to chukim (to mitzvos that are intrinsically not logical). One should not however, declare how one would love to murder, steal or commit adultery, and that one only abstains from doing so because his Father in Heaven decreed it.


This does not mean that when it comes to logical mitzvos, one should abstain from transgressing them because it is wrong to do so, and not because G-d forbade it (negating what we wrote in the previous issue, that abstaining from transgressing negative mitzvos without kavonoh, is not considered a mitzvah).

The very source cited by Rebbi Elozor ben Azaryah leaves no room for doubt that one should refrain from transgressing any sin other than for the sake of G-d, and not for any other motive. What the commentaries mean is that bearing in mind that logic dictates that murder, theft and adultery are evil, one should not portray oneself as a potential rosho by declaring that he would like to perform evil, but not that one should abstain because it is a bad thing to do.


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