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Torah Attitude: Parashas Terumah: One crown is better than two

Summary

Three of the vessels in the Tabernacle were adorned with a golden rim described as a crown. These three crowns correspond to the three crowns of the Jewish people. The Mishnah starts saying that there are three crowns, but concludes with a fourth crown, the crown of a good name. The Midrash explains the connection between the three crowns of the vessels and the three crowns of the Jewish people. The Midrash teaches us that the crown of the Torah is above the other crowns, and when a person merits to acquire the crown of Torah, it is as if he acquired all three crowns. A Jew can only be adorned with the crown of a good name by studying the Torah and fulfilling its commandments. These three crowns correspond to the three things upon which the world stands: Torah study, service of G'd, and doing acts of lovingkindness. These three things that the world stands upon are connected to the three parts through which a person conducts himself. The primary medium how to connect with G'd is by serving Him. The Torah instructs how to be an honest, caring, and sensitive person who takes an interest in the welfare of everybody else, and goes out of his way to support the poor and needy. Even if a person lives on his own, he must study Torah in order to understand the very meaning of life and its purpose. In order to acquire the good name of the Torah, one must excel in all three areas and know how to relate both to G'd, his fellow human beings and himself.

Three vessels with gold crowns

In this week's parasha, G'd instructs Moses how to construct the Tabernacle and the various vessels used there. Three of the vessels were adorned with a golden rim described as a crown. The first vessel with such a crown was the Holy Ark, as it says (Shemos 25:11): "And you shall cover it with pure gold from the inside and from the outside And you shall make upon it a gold crown all around." The second vessel was the special table used for the Show Bread. There again it says (Shemos 25:24): "And you shall cover it with pure gold, and you shall make for it a gold crown all around." The third vessel is mentioned at the end of next week's parasha where Moses is instructed to make an altar on which to bring incense. Again the Torah says (Shemos 30:3): "And you shall cover it with pure gold and you shall make for it a gold crown all around."

Three crowns of the Jewish people

Rashi quotes the Midrash Rabbah (Shemos 34:2) that explains how these three crowns correspond to the three crowns of the Jewish people mentioned in Pirkei Avos (4:17). The Mishnah says: "There are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of kehunah [priesthood], and the crown of royalty."

Fourth crown

The Mishnah concludes, "And the crown of a good name goes above all of them." This poses an obvious question. The Mishnah starts saying that there are three crowns, but concludes with a fourth crown, the crown of a good name. Would it not have been more correct to say that there are altogether four crowns? In order to answer this question, we must first see how the Midrash explains the connection between the three crowns of the vessels and the three crowns of the Jewish people.

Corresponding crowns

The Holy Ark contained the Tablets with the Ten Commandments, as well as a Torah scroll (see Devarim 31:26 and Rashi ibid). It is therefore obvious that the crown adorning the Ark corresponds to the crown of Torah. The altar was used by the Kohanim to bring the incense offerings, and as such the crown adorning this altar corresponds to the crown of kehunah. Finally, Rashi explains that the golden table of the Show Bread represents wealth and greatness as fitting for a royal table. Therefore, the crown adorning the table corresponds to the crown of royalty.

Crown of Torah above other crowns

The Midrash asks, why was Moses instructed make a crown upon the Ark, whereas he was instructed to make a crown for the table and the altar? This, says the Midrash, teaches us that the crown of Torah is above the other crowns, and when a person merits to acquire the crown of Torah, it is as if he acquired all three crowns.

Crown of good name

In his commentary on Pirkei Avos, Rabbeinu Yonah explains that the crown of a good name is dependent on the crown of Torah. For a Jew can only be adorned with the crown of a good name if he studies the Torah and fulfills its commandments. This seems strange. Many gentiles and non-observant Jews have acquired a good name for themselves in the world for their contributions to humanity. So why does the Mishnah insinuate that one can only acquire a good name by studying and observing the Torah?

Three things world stands

However, we must realize that these three crowns further correspond to the three things upon which the world stands: Torah study, service of G'd, and doing acts of lovingkindness (see Pirkei Avos 1:2). Of course, the crown of Torah corresponds to Torah studies. The crown of kehunah, representing the Kohanim who performed the service in the Sanctuary, corresponds to the service of G'd. And the crown of royalty, with its wealth and greatness, represents the obligation of the well-to-do to care and look after their fellow beings, and as such corresponds to acts of lovingkindness.

Three parts of conduct

The commentaries, the Maharal (in his commentary on Pirkei Avos), the Vilna Gaon and the Maharsha (in their commentaries on Bava Kama 30a), explain that these three things that the world stands upon are connected to the three areas in which a person conducts himself. A person performs acts that: (1) connect him to G'd; (2) connect him with his fellow beings, and (3) relate to himself on a personal level.

Serve G'd

The primary medium how to connect with G'd is by serving Him. During the time of the Tabernacle, and subsequently in the Temple, the service of G'd was mainly through the offerings brought by the Kohanim on behalf of the Jewish people, as well as on behalf of individuals. Since the destruction of the Temple, the way we have the opportunity to serve G'd is through the medium of prayer.

Connect with fellow human beings

The second area of a person's conduct is in regards to one's interaction with other people. The Torah instructs how to be an honest, caring, and sensitive person who takes an interest in the welfare of everybody else, and goes out of his way to support the poor and needy.

Relate to oneself

The third area of a person's conduct is how he relates to himself on a personal level. Even if a person lives on his own, he must study Torah in order to understand the very meaning of life and its purpose. Obviously, the Torah at the same time guides and teaches how to relate to G'd, as well as to other human beings. This is why the Midrash teaches that when a person acquires the crown of Torah, it is considered as if he has acquired all three crowns. And this is why the Mishnah initially only mentions three crowns. For the crown of a good name is part and parcel of the crown of Torah. For the true crown of a good name is dependent and based upon the crown of Torah, and only then does it rise above all other crowns.

Good name of the Torah

In the world, one can achieve a good name, even if one only excels in one area of conduct, or even in one minute part of that area. But in order to acquire the good name of the Torah, one must excel in all three areas and know how to relate both to G'd, his fellow human beings and himself.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

Shalom. Michael Deverett

P.S. If you have any questions or enjoyed reading this e-mail, we would appreciate hearing from you. If you know of others who may be interested in receiving e-mails similar to this please let us know at michael@deverettlaw.com .


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