Parshat Terumah Vol.10 No.22 

Date of issue: 8 Adar 5761 -- March 3, 2001

This week’s issue has been sponsored by
Dr. and Mrs. Moshe Kranzler
in gratitude to Hashem for their wonderful children and grandchildren and in wishing a Yasher Koach to their grandson, Ilan Tokayer, for being such a persuasive Business Manager.

How to sponsor

This week's featured writers:

Rabbi Steven Prebor
Yehuda Goldin
Julian Taub
David Zeidel
Rabbi Howard Jachter
-*Purim and Pikuach Nefesh*
Food For Thought
-by *David Gertler and Avi-Gil Chaitovsky*

A Time to Build
by Rabbi Steven Prebor

Parshat Terumah begins with a list of the various materials that Bnai Yisrael should donate for the construction of the Mishkan. Immediately thereafter, the Torah provides a detailed list of the items that should be constructed and how they should be constructed. Included within this description is the list of materials needed for the construction of each item. One must wonder, then, why the Torah bothers to list of all of the materials in the introductory paragraph when they are all repeated later.

It appears that the original list of materials is supposed to teach us something about the significance of Bnai Yisrael’s involvement in the Mishkan’s construction. The very fact that in 25:2 the Torah says that donations will be accepted, Mei'eit Col Ish Asher Yidvenu Libo, “from every man whose heart moves him,” focusing on the altruistic attitude of the donors, seems to push us in that direction. What, then, is the primary lesson of this section of the Torah?

The Ramban, in his introduction to Parshat Terumah, may shed light on this issue when he comments that the goal of the Mishkan was to allow the power and revelation of the Har Sinai experience to continue to impact Bnai Yisrael. They could not take Har Sinai with them, but the Divine Presence apparent in the Mishkan would be a constant reminder to the people that Hashem was in their midst. The orderly encampment of the Shevatim around the Mishkan was supposed to mirror the encampment of Bnai Yisrael around Har Sinai during Matan Torah.

The problem with this plan was that, given the spectacular and earth-shattering nature of the Har Sinai experience, Matan Torah would be a very hard thing to replicate or even represent on any level. Any attempt would fall far short of the original experience. The Mishkan, however, had the potential to work if the focus of Giluy Shechina (Divine Revelation) shifted. At Har Sinai, Bnai Yisrael were, for the most part, passive. What happened at Matan Torah was so powerful that Bnai Yisrael could only sit back and be astounded. Afterwards, however, a different approach to revelation was expected. The overwhelming passivity-inducing events of Matan Torah would never again appear. Now Bnai Yisrael had to actively pursue a relationship with Hashem. In that sense, the Mishkan could indeed accomplish its goal of Giluy Shechina. It would not and could not do so in the same way that Matan Torah did. Now Bnai Yisrael needed to develop the ability to look for Hashem and assume their role as partners with Hashem in this endeavor.

Perhaps this is why Parshat Terumah starts with this list of materials that Bnai Yisrael donated. From the very beginning of the Mishkan campaign, Bnai Yisrael had to realize the task with which they were charged. Through their donation and manipulation of physical objects, they could help bring Hashem’s presence into their camp and, by extension, into the whole world. Being passive was no longer enough. Now Bnai Yisrael had to be proactive.

This idea is truly timeless. In every generation, we cannot simply wait for Hashem to reveal Himself in our lives. We have to work on the relationship, both individually and communally.

The Ark and All its Splendor
by Yehuda Goldin

In this week’s Parsha, the Torah shows us the importance of the Aron, as it is the first and most prominent holy article in the Mishkan. More Pesukim are devoted to the Aron than to any other holy article. The Midrash expounds on this and shows that just like the Torah came before everything else, so too in the building of the Mishkan, the Aron came before all of the other holy articles. The Aron’s prestige is clearly seen as we examine the Pesukim that describe it.

The Parsha concerning the Aron starts with the Pasuk, “And they shall make an Ark of Shittim wood; 2½ cubits shall be its length, 1½ cubits its breadth, and 1½ cubits its height” (25:10). Many Meforshim ask the following question: Why use the words, Ve'asu Aron, “and they shall make an ark,” instead of, Asei Aron, “make an ark.” The Torah uses the third-person plural version instead of the second-person singular version of the verb “make.” Why write this command in plural when the rest of the instructions, starting in the next Pasuk, "And you shall overlay it (Vetzipita) with pure gold” (25:11), are written in singular?

The Midrash quotes Rabbi Yehuda in the name of Rabbi Shalom who says that when the Torah writes Ve'asu in plural, it is coming to teach that all of Bnai Yisrael were instructed to occupy themselves with the Aron to qualify for receiving the Torah. Ramban infers from Rabbi Yehuda’s statement that all of Bnai Yisrael should participate in the building of the Mishkan because of its sacred role in housing the broken Luchot. However, if one was unable to directly help build the Mishkan, one should donate money to the Mishkan, help Betzalel, or think about the construction of the Mishkan.

The Ohr Hachaim gives a more elaborate explanation of every Jew’s involvement with the Mishkan. He mentions the concept of labor division in all that was necessary to fulfill the Torah’s words. Each person has a part to play. “The change of the wording from third person plural to second person singular illustrates that the essence of the Torah can only be fulfilled by Bnai Yisrael as a whole. No single individual can perform all of the laws of the Torah. For instance, the Kohen does not perform a Pidyon Haben, a Yisrael or a Levi cannot bring Korbanot, etc. As a whole, however, Bnai Yisrael can keep the entire gamut of Jewish observances. For this reason, the Torah states ‘They shall make an Ark.’”

The Ibn Ezra gives a much simpler interpretation. He says that the Torah was simply continuing the wording used earlier: Ve'asu Li Mikdash, “They shall make Me a sanctuary” (25:8). Another explanation, given by the Baal Haturim, is that since the Luchot are housed in the Aron, one must build an ark for them. The physical Aron, into which the Luchot are placed, is symbolic of the internalization of Torah within each member of Bnai Yisrael. Why was the Aron the first item that we were commanded to construct? To teach us that a person should begin each day by learning Torah before he proceeds to his work.

One can see the importance of the Aron and its relevance to every Jew’s life. We were commanded to construct the Aron before we were instructed to construct anything else to teach us the very valuable lesson that we should begin the day by learning Torah. This is very important, as everyone should make a set time to partake in the study of Torah every day.

Doing Your Part
by Julian Taub

The Midrash HaGadol says that the Nesiim came to Moshe and said that only they should donate materials for building the Mishkan. Instead of asking Bnai Yisrael as a whole for money, giving money should be only for rich men. Moshe retorted that Hashem wanted all of Bnai Yisrael to give money, for it says in Parshat Terumah, “You shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him” (25:2).

The Nesiim’s question and Moshe’s answer highlight a crucial principle regarding Kedusha. The Mishkan, the central point of Kedushat Makom (holiness bound to a location), must be developed by the nation as a whole. Every person is important and irreplaceable. Nobody can hand over his spirituality to another. Bnai Yisrael as a whole must participate in the building of the Mishkan, making a location for Hashem to dwell. Even though we need people to lead us and be role models, they should only help us, and they should not do our jobs for us.

The first time one looks at the question of the Nesiim, it makes some sense. Shouldn’t the Mishkan, the most sacred place on earth, be built only by the best people? To this question Moshe answers, “No, ‘From every person whose heart moves him.’” The Torah does not only talk about one part of Bnai Yisrael. Every member of Am Yisrael, anyone “whose heart moves him,” who wants to accept the yoke of the Torah and to make his relationship with Hashem better is included.

Shittim Wood in the Mishkan
by David Zeidel

This week’s Parsha discusses Hashem’s command to Bnai Yisrael to build a Mishkan. This Mitzva was Hashem’s way of showing public forgiveness for Bnai Yisrael’s sin of the Golden Calf. Moshe had continuously begged Hashem to forgive Bnai Yisrael for this particular wrongdoing. Therefore, Hashem said that all the nations of the world will recognize that He has forgiven Bnai Yisrael by their construction of the Mishkan and His subsequent acceptance of their sacrifices.

In order to build the Mishkan, Bnai Yisrael needed the following fifteen materials (25:3-7): gold, silver, copper, turquoise-dyed wool, purple-dyed wool, scarlet wool, linen, goat hair, red-dyed ram skins, Tachash skins (the Tachash is a Kosher animal that lives in the desert), Shittim wood, oil to light the Menorah, spices or perfumes for the anointment oil, Shoham stones (precious stones), and filling stones.

Where did all of these materials come from? Many of these articles came from the Egyptians themselves. After hundreds of Egyptians died in the plagues, they were so happy that Bnai Yisrael were leaving that they gave them gold and silver. In addition, Bnai Yisrael already owned some of these items since they were shepherds. The most difficult item to explain, however, is the Shittim wood, as Shittim wood does not grow in the desert.

When Yaakov came down to Egypt (Vayigash 46:5-7) he brought Shittim wood with him because he saw through Ruach Hakodesh that Bnai Yisrael would need it build the Mishkan. This wood came from trees planted along the Shittim brook. Yaakov knew that people who drank from this brook, as the people of Sodom did, would become immoral. By bringing the wood to Egypt, he knew that he would lessen this power of immorality in his descendants, who would use the Shittim wood positively to build the Mishkan. We learn from Yaakov the importance of preserving for future generations.

Why did Hashem select the Shittim wood above other types of wood? Because it bears no fruit. Hashem wanted to show His nation that when they build houses, they should not use the wood of fruit trees since His own palace (the Mishkan) was constructed from the wood of a non-fruit bearing tree. In addition, Hashem saw that in the future, Bnai Yisrael would be seduced by girls of Moav in a place called Shittim. He therefore issued the Mitzva of building the Mishkan as an atonement for this sin.

Yalkut Me'am Loez learns that the word ùèéí can be seen as the following acrostic: Shin stands for Shalom, peace; Tet for Tova, good; Yud for Yeshua, salvation, and Mem for Mechila, forgiveness. Through the construction of the Mishkan, Hashem made peace with Bnai Yisrael: He gave them good, He granted them salvation from their enemies, and He forgave them for the sin of the Golden Calf.

Food for Thought
by David Gertler and Avi-Gil Chaitovsky

1) The words Daber El Bnai Yisrael (25:2) seem unnecessary. According to the Seforno, Moshe was only speaking to the Nesiim at the beginning of the Parsha. How does this fit with 25:2, which says Daber El Bnai Yisrael, “Speak to Bnai Yisrael”? Why doesn’t Hashem say Daber El Nesiyei Yisrael?
2) 25:15 states, Lo Yasuru Mimenu, “[the poles of the Aron] were never removed,” but in Bemidbar Sinai 4:6 the Torah says that before the Aron was moved, Visamu Badav, “the poles should be inserted.” How can this contradiction be resolved? (For extra fun, compare the comments of the Ibn Ezra to Shemot 25:15 and Bemidbar Sinai 4:6.)

If you have a response to these questions, please contact us at Responses may be published upon agreement of the provider.

Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Avi-Gil Chaitovsky, Dani Gross
Managing Editor: Moshe Glasser
Publication Editor & Webmaster: Daniel Wenger
Business Manager: Ilan Tokayer
Staff: Josh Dubin, Zev Feigenbaum, Shuky Gross, Michael Humphrey, Yair Manas, Uriel Schechter
Consultant: David Gertler
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Howard Jachter

Subscription information

Report an error

Back to the home page

This publication contains Torah matter and should be treated accordingly.