In This Issue:
Rabbi Sariel Malitzky
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
As “project Mishkan” was getting underway, the Jewish people began to contribute money along with the many crucial materials needed to build the Mishkan. The Torah lists the items that were to be collected: gold, silver, copper, turquoise, purple and scarlet wool, linen, goats’ hair, skins, wood, oil, spices, and the “Avnei Shoham and Avnei Miluim,” the stones for the eiphod and choshen.
At first glance, the order that the Torah lists these items in are rather simple. They seem to be placed in order of value. Obviously, gold being the most valuable is listed first, followed by silver and copper etc. However, a closer look at the Pasuk is quite revealing. The Ohr Hachaim (25:7) points out that the Avnei Shoham and Avnei Miluuim were the most expensive and valuable of all of the items that were donated for the building of the Mishkan. If so, why are they listed last, it would seem logical for them to be the first items listed?
The Ohr Hachaim offers an answer, which if understood and inculcated in our lives, can have a major impact in our everyday activities. The Gemara in Yoma (65A) writes that these precious stones were brought to the people by the clouds of glory. A Jew would wake up, open his door, and find these precious stones. No work went into acquiring these stones and a person did not have to save money, or even do a stitch of work to obtain these stones. This was not the case with any of the other items that were donated to the Mishkan. For those, one needed to work hard and toil to obtain the gold, silver, and copper. To bring the wool, skins, and wood for the Mishkan, much sweat and toil was required.
The Ohr HaChaim explains that the list is not in order of monetary value. The items instead are arranged according to what is most precious to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. While these stones might have more value in the Mishkan, in Hashem’s eyes, they pale in comparison. Hashem, more than anything else, is looking for our effort; the Avnei Shoham and Avnei Miluuim were effortless donations.
I believe that this answer can help explain another difficulty in this week’s Parashah. The Pasuk states “ViAsita Et HaKirashim LaMishkan Atzei Shitim Omdim” “You shall make the Beams of the Mishkan of shittim wood, standing erect” (26:15). Rashi notes that when describing every other item the Torah does so without the letter Hay before the word. The beam is the only item that is preceded by a Hay. Viasita Et HaKirashim. Rashi explains that Yaakov Avinu knew (presumably through Ruach Hakodesh, divine inspiration) that the Jewish people would be commanded to build a Mishkan in the desert. Therefore, he planted Shittim trees in Egypt, and before passing on, told his children to take these Shittim trees out of Egypt with them to enable Bnei Yisrael to have the Shittim wood for the beams of the Mishkan. Therefore, writes Rashi, the Hay is added to explain that it is these beams, namely the beams that Yaakov Avinu planted for his descendants to use in the Mishkan, that should be used to build the Mishkan.
Rav Shalom Schwadron, in his work on the Parashah, Lev Shalom, asks why was it necessary for Yaakov Avinu to have this prophecy, plant the trees, and have them taken out of Egypt? Why did not Hashem give them to the Jewish people through a miracle, just as he did with so many of the other items? What was so special about the beams?
Rav Shalom explains that the foundation of any edifice is the beams. This was true for the Mishkan as well. As we know, the Mishkan was symbolic of our capacity to achieve holiness in our relationship with Hashem. The foundation of the Mishkan needed to be built by human hands and the Jewish people needed to toil and sweat over the building of the Mishkan. The act of building the Mishkan, especially its foundation, would serve as a model for future generations as how to approach the pursuit of holiness in our relationship with Hashem. We, the Jewish people needed to build this tool of holiness by ourselves. We had lived a life with so much being served to us on a silver platter. Moving forward we need to learn how to build, how to achieve on our own.
This idea of Rav Shalom and the idea of the Ohr Hachaim go hand in hand. Hashem is looking for our actions. He is not looking for that which is most valuable or that which looks best. He is not interested in us taking short cuts in our Avodat Hashem, rather, he is looking for our hard work, our effort, and our sweat and tears.
This is true both in our relationship to Hashem, as well as in our relationship with man. Sometimes, we might be able to cover more ground in our learning by having others help us or by using shortcuts. We can learn from the Ohr Hachaim’s understanding of the order of the contributions, that this is incorrect. Hashem wants our efforts and our toil. Perhaps, this is why the Berachah we recite before learning Torah is not “Lilmod Torah”, to learn the Torah, but rather it is “Laasok Bidivrei Torah” to work or toil in the words of the Torah.
This is true in interpersonal relationships as well. It is nice to buy a parent, spouse, or a child an expensive gift. However, what is often most special in the eye of the receiver, is that which the person does for them. For some it is creativity and effort, while others are more touched by consistent care and sensitivity, all which shows the person how much they are loved.
Finally, we can learn from the message of Rav Shalom, that when we attempt to build Kedushah in our lives, that we do it ourselves. Some people go through their entire lives waiting for the other person or even Hashem to help them out. We each need to strive to build the foundations of our relationships and to enable the Kedushah, that please God we will obtain, to be most meaningful.
We, as humans, are constrained by boundaries. Therefore it is hard for us to understand Hashem’s ability to transcend all boundaries. The idea of Hashem transcending boundaries is very evident in the discussion of the Mishkan in this week’s Parashah. The Mishkan contained physical properties that could have been measured in length and weight. However, one of the ten miraculous conditions that applied there was that “the Aron took up no space.”
This idea is transferred to the sanctuary of man’s heart. The Torah states, “VeAsu Li Mikdash VeShachanti BeTocham,” “They shall make me a Mikdash and I shall dwell among them” (Shemot 25:8), The use of the plural “them” implies that Hashem’s presence is not in only the Mishkan but is also in man’s heart. Not only does man’s body need to be a container for holiness, he must also strive to make his material pursuits holy, just like the material substances of the Mishkan had a special holiness to them.
Other Chassidic sources interpret this Pasuk to mean that man’s physical pursuits are meant to make the world holy. Hashem created an incomplete world so that only through people can the world be perfected. Sefer Tehillim states, “Koach Maasav Higgid LeAmo,” “He has empowered His nation to carry on His works” (Tehillim 111:6). These thoughts reflect the idea of “They shall make me a Mikdash” and “VeChein Taasu,” “So shall you do” (Shemot 25:9). The Mishkan was made to serve as a medium for holiness so that man’s ordinary activities could illuminate the physical world with spirituality.
At the beginning of Parashat Terumah, Hashem informs Moshe about the Terumah that Bnei Yisrael must donate to Him. Hashem continues to tell Moshe about the types of Terumah that will be taken. The Pasuk states,” VeZot HaTerumah Asher Tikchu MeiItam Zahav VaChesef UnNechoshet...Avnei Shoham VeAvnei Miluim LaEiphod VeLachoshen” “This is the portion that you shall take from them: gold, silver, and copper…Shoham stones and stones for the settings for the Ephod and the breastplate” (Shemot 25:2,8).
The Ohr HaChaim interestingly asks why stones such as Shoham and Miluim, which are far greater in value than precious metals, appear after gold and silver when listed in the Pasuk.
He proposes an explanation based on the Gemara (Yoma 75b), that the Nesi’im, the individuals who donated the Shoham and Miluim stones, received these precious stones when the Man fell down every day.
Rav Pam wondered what the significance of the Nesi’im receiving these precious stones has on the order of the Pesukim. He answers that the Shoham and Miluim stones are mentioned last because it did not take the Nesi’im much effort to obtain the precious stones. On the other hand, the gold and silver that Bnei Yisrael donated was obtained in payment for the many decades of slave labor that they suffered. Therefore, since the effort to acquire gold and silver was much greater than the effort to collect Shoham and Miluim, the Torah mentions the gold and silver first.
From the placement in the Pesukim, the Torah teaches us an extremely valuable lesson. We must understand that the effort we dedicate to our goals is more important than the achievement of the goals. The Torah believes that effort is the essence. We should learn from the fact that Shoham and Miluim, despite their greater values, are placed after gold and silver that Hashem cares more for something that was performed with notable effort and dedication, not something that we receive or achieve with little effort.
In this week’s Parashah, Hashem commands Bnei Yisrael to make the Aron HaKodesh. The Pasuk states, “ViAsu Aron Atzeh Shitim…ViTzipitah Oto Zahav Tahor…” “And they shall make an Aron of Shitim wood… And you shall cover it with pure gold…” (25:10-11). What is the function of the wood interior? If it is necessary to have a core of wood, why is it crucial that it be entirely covered in gold?
The best way to understand the function of the wood interior is to examine the following analogy. When people donate money to a school, most people would rather donate to the building of the Beit Midrash, the shul, or the gymnasium. In a school, these are the places that stand out, that are noticeable and will make the donor appreciated and respected. Yet at the same time, for a school to function properly, someone has to donate money for the bathrooms too, even though they won't receive the same honor as they would have by funding the other more esteemed rooms.
The same is true with the Aron. To make the Aron, wood was needed to provide the sturdiness without which the Aron could not stably exist. It was therefore crucial that the wood be a part of the Aron even though it doesn’t necessarily shine and gleam the way gold does. At the same time, Hashem also requires that gold surround the wood of the Aron, adding to its beauty.
It is possible that Hashem is teaching us a very valuable lesson by showing the necessity of both gold and wood in the creation of the object onto which he will lay his Shechinah. We each have strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures; it is our faults, as well as our strengths, that make us human. Through his requirement of gold and wood, Hashem demonstrates his understanding that despite our best intentions and our desires to become the benefactor of the Beit Midrash, each person has his or her wood at their core. As such, Hashem not only realizes but endorses each person’s individual way of finding and serving Him.
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