Parashat Teruma gold


Parashat Teruma

“Take for Me an offering from every man whose heart motivates him”

This week’s sedra starts with the commandment to give an offering.  It seems strange that the verse is worded “Take for me” and not “Give to me”.  This verse teaches us to perform the action of giving charity with zerizut (zeal) and not laziness.  If a person fulfils a commandment by rote, without any pure thoughts or happiness, it is worth nothing.  Similarly, when giving charity one must have good intentions.  There are many people who only give charity if they are cajoled to give, and even then it is with much reluctance.  They do not give charity for the sake of G-d.  This charity is worth very little.

That is why the verse says, “Take for Me an offering” – take for Me, for the sake of G-d, and do not flatter yourself with it.  Our actions should be for the sake of heaven alone.  The words ‘for Me’ also teach that when a person gives charity, it should be done quietly, with no-one but G-d knowing about it.

It says ‘take’ rather than ‘give’ to show that a person should also cause others to give charity.  The gemara tells us that one who does this fulfils a greater commandment than one who gives himself.  Another reason is to teach that G-d reassures us that “If you give charity, you take Me to yourself.  When the poor man stands next to you, I stand next to you too.”  This is also why this section about charity follows the Giving of the Torah – to show that G-d’s spirit rests in a place where people learn Torah, and in a place of charity.  The Midrash teaches us that while the Temple stood, it saved us from exile.  Now that it has been destroyed, only charity can save us.

Later in the sedra, G-d asks the Jews to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle) so that his Shechina (Divine Presence) can reside with them.  This physical tabernacle is only a symbol, though, for the true resting place of the shechina – the heart of every Jew.  This is accomplished by devoting one’s heart to Torah and Avoda (G-d’s service).

The Midrash tells us that Moses heard three things from G-d which left him stricken with terror.  First, G-d told him to build the Mishkan.  Moses answered, “Can all of the gold, silver and wood in the world suffice for You, when You encompass of the universe?”  Answered G-d, “It is not as you think.  Build a mere twenty boards on the northern side, twenty on the southern side, and eight on the western side and I will rest there.”

The second time that he was taken aback was when G-d commanded him to bring sacrifices.  Moses said, “If I should bring all of the animals and birds in the world as sacrifices, would they suffice?”  G-d replied, “It is not as you think.  Bring Me just two sheep a day, one in the morning and one in the evening.”

The third time was when G-d told him that a person must redeem himself.  Moses was terrified, saying, “Can all the gold in the world redeem a person?”  Answered G-d, “It is not as you think.  Each person must give a mere half-shekel to redeem himself.”

The situation is analogous to a man with a daughter.  When she is still young the father speaks with her freely outside, but when she grows up, he becomes modest and speaks to her only in the home.  Similarly, when the Jews were in Egypt G-d appeared openly to them.  Later He spoke to them at the Red Sea.  But after they received the Torah on Sinai they became more esteemed.  G-d then said, “It is not proper to speak to them openly.”  He therefore commanded that a tabernacle be built from where He would speak to them.

The Mishkan and its components represents a microcosm of the universe.  It also reflects G-d’s heavenly tabernacle.  The structure of the Mishkan also suggests the human body, and its implements correspond to the various organs and parts of the body, in order to teach us that every Jew who sanctifies himself indeed becomes a dwelling place for the shechina.

Rashi comments that the altar in the Temple was covered with brass to atone for insolence (literally, brazen forehead), as the prophet Isaiah said, “And your brow is brass” (Isaiah 48:4).  Since insolence, (or chutzpah as it is more commonly called) is a very harmful attribute, someone who has this trait must endeavour to uproot it.  Rabbi Shalom Schwadron zt”l related the following story to illustrate its severity:

A student in the Chofetz Chayim’s yeshiva in Radin who was boarding at the home of a resident in Radin spoke insolently to his landlord.  The Chofetz Chayim asked the student to leave the yeshiva.  Shortly afterwards, a question arose about asking another student to leave because he was not learning with enough diligence.  In this instance, the Chofetz Chayim decided that the yeshiva should allow the student to remain and said that he would later be successful in his studies.  Someone asked the Chofetz Chayim why he had allowed the weak student to remain, yet he had expelled the other student who, his insolence notwithstanding, excelled in his studies.

The Chofetz Chayim replied, “In Ethics of the Fathers we read, ‘The brazen-faced [one] is headed for Gehennom (Hell), and the shame-faced [one] is headed for Gan Eden (Paradise).’  It is not stated that the brazen have already committed wicked deeds, for if so, these deeds would be the cause of his heading for Gehennom, rather than his insolence.  The Mishna thus teaches us that a brazen-faced person will ultimately do things that will lead him to Gehennom.  That is why I felt it necessary to ask the student to leave.” 


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