In this week's Sedra
the construction of and supplies for the Sanctuary and its contents are described in detail. "Terumah" means "contribution".
Before appreciating the depths of meaning contained in this concept of contribution, it is as well to form into perspective what the Mishkan (Sanctuary) was.
At this point in the Torah, Am Yisrael has left Mitzrayim (Egypt), crossed the Yam Suf (Red Sea) and received the Ten Commandments. Moshe has ascended Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights, once, twice, three times, and has now brought back the Torah. Am Yisrael has been forgiven on Yom Kippur for their sin with the Golden Calf and the Torah, prior to taking a chronology of the forty years wanderings in the desert prior to their entry into Eretz Yisrael, orders practical requirements for the building of a Mishkan where HaShem's presence will be specially revealed.
The Sanctuary was an elaborate Tent made of various complex fabrics with a sophisticated and difficult construction plan. Inside were housed the Luchos, the Two Tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. The Mishkan was also a place from which HaShem spoke to Moshe Rabbeinu.
Digressing for a moment one could question the need for somewhere to "house" HaShem. Of course G-d is everywhere and cannot be limited. But in terms of revelation just as one can receive increased sunlight with every window in a house (even though outside the light is uniform), the Mishkan was so constructed by the Divine Architect to reveal the greatest degree of G-dliness. Later this building was translated into the first and second Temples and will be rearticulated into the third with the coming of Moshiach. Now, this building process of the Mishkan, this physical place of revelation of the non-physical is instructive for deepening levels of reasons.
At a simple level, the building process of the Mishkan is used as a reference point in Halachah (Torah Law) to learn out the Laws of Shabbos. There are thirty-nine principal Laws of Shabbos and hundreds of sub-categories all learned from the fact that, activity to do with the Mishkan ceased on Shabbos.
At a second and deeper level, the actual fabrics and materials for the construction of the Mishkan together with the implements inside are all important for separate reasons. We will see that, fascinatingly, these materials and vessels all still function spiritually in the neshamah of every Jew.
The contributions which members of Am Yisrael were to bring, fall into three broad categories:
- Terumas HaMizbeach. Everyone was required to bring half a shekel (the then unit of currency) once per year. That half shekel was to be uniform whether the person was endowed with money or not. The half shekel was used to pay for the Korbanos brought in the Mishkan.
We will see separately that offerings of animals of course relate to atonement for the animal soul and the whole procedure of offerings should be viewed through this lens.
Meanwhile, the half shekel from everyone was an ongoing offering and will be so in the era of the Third Temple;
- Terumas HaAdonim. The second form of Terumah was known as Terumas Adonim. It was given once only. Again, payment was by half shekel exactly. These coins of silver were melted down to make the sockets for the skeleton poles of the Mishkan;
- Terumas HaMishkan. The third form of Terumah was known as Terumas HaMishkan. Also brought only once, this Terumah consisted of materials people brought for the construction of the Mishkan (e.g., wool, flax, gold, etc.) The quantity was individually decided with the wealthy bringing more, those of more modest means, less.
Now how is any of this relevant? Why learn all this? Why do we care whether the quantity of contribution was voluntary or not, fixed or open-ended? What has any of this to do with Jews living in a world of mobile phones, micro-sized fax machines and ever-present and multiplying computers?
As we have seen, the answer to this lies in the fact that the Torah is eternal, its relevance is absolute, and its absolute relevance applies not only to all Jewry but to every Jew in particular. In the week of Parshas Terumah, the Terumah is relevant to every Jew and in fact influences his whole week.
An often quoted posuk in Chassidus is: "Make Me a Sanctuary and I will live in them" (plural). In Hebrew singular and plural number agree and the phrase should read "Make Me a Sanctuary and I will live in it" (singular).
Since one Mishkan is referred to, why does the phrase say dwell amongst "them"? The "them" is the heart of each and every Jew. "Build Me a Mishkan and I will dwell in the heart of each and every single Jew."
How do you build a Mishkan in the heart of each and every single Jew? The Rebbe shows us the secret building plans. In awe, a Jew can view the structure he is able to create; a structure with which he can be whole, robust, fulfilled and happy. The critical step is then the doing.
Although these forms of Terumah no longer exist in the physical, they nevertheless must exist in the spiritual. Indeed they remain fundamentally important to each Jew's existence and they exist as spiritual contributions. The Terumos HaAdonim, explains the Rebbe, is that of Kabbalos Ol, (obedience). It is the role the Jew has in submitting to HaShem's will; the mission of reaching a level where a man does not see himself as having an existence independent from HaShem. Every Jewish neshamah has an association with HaShem which at its purest is, even from his point of view, a unity with HaShem. This level of association is obedience. Ultimately, a Jew keeps kosher not because he has any benefit from it, but because it is a mitzvah from HaShem; it is a commandment to obey. Although an aspect of observing a mitzvah is for the benefit of the person doing the observing, there are not many people who sit down to a kosher meal everyday because they believe they are being rewarded in the ordinary sense of "reward." They do so because they are obeying the will of HaShem.
This contribution is fixed in the heart of every Jew. A fixed and equal-for-all measure of contribution to our spiritual destiny.
The Terumas HaMishkan was voluntary and individual. Every neshamah has its descent into a physical body for a purpose. In order to fulfill that purpose it will be given a theater of happenings perfectly suited to fulfill that purpose. Each person, (although without the light of Chassidus, this is difficult to grasp in daily experience), is perfectly placed in ability and strength in an environment to totally realize his potential. Each neshamah has a different set of givens and a different set of tests and goals. Comparison of people is therefore mindlessly futile. As each person's givens are completely different, everyone is measured only against his own potential ability to achieve.
This is the point of this level of contribution. Every Jew brings what he can. A man who has a capacity to learn deeply and who can sit and learn four hours cannot be content with three. If a man is given the opportunity for five mitzvos on a certain day, he cannot congratulate himself as entirely successful with four. Similarly, a man with great spiritual resources (spiritual wealth) cannot donate as does a spiritual pauper. Man is continually retested according to his resources.
The contribution of Adonim, (which is the compulsory, obligatory, offering of obedience), manifests itself in the daily life of a Jew as he begins to pray. The essence of prayer is one's dialogue with HaShem born from the level of obedience present in every Jew.
The level of Terumas HaMishkan, the level of voluntary effort which is different in every single Jew, is brought according to each person's capacity, according to his spiritual currency in his spiritual bank account.
Ultimately the doing is the main thing. One must build a Mishkan and the Offerings must be brought to it. There are therefore steps to this building process:
Step 1, is accepting HaShem's Will as his own will. This in itself is a journey for most Jews. Most Jews in this generation have not been trained to do this as a matter of education. Therefore for most Jews accepting HaShem's will requires training. Ultimately, the closer one comes to doing so, the closer he comes to a level of peace, of harmony and happiness in his own life. To the extent that a person's will is different to that of HaShem, there is confusion and static. The apparent short-term benefits that may falsely glitter, sour and become a breeding ground for problems and anxieties. The first step requires building that level of obedience and acceptance of HaShem's Will as an absolute foundation.
Step 2 requires that foundation to be articulated into the awareness of every Jew's spiritual responsibility. Prayer is to be translated into action.
Step 3, is different for every person. It is the personal difference in level of learning Torah and performing mitzvos each man sincerely fulfilling his G-d given potential.
These foundations are the walls and the coverings of everyone's personal Mishkan reinforced daily by his contributions of acceptance of HaShem's will expressed through each Jew davening, learning Torah and performing mitzvos. Once the Mishkan stands steady a man is guaranteed that HaShem will dwell there flooding his life with purpose, satisfaction and joy.
The week of Parshas Terumah offers every Jew a light on the building plans. Consciousness of their existence can prompt the building program, the preparation for which is most obvious during this week.
- (Back to text) Shemos, Ch. 25ff.
- (Back to text) See Rashi on Vayikra, 1:1.
- (Back to text) See for example Sefer HaSichos 5751, Vol. II, p. 477.
- (Back to text) See Shabbos 72b.
- (Back to text) The following explanation is based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 162ff.
- (Back to text) See "Read This First".
- (Back to text) Shemos 25:8.