Parshat Terumah 5773: The Mishkan, Terumah and the Meaning of a “Crown of a Good Name”

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parsha HaShevua is being sponsored annonymously by an individual or organization called “The Jewish Heart.” Many thanks for your kindness.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt

by, Moshe Burt

Back in Philadelphia, in the “old country”, R’ Moshe Ungar would speak about the Mizbeiyach in terms of both the Beit HaMikdash and in terms of the personal Mizbeiyach which burns eternally in our hearts. And there is the well-known wish to a Chosson and Kallah that the fire of their personal Mizbeiyach burn eternally.

In our Parsha, we begin learning about the construction and the contents of the Mishkan (Tabernacle).

The Shem Mishmuel [Parsha Terumah, pg. 169-172) cites R’ Shimon who said;

These are the three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of Kehunah and the crown of Malchut. But the crown of a good name is greater than them all.

R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Daniel Haberman), discusses the symbolic significance of the Mishkan in his Sefer Sh’mos, pages 538-540:

The construction of the Tabernacle, which begins here in Sh’mos [in our parsha (author)], is followed by Torah Kohanim [in Parsha Tetzaveh (author)], the series of laws whose purpose is the sanctity of the Temple [Mishkan, Beit Hamikdash (author)] and the sanctification of life.

Hashem does not grace us with His Presence, protection, and blessings merely upon the scrupulous construction and upkeep of the sanctuary, but only upon the sanctification of our entire national and private lives and …dedication to the fulfillment of His Commandments.

Shem Mishmuel goes on to enumerate the four primary objects of the Beit HaMikdash; the Aron HaKodesh, the Shulchan and the Mizbeiyach which all had rims; and the Menorah, “which represents the good name attainable by every member of the Klal Yisrael” who is connected to pure Divine influence, which was without rims.

He then defines the loshen for crowns, for rims: zer — the decorative crowns on the sacred objects in the Mishkan which signify rising above human desires to a holier, more spiritual realm and related it to the nazir, one who dedicates his life to kedusha “by abstaining from wine and certain other things for a designated period.”

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (Parsha Terumah, pages 204-205) seems to equate “a good name” with living the Torah that you learn. He cites Sefer Shemos, Perek 25, posuk 11 in explaining:

“Cover [the aron] with a layer of pure gold on the inside and the outside and make a gold rim around its top.”

The Talmud (Yoma 72b) states that… a Torah scholar must be pure inside as well as outside to be considered a Talmid Chacham. That is, just as the aron which symbolized Torah knowledge had gold in both the inside and outside, so too a Torah scholar is not someone who just speaks wisdom on the outside, but he must also internalize his wisdom and live… it.

There have been many intellectuals throughout the ages who have espoused profound philosophical ideals. Tthey have expressed the most elevated thoughts of universal love for humanity. But in their own private lives they have been arrogant and cared only for their ideas but not for the people with whom they actually had to deal with on a daily basis…. To be considered a true Torah scholar…, one must practice the lofty ideals that he speaks about. This has held true for all of our revered Torah scholars both in ancient and modern times.

It is with these perspectives that our Parsha Terumah opens with Hashem instructing Moshe Rabbeinu, as rendered by Rebbetzin Shira Smiles, in her sefer “Torah Tapestries” on Sefer Shemos (Perek 25, posukim 2 and 8, page 105, Parshat Terumah):

“Speak to the Children of Israel and they shall take for Me a donation. From every man whose heart volunteers him you shall take My donation.” (Perek 25, posuk 2)

“…They shall make me a Sanctuary [Mishkan] and I will dwell among them.” (Perek 25, posuk 8 )

Rebbetzin Smiles writes, on the wording of posuk 2; “they shall take for Me a donation”:

…A giver actually receives more than he gives. By donating to the Mishkan (Tabernacle [Sanctuary]), the Jewish people were in effect “taking” because they would benefit personally from their donations.

Rebbetzin Smiles writes defining “five conceptual components” which constitute true Torah giving (“Torah Tapestries” on Sefer Shemos, pages 106-122, Parshat Terumah), however, this Parshat HaShevua will focus on only one of these components, after all, “From every man whose heart volunteers him” — that’s ratzon (desire): true giving seems to come from one’s heart.

Rebbetzin Smiles’ “Torah Tapestries” on Sefer Shemos, pages 108-109) cites Rabbi Yitzchak Kreiser (Sefer Ish LeRei’eihu, page 370) who notes that the Chasam Sofer writes:

…Ratzon is the only part of ourselves that we can truly give.

Rebbetzin Smiles then questions:

Why is the desire of one’s heart a critical component of the giving? Are the gold and silver of more reluctant givers worthless?

This verse [“From every man whose heart volunteers him you shall take My donation”] teaches us that our heart’s desire to give is the only thing which is ours to offer! Not just gold and silver, but the entire physical world belongs to Hashem. Offering Hashem material things is merely giving what is already His. True giving, therefore, is dedicating our heart’s desire and our will to Hashem..

This author makes no claims of being a Rav or a Talmud Chacham, but it does seem that a good name is a product of one’s intentions, our heart’s desire and fulfillment thereof (i.e. Terumot, honest business dealings, honesty and chessed — one toward his brother, etc.) — walking the walk — which may not necessarily be definitively ascertained by ones’ appearance and clothing, speech or outward actions. Thus, in keeping with Hashem’s message in our Parshat Terumah and the insights of R’ Hirsch, Shem Mishmuel, Rabbi Pliskin and Rebbetzin Smiles, here is a point which seems crucial both for communal spiritual and chessed leadership, as well as for the Am at large to recognize and heed.

R’ Hirsch renders translation followed by commentary in the new Hirsch Chumash on Sefer Sh’mos, Perek 22, posukim 21-23 (pages 470-473, Parshat Mishpatim) which seems symbolic of this spirit of sanctification of our national and private lives as well as dedication to fulfillment of His Commandments:

Posuk 21: “You shall not let any widow or orphan feel their dependent state.”

Posuk 22: “Woe [to you] if you, too, should let them feel their dependent state! For if they must cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.”

Posuk 23: “And then My anger will grow hot and I will let you die by the sword, and then your wives will become widows and your children orphans.”

Stand up for them and uphold their rights…

Woe unto you, if their only resort is to cry out to Me; for I will assuredly hear their cry; I will make the state and society pay dearly for it, if their weakest members must appeal to Me to find justice.

Does Hashem’s Will, as expressed in the above 3 posukim, not also extend to a moral obligation of one’s ratzon (desire) for the support, wellbeing and maintenance of health of divorced single parents and their children? Wouldn’t it seem to follow that numerous contemporary so-called national and local “leaders” of many stripes, sectors and levels of prestigious visability, as well as members of the legal profession (all of whom seem sooo assured of their own self-rectitude while charging clients on a “contingency” basis — read as “retainer”), as well as all of us — need to keep in mind the spiritual parallels and implications inherent in our intentions and how those intentions, ratzonot (desires) impact on the development of a good and pure name?

And finally, this point, repeated to all of us yet again, from Torah Gems citing of Ibn Ezra on Parsha Yithro, regarding the appointment of a judicial system, with consideration for and intellectualization of attaining the “crown of a good name”:

“The Torah did not mention ‘G’d-fearing men’ because only Hashem knows what is in man’s heart.” (Torah Gems, Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, Parsha Yithro, page 131)

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos! Chodesh Tov!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.