Parshat Terumah 5776: Pure Motivation in “Taking” Hashem’s Portion

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Terumah is being sponsored by R’ Joel and Shelly Padowitz and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh on the occasion of the birthday of R’ Joel’s friend Gavriel ben Mordechai (Enoch) . To the Padowitz family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Terumah 5776: Pure Motivation in “Taking” Hashem’s Portion

by Moshe Burt

Parshat Terumah opens (Sefer Sh’mos, Perek 25, posukim 1-3):

Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the Children of Israel and they shall take to Me a portion, from every man whose heart will motivate him you shall take My portion. This is the portion you shall take from them: ….”

This author had a dear friend in Chutz L’Aretz who would constantly ask, “am I doing… for the right reason(s)?” This friend was not observant. While this author has not seen or spoken to this friend in some 25 years, the constant questioning of motivation remains embedded in mind.

Rashi writes (The Sapirstein Edition Torah with Rashi’s Commentary on Sefer Sh’mos, Perek 25, posuk 2, Pages 320-321):

“You shall take My portion” Our rabbis have said: There are three portions stated here [as indicated by the word Terumah – portion used three times in the two posukim, including Terumahti – My Portion]. One is the portion of a beka (half shekel) per head from which the sockets for the beams and pillars of the Mishkan were made. One is the portion of the Mizbeiyach — a beka per head placed into the boxes (from these three boxes the communal korbonot – offerings were purchased). And one was the portion for the Mishkan, the contribution of each individual who contributed the… items mentioned [Sefer Sh’mos, Perek 25, posukim3-7].

As this author understands Rashi, the two half shekels per head were mandatory for all, while the contributions for the various materials; cloths, skins, goats’ hairs, oils, anointing oils, spices and stones were as one’s heart was motivated and according to his ability, i.e. what he possessed.

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin writes, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (Parsha Terumah, page 201):

Your motivation is a major factor in the ultimate value of what you do.

There is an oft-repeated (on this blog)Torah Gems citing of the Ibn Ezra on Parsha Yithro regarding the appointment of a judicial system, and the application of that lesson to all of us:

“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)

The above citing of the Ibn Ezra would seem to apply to Parshat Terumah as well, and regarding the posukim cited above, as the point of Terumah seemingly goes beyond the construction of the Mishkan and the Mizbeiyach and beyond the Mishkan’s treasury and into all facets of the mundane. And this author would seem to get some additional mileage from again citing (as in Parshat Va’eira) this classic scene from the Burt Reynolds movie of the late 1970s, “The End.” Reynolds, swimming far from land, and afraid for his life, cries out:

“I could never make it…Help me make it, Lord, Please…., I’ll give you 50% of everything I make, that’s 50% Lord, I wanna point out nobody gives 50%, I’m talkin’ gross, Lord….”

And as he manages to make it close to land, he says:

“I think I’m gonna make it. You won’t regret this, Lord…. I’m gonna start donatin’ that 10% right away. I know I said 50%, Lord, but 10% to start….”

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin continues (Growth Through Torah”, Parsha Terumah, page 201):

Rashi (on Sefer Sh’mos, Perek 25, posuk 2) comments that the donations given for the Mishkan (tabernacle) should be given for the sake of the Almighty.

What is difference what a person’s intentions are when he does a good deed? Rabbi Yehuda Leib Chasman used to give this illustration. …A certain person delivers milk to people each morning. He wants to insure that every child in the community will be able to have wholesome milk for breakfast. He brings the milk to each person’s home early in the morning regardless of the weather.

What would you say about such a person? You would surely consider him an outstanding example of the most elevated levels of kindness. But what if you then heard that he gets paid a few pennies a bottle? He is no longer such a great, righteous person but a plain milk delivery man[? author]. When you do something with pure motivations, your action is elevated. Work on your thoughts to have positive motivations when you do positive acts.

This author questions the statement about the milk delivery man re: “he is no longer such a great, righteous person” reasoning that it seems apparent that one can be still “a great, righteous person” even when he diligently delivers milk daily, making absolutely sure that the bottles of milk are always full, fresh and never spoiled or sour, for those few pennies per bottle as that is his parnossa. One has plenty of opportunities to uplift and sanctify his parnossa, often via the seemingly small Eikev mitzvot, in ways often not apparent to the eyes of others.

In his Sefer “Majesty of Man”, Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz writes on Parshat Terumah citing The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 231):

…Elevate our physical actions to a spiritual plane by focusing on these actions as a means to the ultimate goal of Torah and mitzvot….

We need not live “dual lives” — spiritual in performing our religious obligations and secular in fulfilling our mundane needs. If we purify our intentions and aim for our ultimate goal of serving Hashem in everything we do, we can infuse the physical world with holiness and harmonize our entire lives into one grand… praise to the Creator.

This author’s former auto mechanic, an observant Jew and a Tzaddik back in Philadelphia, was one such example of a great, righteous person who seized opportunities to uplift and sanctify his parnossa. He always kept a few shop loaner cars available so that when people brought their vehicles in for major repairs, that they were able to borrow a loaner car, free of charge, for work so as to not be inconvenienced while the work on the vehicle was being completed. He also made his loaner cars available, again free of charge, to people when they came to Philadelphia from out of town. He was also a Shul president and active in communal affairs throughout his life.

This author can think of numerous other examples, here in Eretz Yisrael of righteous people giving as their heart motivates them. At the outset of the Gaza War of the summer of 2014, there were numerous successful efforts to provide soldiers at the front with small pieces of equipment which were not issued them by the military but would be indispensible to their ability to perform on the
battlefield. And there were large loving outpourings from many to see that the soldiers going into Gaza received pizza pies.

Who can forget how many of B’nei Yisrael recently opened their hearts and pockets after a murderous terror event to join with the Littman/Beigel families at the Simcha of the marriage of Sarah Techiya to Ariel Beigel. This short-list does not come even remotely close to even scratching the surface of motivation of the heart. It’s what sets us apart from the nations.

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.

The point here seems to be that our inner purity of intent, whether as individuals, as a government, as a nation must represent the sanctification of, and fulfillment of His Commandments.

To again cite comments of R’ Hirsch in the new Hirsch Chumash on Parshat Va’eira, indicative of what could have been Hashem’s monologue to Moshe upon Pharaoh’s initial refusal to free the Jews and his imposition of further hardship upon B’nei Yisrael (Sefer Sh’mos, Perek 6, posukim 1-3, pages 79-81):

“But this people is not to be like the other nations. Unlike the others, this people is to be founded solely upon Hashem and upon the fulfillment of His Will in moral freedom, and is to have an earthly hold and an earthly standing only from and for Hashem and this fulfillment.”

“Hence, this people must start where other peoples have stopped. It had to despair of itself; it had to lie prone, about to perish in its own blood (Yechezkel, Perek 16, posukim 5-6), and to rise to nationhood only through the Creator’s call, so that, by its very existence, the people would proclaim to the peoples of the world: “I am Hashem.”

May we, the B’nei 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 brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of 1 1/2 years ago. 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 Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — 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.

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