• Dvar for Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

    When describing the material and process of creating the mishkan (tabernacle), G-d instructs us to “make the planks of acacia wood, upright” (26:15). Why does G-d specify the type of wood to use, and what does the term “upright” add?

    While the Gemara (Sukkah 45) explains that planks of the acacia tree will last forever, the Ktav Sofer adds a deeper understanding of the particular species used. The acacia tree does not bear fruit, nor is it a particularly tall or beautiful tree. The acacia’s best quality is its sturdiness and dependability, key ingredients for creating a home, upright. These qualities enable the acacia tree and the structures created with its wood to endure the test of time. What has staying power in our lives is not the flash or grandeur, but stability and reliability.

  • Dvar for Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

    Parshat Terumah begins the detailed account of how the Jews were to construct the Mishkan, the temporary structure that was to house G-d’s presence throughout their travels. The details span five Parshiot (Torah readings), with only the story of the golden calf interrupting this narrative. In contrast to the story of creation, which only required 34 Pessukim (verses) to communicate, why would the Torah interrupt the many stories in Sefer Shemot (Exodus) dealing with the birth of a nation to convey such minute details about the construction of a temporary home for G-d’s presence?

    Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explains that what united the Jews as a people was their collective past as well as their struggle to be freed from slavery. However, once they were free, they were lost because they lacked a common goal, which led them to bicker, complain, and even build a golden calf. What solved all this was asking everyone to donate and to give together. The project doesn’t have to be prominent or even permanent, but the fact that people were able to give generously and as one brought them together and generated harmony.

    Amazingly, working together and allowing for individual contributions were more effective in uniting people than the earlier grand miracles. While the Mishkan did not last forever, the lesson it taught us did: Encouraging individual contributions enhances the group even more than it enhances the individual.

  • Dvar for Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

    This week’s Parsha, Terumah, details the intricate instructions of building the Mishkan, a sanctuary for G-d, complete with utensils used for His service. Of all the items, however, only two were to be sculpted of one piece of gold: The Keruvim (the golden angels that rest on top of the ark cover), and the Menorah (the candelabra to be lit daily, with its six branches), complete with upside down goblets, knobs and flowers along its many stems (25:31-37). What was so special about the Menorah that required it be made of one piece of gold, when even the Ark itself didn’t have that same requirement (25:10-11)?

    Rabbi Israel Greenberg suggests that the branches represent different segments of the Jewish nation, and the ornaments on each stem represent diverse approaches of understanding the Torah, and that all people and all approaches contribute to a single goal of illuminating the world. Moreover, the upside down goblets represent not receiving liquid, but supporting the flame of our Torah. The knobs resembled apples, representing the sweetness found from within, and the flowers symbolize the novel insights that we discover hidden within the Torah text. All these factors represent all that the Torah has to offer, but only when they function as one unit, one segment of people inspiring another, and one form of study celebrating the other. We are all different, and those differences make each of us unique and golden, if we act as a cohesive group of people.

  • Dvar for Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

    Parshat Terumah is the beginning of the building of the Mishkan, where G-d would dwell among the Jews as they traveled in the desert. To build the Mishkan materials had to be collected, and G-d commanded the Jews to collect several types. After listing the need for metals, wools, hairs, skins, and wood, the Torah tells us that they collected “oil for illumination” and “spices for the anointment oil and incense”. Why does the Torah suddenly need to tell us what the materials were to be used for, when it hadn’t discussed it thus far?

    One possible answer is that there are two differences between the characteristics of the other materials and those of the oil and spices. Firstly, while the other materials were important, they required little effort to produce, while the oil and spices had to be manufactured and maintained. Those people that didn’t have the precious stones to donate to the building of the Mishkan still had the opportunity to contribute with their efforts instead. Secondly, both the oil and the spices are of the most ‘giving’ materials used in the Mishkan; The oil was used to light the Menorah, which gives off light to everything around it, and the spices give off a beautiful smell to its surroundings. The message it clear…The most beautiful and giving things in life are those that require our active effort. Spices smell and oil illuminates because someone took the time and effort to make them. The same can be said today…Being a good person and a good Jew is beautiful and rewarding to ourselves and to others, but only because we take the time and effort to understand and cultivate it.

  • Dvar for Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

    The Aron (Tabernacle) contained the most precious gift the Jews got: the Tablets handed from G-d to Moshe. The receptacle had to be worthy of the insert, and therefore the Aron had to be intricately constructed with symbolism as meticulously configured as its beautiful  design. The Aron consisted of three contiguous boxes of gold, wood, and gold, each inserted into the other, and gold plated wooden staves with which to carry the Aron. The Torah goes on to state that “The staves shall remain in the ark; they shall not be removed” (Exodus 25:14). Rabbi Kamenetzky asked that if this is meant as a prohibition for anyone to remove the staves, why didn’t the Torah just command us not to remove them, instead of telling us that they won’t be removed?

    Rabbi Kamenetzky answers that perhaps the Torah is making a powerful prophecy in addition to a powerful regulation. The wooden staves represent the customs and the small nuances of the Torah (wood being the only element of the Tabernacle that was living and growing). They may not be as holy as the ark, but they will never leave its side. When the cherished handles of those staves are invoked into use, the entire Torah is raised with them. As the Torah is clearly demonstrating, the Torah is moved by the little actions that we do, the inconspicuous little  actions that impress no one, but mean the world to G-d.

  • Dvar for Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

    Parshat Terumah is the beginning of the building of the Mishkan, where G-d would dwell among the Jews as they traveled in the desert. To build the Mishkan materials had to be collected, and G-d commanded the Jews to collect several types. After listing the need for metals, wools, hairs, skins, and wood, the Torah tells us that they collected “oil for illumination” and “spices for the anointment oil and incense”. Why does the Torah suddenly need to tell us what the materials were to be used for, when it hadn’t discussed it thus far?

    One possible answer is that there are two differences between the characteristics of the other materials and those of the oil and spices. Firstly, while the other materials were important, they required no effort in producing, while the oil and spices had to be manufactured and maintained. Those people that didn’t have the precious stones to donate to the building of the Mishkan still had the opportunity to contribute with their efforts instead. Secondly, both the oil and the spices are of the most ‘giving’ materials used in the Mishkan; The oil was used to light the Menorah, which gives off light to everything around it, and the spices give off a beautiful smell to its surroundings. The message it clear…The most beautiful and giving things in life are those that require our active effort. Spices smell and oil illuminates because someone took the time and effort to make them. The same can be said today…Being a good person and a good Jew is beautiful and rewarding to ourselves and to others, but only because we take the time and effort to understand and cultivate it.

  • Dvar for Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

    Parshat Terumah is the beginning of the building of the Mishkan, where G-d would dwell among the Jews as they traveled in the desert. To build the Mishkan materials had to be collected, and G-d commanded the Jews to collect several types. After listing the need for metals, wools, hairs, skins, and wood, the Torah tells us that they collected “oil for illumination” and “spices for the anointment oil and incense”. Why does the Torah suddenly need to tell us what the materials were to be used for, when it hadn’t discussed it thus far?

    One possible answer is that there are two differences between the characteristics of the other materials and those of the oil and spices. Firstly, while the other materials were important, they required no effort in producing, while the oil and spices had to be manufactured and maintained. Those people that didn’t have the precious stones to donate to the building of the Mishkan still had the opportunity to contribute with their efforts instead. Secondly, both the oil and the spices are of the most ‘giving’ materials used in the Mishkan; The oil was used to light the Menorah, which gives off light to everything around it, and the spices give off a beautiful smell to its surroundings. The message it clear…The most beautiful and giving things in life are those that require our active effort. Spices smell and oil illuminates because someone took the time and effort to make them. The same can be said today…Being a good person and a good Jew is beautiful and rewarding to ourselves and to others, but only because we take the time and effort to understand and cultivate it.

  • Daily Aliya for Teruma, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The Tabernacle courtyard was to be 100 cubits (approx. 150 feet) by 50 cubits, and enclosed by mesh linen curtains. The entrance to the courtyard was to be on its eastern side, and the entrance was to be covered by a curtain woven of dyed wools and linen.

    So why do we need this Mishkan to begin with, if we’ve been able to communicate and serve G-d without it, both before it existed, and in our days? The answer is that even if one has been davening by heart for a long time, and knows the prayers well, there are still many benefits to getting a beautiful Siddur to use. It gives one a focus, enhances the service of G-d, is physically attractive and spiritually inspiring.

  • Daily Aliya for Teruma, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d then gave instructions for the construction of the Outdoor Altar. This altar was to be made of copper-plated acacia wood, and it was to have four “horns,” vertical projections, protruding from its uppermost corners. The altar, too, was equipped with rings and transportation poles.

    Food for thought: The Aron, Shulchan, Menora are presented in this Parsha. Then comes the structure of the Mishkan, and then the External Altar. No mention of the Internal Altar; that doesn’t come until T’tzaveh – after the garments of the Kohanim. The Washing Basin and its Stand don’t show up until the beginning of Ki Tisa. This is an unusual separation of different holy vessels. Why?

  • Daily Aliya for Teruma, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The Tabernacle’s sanctuary was to consist of two sections: the innermost chamber was the Holy of Holies, wherein the Ark was to be placed; and the outer chamber was the Holy Chamber, which housed the Menorah and the Table (as well as the Golden Altar which will be described in next week’s reading). Two curtains were to be woven of dyed wools and linen. One was to be placed between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Chamber, the other covered the eastern side of the Tabernacle—its entrance.

    Rashi says that Parochet has the connotation of a partition (as opposed to a curtain covering an entrance), similar, says Rashi, to the word Pargod, something that separates a king from his subjects. Maasei Choshev, explains Rashi, is highly skilled weaving which results in different designs on each of the two sides of the fabric. Two prime examples of the detailed artistry that went into this creation.

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