Parsha Potpourri: Parshas Terumah

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V’asu li Mikdash v’shachanti b’socham (25:8)

In Shir HaShirim (3:11), Shlomo HaMelech refers to an event which occurred b’yom chasunaso ub’yom simchas libo – on the day of his wedding and on the day of his heart’s rejoicing. The Mishnah in Taanis (4:8) homiletically interprets “the wedding day” as referring to the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which represents the marriage between Hashem and the Jewish people, and “the day of the heart’s happiness” as a reference to the building of the Beis HaMikdash. Rav Shach explains the comparison by questioning how Shlomo could refer to the day of his heart’s gladness separately from his wedding day, implying that he didn’t rejoice at his own wedding. He answers that although Shlomo was certainly happy when he married, his joy was limited to the extent that he knew his bride and recognized her positive qualities. Many people get engaged after dating for a few short weeks or months and get married following an engagement of not much longer.

This may be a sufficient period of time to determine that one has found his life partner. However, this stage, due to its brevity and the unnatural relationship that exists, isn’t conducive to fully appreciating the greatness of one’s fianc? or forming a deep relationship based on mutual trust and understanding.

It is only through years of living together, raising a family, and jointly confronting life’s challenges that a person comes to a real awareness of the wonderful decision he made in choosing his spouse. While it is unlikely that any single event will ever bring the same joy that one felt at his wedding, Shlomo is hinting that the lasting period of deep inner happiness resulting from a genuine bond lies in the future.

Similarly, at Mount Sinai the Jewish people demonstrated great faith in their “Groom” (Hashem) by unanimously declaring (24:7) na’aseh v’nishma – we will do and we will listen. They committed themselves to doing His will without even knowing what it is and were rewarded by being selected as His chosen people for all time.

Nevertheless, there was a certain lacking in the closeness of the bond, as the bride hadn’t yet recognized the greatness of the Groom. It was only after the wedding, when Moshe taught them the mitzvos and they began performing them, that a deeper relationship began to develop.

The pinnacle of that closeness came when the bride built a magnificent dwelling place where she could come to draw near to her Groom. This allowed for a full recognition of her tremendous fortune in being selected as Hashem’s bride. As the Ramban writes in his introduction to Sefer Shemos, the Mishkan was the spiritual culmination of the Exodus from Egypt. The relationship which began centuries earlier with Avrohom and continued through the Exodus and the “marriage” at Mount Sinai was finally consummated with the event which brought true rejoicing to our hearts.

V’asisa shnayim Keruvim Zahav miksha ta’aseh osam mi’shnei k’tzos ha’kapores (25:18)

Hashem commanded Moshe to make two Cherubim on top of the Holy Ark in the Mishkan, one on each end. Rashi explains that they had the faces of small children. However, this imagery is difficult to reconcile with an earlier comment made by Rashi.

In Parshas Bereishis, after the sin of eating from the forbidden fruit, Hashem exiled Adam and Chava from the Garden of Eden. In order to ensure that they wouldn’t attempt reentry, the Torah relates (Bereishis 3:24) that Hashem placed Cherubim wielding fiery swords at the gate. Rashi explains that these Cherubim were angels of destruction. If so, how could Rashi simultaneously maintain that the Cherubim mentioned in our parsha had the appearance of infants, the paragons of innocence and purity?

The following amusing story will help us appreciate the answer to our question. One year on the first day of classes, an elementary Hebrew school teacher wanted to assess the background and skills of the children in her new class.

She began by asking, “Who knows the translation of ‘Baruch Atah Hashem’?” Every hand went up, and the student upon whom she called correctly answered, “Blessed are You, Hashem.” The teacher then asked, “Who knows the translation of ‘Shema Yisroel’?” Most of the hands went up again, and she called on a student who properly responded, “Hear, O Israel.”

Satisfied and impressed with their knowledge, the teacher asked one more question. “Who knows the translation of ‘Amen’?” This time, she was met with bewildered expressions. Only one hand went up. The teacher called on the student, who proudly declared, “I know that one. It’s easy! The translation of ‘Amen’ is ‘Cong’!”

After getting over her initial confusion, the teacher couldn’t help but chuckle to herself when she realized the student’s innocent mistake. The word “Cong” is short for “Congregation” and is often printed in the Siddur next to the word “Amen” to indicate that at this point the congregation should respond “Amen,” which led the student to erroneously assume that this was the translation of the word.

In light of this entertaining anecdote about the innocence of children, we can appreciate the answer given to our original question by Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein. Rav Epstein suggests that the resolution of the apparent contradiction about the appearance of the Cherubim lies in the fact that our parsha is discussing the Cherubim in the Mishkan, where they were placed on top of the Aron.

By attaching them to the Ark and the Torah scroll and Tablets contained therein, they remained wholesome cherubs resembling innocent babies, as was demonstrated by the story involving the na?ve schoolchild. However, the moment that we separate our children from the Torah, they immediately become sword-wielding forces of devastation, as any parent can testify all too well. Although the lesson is taught in a light-hearted manner, the underlying message about priorities in educating our children is one that we can all learn from.

V’asisa shnayim Keruvim Zahav miksha ta’aseh osam mi’shnei k’tzos ha’kapores (25:18)

Although the Torah specifies that the utensils used in the Mishkan are to be made from gold, the Mechilta rules that this isn’t an absolute requirement. Although this is the preferable way for them to be made, they may still be used if they are made from a different metal, with one exception. With respect to the Cherubim which rest on top of the Aron, the obligation to make them from gold is absolute. Should they be formed from any other material for any reason, they are invalid for use in the Mishkan. Why is the law regarding the Cherubim different than that regarding all of the other vessels?

Rav Meir Shapiro explains that the Cherubim symbolize Jewish children, as Rashi writes that they had the faces of young children. Their placement on top of the Ark represents their Torah education and upbringing. Should there be a time in the future when money is scarce and gold cannot be obtained due to financial constraints, Hashem is willing to overlook His honor with respect to the construction of the utensils used to serve Him. However, when it comes to teaching our children, who represent the future of the Jewish people, there can be no possible excuse for sacrificing the quality of their education and second-best is completely unacceptable.

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) Hashem commanded Moshe to collect donations for the Mishkan from every individual whose heart desired to contribute (25:1-2). Were women also permitted to give donations toward the building of the Mishkan? (Meshech Chochmah, Mishmeres Ariel)

2) Rashi writes (25:5) that the tachash was a beautiful, multi-colored animal which Hashem created at the time of the construction of the Mishkan and which then became extinct. How can this be reconciled with the verse in Koheles (1:9) which teaches that ein kol chadash tachas ha’shemesh – there is nothing new beneath the sun – which the Gemora in Sanhedrin (110a) understands to mean that Hashem doesn’t make new creations after the original six days of Creation? (Ayeles HaShachar)

3) The Gemora in Shavuos (15b) rules that the Temple may only be built (25:8) during the day. Is this merely a requirement regarding the preferable way to build it, or does it actually invalidate any portion which is built at night? (Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1, Tosefos Sukkah 41a, Minchas Chinuch 95:5, Mikdash Dovid 1:1, Kehillas Yaakov Shavuos 10, Ma’adanei Asher 5769)

4) The Aron was covered with gold on the inside and on the outside (25:11). Were the other vessels in the Mishkan similarly covered with gold on both sides, or only on the outside? (Paneiach Raza, Tosefos Chagigah 26b, Rabbeinu Bechaye 25:39, Abarbanel, Bechor Shor, Shiras Dovid 25:24)

© 2013 by Oizer Alport.