Parashas Terumah 5781 – Sanctifying Worldly Matters

Our Parasha deals with the construction of the Mishkan [Tabernacle] and its vessels. Hashem orders Moshe: “Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell in them.” [Shemos 25:8]. If this commandment referred to the actual Mishkan that Moshe was building, it should have said; “Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell in IT” so why is it written “I may dwell in them” in plural? Additionally, why is the Tabernacle is referred as “Sanctuary” in our Verse, while in the entire Parasha it will be called Tabernacle? This infers that the Verse speaks about a different Tabernacle. The Zohar informs that indeed this Verse is not referring to the Tabernacle Moshe was building, but rather to the Tabernacle every man builds when he marries his mate. Hashem Guarantees that He will dwell among them. Indeed, a person is naturally selfish and the power of giving comes from Hashem. The drive to survive is a consequence of the fire with which every human was created. In Hebrew fire is שֵ א ,and naturally human cannot bond unless Hashem adds His Name ה”י .Adding the letter “Yud” to the word fire turns it into יש א ,Man, and adding the letter “Hei” turns it into ה ש א ,Woman. This teaches us that a man and a woman can only bond when the name of Hashem is present, but if it is removed the fire of quarrel will naturally prevail. This sheds light on the reason Hashem required a preparation for His Sanctuary among a couple. The same word is actually used when a man betroths a woman, the Torah uses the word “sanctifies” as a sanctuary is being prepared, one’s home is a Tabernacle. As there was the Arch in the Mishkan representing the Torah learning, and the Menorah representing the light of the Mitzva, and in between them was the Shulchan [Table] expressing the worldly needs, so too, in a Jewish home the man learns Thora, him and his wife practice Mitzvos, which brings celestial light to their home, and in the middle there is the Parnassa they need to support their family. Since the Shulchan represents the worldly needs, it is striking to find such a symbol in the Mishkan between the Aron and the Menorah, which are so holy and spiritual, it seems totally out of place. So why were we commanded to install it there? Resulting in the Shulchan being closer to the Holy of Holies than the Menorah which symbolizes the light and the salvation. It would have seemed logical to place the Menorah closer to the Holy Arch rather than the table, but Hashem instructed differently, why? To explain the reason of the setup, we have return to Parashas Yisro, where the first Verse states that he came to visit Moshe: “After hearing all the miracles Hashem did to Yisrael”. Rashi explains that Yisro has heard about the splitting of the sea and the victory versus the mightiest armies, Egypt and Amalek. Then, the Verse goes on to say, “Moshe recounted to his father-in-law [Yisro] All what Hashem did”. It seems redundant, since Yisro had already heard about the great miracles, which were the very reason of his coming, so what did Moshe recount to him? The Chasam Sofer elucidates that Moshe explained to Yisro, the fundamentals of Judaism; one does not only thank Hashem when everything goes well. Hashem is merciful and acts with us with constant love. The proof is that when Hashem revealed to Avraham that his children will be enslaved and abused, Avraham did not pray to Hashem to have mercy and to cancel this decree. As to become the jewel of Hashem we had to be purified and sanctified just like gold, therefore Hashem sent us to Egypt to merit to receive the Thora. He also decreed the famine at the time of Joseph, so that all the nations would come to Egypt to spend their money there purchasing food. All this money ended up by the Bnei Yisrael after the exodus as a payment for the years of bondage. This provide us the reason why the Shulchan was in such a Holy location. It represents one’s life journey; on the right he has the Torah, on the left the Mitzvos and in the center is his family’s life with all its needs. Thus, if despite the hardship life throws at him, one has full confidence and trust that Hashem only wants our best, Hashem will, in return, shower that person with blessings. To Hashem’s eyes there is nothing more valuable than to sanctify our lives by trusting Him totally, it is Holier than the Menorah. The sanctifying of worldly matters is extremely important and deserves to be placed next to the Holy of Holies. This is our prime purpose in this world! Here’s a story illustrating what happens when we let Hashem be in control: Though perhaps his name isn’t well known today, Rabbi Leib (Zalkind) Batlan was far from an obscure figure in his time. Rabbi of the city of Denenburg, he possessed a remarkable grasp of Torah and an impeccable memory, able to cite offhand any given place from the entire Babylonian Talmud as though he had just finished reviewing it. He was also a chassid of the first three Rebbes of Chabad. Rabbi Leib had a wealthy son, who was a contractor by trade and had earned his fortune supplying food and clothing to the Czar’s military. The government found his services useful as well, employing him for the occasional construction project. Our story begins when the son had just finished building a military installation in Denenburg. High-ranking generals arrived for an inspection and began scouring the entire facility for the smallest faults, also sniffing around for any misplacement of funds. They found nothing, expressed their approval, and departed. The son sighed, relieved it was over. But then, to his surprise, Czar Nicholas himself arrived for an inspection. The Czar appeared with a pompous detail of Russia’s most decorated generals. The son, along with the architects, showed the Czar around and described the ingenuity of the building’s layout. As the group was entering one of the wings of the building, the Czar stopped and pointed at a wall. “This wall is crooked,” he said, turning to look at the son. “It looks like it’s about to fall.” A terrifying silence ensued. Silent looks were thrown around, frantically trying to pinpoint the one responsible. But before anyone could reassure the Czar, a voice spoke up. “I don’t think the wall is crooked, Your Majesty.” The stunned group slowly swiveled their heads in the direction of the voice, unable to believe their ears. It was the Jew, who stood there white as a sheet, blinking sweat out of his eyes. The Czar’s features darkened. “Put this man in irons,” the Czar snapped at some soldiers loitering in the background. “Perhaps he’ll learn some manners while rotting in jail.” Handcuffed and head down, the son was promptly thrown into a dark cell. His father, Rabbi Leib, usually learned all week in the synagogue, which housed a local cheder he directed, and returned home only for Shabbat. When word of the son’s imprisonment reached his mother, she dropped whatever she was occupied with and rushed to the synagogue to inform her husband. He nodded, but seemed unbothered. Confident in G-d’s kindness, he encouraged his wife to return home and continue on as usual. The Czar had just left Denenburg when he abruptly stopped, a frown clouding his face. Amidst exchanges of curious glances from his entourage, the Czar sent a messenger back to Denenburg with an urgent order: inform the prison warden to immediately release the jailed contractor. Needless to say, the Czar’s word was soon implemented, and the son was released. No explanation was heard from the Czar, who continued his traveling as though nothing had happened. The strange occurrence kept his generals guessing and sparked furious debates for most of the journey, until someone finally had the courage to pipe up. “What would’ve happened, Your Majesty, if this Jew sat in jail for a few more days? After his defiance, this man is undeserving of your urgent attention. His release could’ve been achieved with a simple letter sent in a few days.” The Czar was silent for a few moments, evidently formulating a response. “Do you remember,” began the Czar, “the military parade in Petersburg a few years back? I had been curious to see whether loyalty was ingrained in our military. Whether their training had pushed the soldiers far enough. I visited each camp personally and requested from each general to have their soldiers demonstrate their unit’s capability. Most performed spectacularly, but there was one unit that was so poorly trained that I was sick to my stomach, so I had the general dragged away to a cell. And I forgot all about him. “One day, I visited some prison, hoping to learn more about the men housed there and their conditions. A warden showed me around some of the cells, informing me as we moved along of each prisoner’s backstory and crime. At random, I asked to walk inside a particular cell and came face to face with that same general. He was different now, his clothing ripped and foul and a beard adorning his face, but no doubt it was him. I asked him why he was here, and the general reminded me of his crime, bitterly adding that he had been locked up for over two years. Feeling rather contrite, I apologized and had him released.” The Czar regarded his generals with a puzzled look. “This general sat in jail for over two years, yet I never remembered him. Never recalled his face. The contractor from Denenburg, however, kept flashing in front of my eyes, and I couldn’t think of anything else. That is when I realized perhaps it’d be wise to let him go.”

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