This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Parshat Terumah (5760)
This week's Torah section speaks of the building of the Tabernacle (Mishkan). This portable 'Bait HaMikdosh' would accompany the Jews in the desert for forty years, and was the forerunner of all the Mishkans (Nob, Shiloh etc) and Mikdoshes, (especially and most importantly the third Bait HaMikdosh), for the next three thousand-plus years.
The materials needed to build this Mishkan were donated by the Jewish people and hence the commandment to Moshe in the beginning of our section:
"Speak to Bnai Yisroel and they should TAKE FOR ME a Truma (donation)..."
Now, at first glance, the word 'TAKE' doesn't make sense, it should say "They should GIVE me a donation" because that is what HaShem really wanted; that everyone should GIVE toward building the Holy Mishkan, why does it say TAKE?
Also, 'FOR ME' seems extra; They were building the Mishkan, whom else would they be giving for, if not G-d?
The answer to the first question can be learned from the following story:
Once the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Laidi, was forced to collect money in order to ransom Jewish prisoners.
He went first to a city that was famous for its miser. It seems that this stingy man, despite his massive wealth, would give only one rusty penny to all charity collectors, regardless of how worthy or urgent the cause. He simply hated to give away his money and made all sorts of excuses to justify himself.
When the Rebbe arrived in the town, the elders of the community graciously received him, but when he announced that he wanted to visit the house of the miser and wanted two Rabbis to accompany him, he was met with serious resistance. The Rebbe was adamant, however, and they finally acquiesced and gave him the escort he requested.
The next afternoon the three of them were standing before the miser's mansion but before he knocked on the door, the Rebbe turned to his companions and requested them not to utter a word, no matter what they hear or see. Several moments later they were sitting in the luxurious front room and the owner was returning from his safe with a small velvet money pouch.
"Yes" said the rich man "A touching story indeed, widows and orphans in captivity, ahhh the suffering of the Jewish people, when will it all end. Here Rabbi, take my humble donation." But the miser was really thinking to himself; "A pack of thieves and liars those so-called rabbis. A penny is really too much for them", as he placed the rusty penny before the Rebbe.
But to his surprise the Rebbe seemed pleased, he was actually smiling at him warmly as he put the coin into his pocket and said: "Thank you Mister Solomons, may G-d bless and protect you always"
"It must be some trick," thought Solomons to himself.
But no! The Rebbe was writing him a receipt and adding all sorts of blessings in the most beautiful script!
"Thank you again my friend" Said the Rebbe as he stood and warmly shook the miser's hand looking him deeply in the eyes with admiration, "and now we must be on our way, we have a lot of collecting to do tonight"
The three Rabbis walked to the door, the Rebbe turned and bade his host yet another warm farewell as they stepped outside. "You should have thrown it back in his face" hissed one of the Rabbis after they heard the door close behind them.
"Don't turn around and don't say a word," whispered the Rebbe as they walked down the path to the front yard gate.
Suddenly they heard the door open behind them and heard the miser calling: " Rabbis, Rabbis, please come back for a minute. Hello hello, please, I must speak to you, Please… please come back in."
In a few minutes they were again sitting in the warm, plush dining room but this time the rich man was pacing back and forth restlessly. He stopped for an instant and turned to the Rebbe. "Exactly how much money do you need?"
"About five thousand Rubles" the Rebbe answered calmly.
"Well here is one thousand…I have decided to give one thousand rubles, you may count it if you want" said the miser as he took a tightly bound stack of bills from his jacket pocket and laid it on the table. The other Rabbis were astounded. They stared at the money and were even afraid to look up at the miser, lest he change his mind.
But the Rebbe, nonplussed, again shook Mr. Solomons hand, warmly thanking him, and wrote him a beautiful receipt replete with blessings and praises; EXACTLY like the first time.
"That was a miracle!" whispered one of them to the Rebbe as they left the house and were again walking toward the gate.
The Rebbe signaled him, as before, to be still, when suddenly the door of the house again opened behind them. "Rabbis, please I have changed my mind, please come in once more I want to speak with you" Mr. Solomons called out.
"Aha! I knew it!" exclaimed one of the Rabbis under his breath, "He wants his money back. Let's just keep walking"
"G-d forbid" Said the Rebbe "Exactly the opposite. Come let us return."
They entered the house for a third time as the 'miser' turned to them and said, "I have decided to give the entire sum needed for the ransom. Here it is, please count it to see that I have not made a mistake."
The Rebbe later turned to his astonished companions and explained. "I saw that this rich man really wanted to give but that he had a thin covering of selfishness over his heart that made him insensitive to the needs of others. I knew that the only way to break this 'shell' was to make him feel, just one time, what it means to give charity. You see he never had had that feeling even once in his life because everyone that he gave that rusty penny of his, threw it back in his face."
"This", concluded the Rebbe "is the meaning of the sentence in the beginning of Parshat Truma 'TAKE for me a donation'; by TAKING that penny from him I gave him his first taste of giving and opened his heart."
What about our second question; 'Why does it say "FOR ME"? The present Lubavitch Rebbe gives an explanation:
The reason that G-d says here "Take FOR ME Truma" is to teach each of us a very deep lesson: If you have the ability to TAKE (i.e. to convince others to give), don't make a mistake and think that the main thing is the results and therefore all means are justified to get that donation or to make the other person more observant. It is definitely not so.
Rather it is essential that even the MEANS must be holy. In other words, the one who is TAKING must purify himself and use only truth, love and honesty to obtain his goals.
This, in fact the entire purpose of the Tabernacle and the Bait HaMikdosh after it; to make every Jew, and eventually every creation, feel that everything must be 'TAKEN FOR HaShem', and that every minute of one's life should be a holy end in itself devoted to illuminating the world.
More than any detail in the Tabernacle, this is especially the job of the Menorah; to illuminate the world.
And it is the job of the Rebbe, The Moshiach, to transform every Jew into a bright Menorah
Now for an astounding and surprising fact:
The Lubavitch Rebbe gave a speech about this week's section eighteen years ago, proving beyond a doubt that the arms of the Menorah were straight and diagonal and NOT rounded as they are commonly pictured. He pointed out that this is the clear opinion of the greatest experts available; Rashi (Shmot 25:32) and Maimonides (Rambam on Mishna chapt 3 Menachos), and that NO ONE of their stature has ever disagreed with them.
In fact the only dissenting opinions came from those who mistakenly understood that the Rambam held otherwise because they had not seen the sketch that the he himself had made (in his explanation on the Mishna) depicting the Menorah with clearly STRAIGHT arms. (His son, Asher, in his explation on the Torah verified this sketch as his father's true opinion, and, therefore, his own as well).
To make matters worse, the only real source for the rounded version is a non-Jewish, and in fact, an anti-Jewish, source: the Roman engraving on their 'Gate of Victory'! Certainly no match for the opinions of Rashi and Rambam!
But for some unknown reason even the most religious Jews continue to depict rounded menorahs in their holy places and ignore the proofs of the Rebbe. As well as his other ingenious, Torah interpretations, always-exact prophesies and world-saving projects.
I would like to explain this phenomenon with another story:
Once there was a Chassid of the Baal Shem Tov that wanted to travel to Israel. But the Besh't (short for Baal Shem Tov) would not give his permission. Several months later the Chassid again asked, and then a few weeks after that and again a week later, until he felt that his longing, for the Holy Land was driving him insane. Every day he wrote once, and even twice, to the Besh't asking for permission, until finally the Master reluctantly gave him permission.
Elated, the Chassid bought boat tickets, and packed his bags; he couldn't wait… finally he would kiss the soil of Eretz Yisroel!!
Finally the day of his departure arrived. He woke early and before the Morning Prayer he went to immerse himself in the Mikva. He found himself alone in the small room where the Mikva was, and it was a perfect chance to really purify his thoughts for the big trip. He removed his clothes, entered the water, took a deep breath and put his head under the water. Something told him to open his eyes and as he did so he saw the most wondrous thing; it was as though he was looking from a ship at the distant shoreline of …Israel! He looked until he could no longer hold his breath, came out of the water, took another deep breath and submerged once more with open eyes. This time it was as though he was looking from dry land and he saw in the distance the Holy city of …Jerusalem! He couldn't believe his eyes! Once again he came up for air, and the next time under he saw that he was approaching the Holy Temple and entering the outer courtyard! The next time he saw that he was passing the Large Altar, then entering into the Holy inner room passing the small Incense Altar and approaching the curtain in front of … The Holy of Holies!! He emerged once more and was trembling with excitement! He was about to look into the Holy of Holies… to see the unseen! The Holy Ark containing the Ten Commandments! He filled his lungs with as much air as possible and slowly immersed, eyes open, filled with trepidation. There he was again, separated only by that thick curtain from the innermost chamber of the Holy Temple. He grabbed the curtain and carefully pulled it aside.
His eyes then beheld something that completely defied his wildest imagination; in the place of the Holy Ark, amidst a blinding light, was sitting …the Baal Shem Tov!!
The Chassid came out of the water, dried himself, dressed and headed straight back to the Baal Shem. He thought to himself, "If the Holy Ark is in Mezibus, why should I travel to Jerusalem?"
Similarly in our case, just like the Besh't, the Rebbe is the Holy of Holies, completely concealed from our understanding and therefore sometimes a bit difficult to accept. In other words, the Rebbe is TOO right. [I once heard a great admirer of the Rebbe (not a Chabad Chassid) say, "There are three reasons for ignoring the Rebbe; Ignorance (not knowing what he said), Jealousy, or both".]
And that is another reason that many people believe the Rebbe to be The Moshiach (see the essays in our website)
May we see the Moshiach and the revelation of the Bait HaMikdosh, NOW!!
Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.