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Parashat Terumah


In our parashah, Am Yisrael is commanded a misvah which involves sacrifice: "They shall take for Me a donation." They were commanded to donate materials for the construction of the mishkan, and Hazal commend them for their response: "They were asked regarding the mishkan, and they responded." From where did they get the gold, silver, and dyes? From the Egyptians. And how did they get these treasures? After all, they were but downtrodden slaves in Egypt! Obviously, the Al-mighty provided for them. We are told that every member of Benei Yisrael had ninety camels carrying treasures. Now, six hundred thousand men, who owned a total of about fifty-million donkeys carrying riches, are asked to contribute to the construction of a single mishkan. So what is so flattering about their generosity? Hazal tell us that precious jewels fell from the heavens together with the mann. Each day, while they would collect tasty goods, they would also help themselves to diamonds! And yet, Hazal compliment so highly the tribal leaders who donated a handful of precious stones for the priestly garments. Should we be so surprised? What about us? The Creator has graced us with such good lives, Baruch Hashem, health and security, and yet, how many of us donate an hour a day for Torah study? A Torah class which is, after all, for our own benefit, to enhance our lives and increase our merit. Do we not take all our time for ourselves? Let us take this message and remember - an hour a day for the study of Torah!


Hazal write (Midrash in our parashah) that when Hashem instructed Moshe with regard to the mishkan he said, "Master of the World, can Benei Yisrael make it?" Hashem answered, "Even a single member of Yisrael can make it," as the pasuk states, "From he whose heart moves him..." What exactly was Moshe asking, and what was Hashem's answer? Moshe's question is easy to understand. After all, he was familiar with all the secrets of the Torah in all its intricacies and subtleties. Even the meaning behind the misvah of "parah adumah," which eluded Shelomo, the wisest of all men, was revealed to Moshe. Furthermore, the mishkan and all its accessories allude to many profound and deep concepts, to the very essence of creation. Hazal have taught us this in their usual, subtle manner: "Above - 'serafim' stand, and down below - sycamore wood stands." Every detail of the mishkan alludes to a heavenly being, and for further discussion of this topic one should read the commentary of the Malbim zs"l. However, the mishkan not only symbolizes the upper world, but affects it as well. It intensifies their impact and the blessing which flows forth from them. It is for good reason that we weep for the darkness which has befallen us in the aftermath of the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash and so desperately yearn for its rebuilding. On one hand, Moshe erected the mishkan, and yet the pasuk states, "...the mishkan was erected," implying that it stood by itself. The Zohar explains, "The mishkan which Moshe built in the desert to bring the shechinah down to this world - on that same day another mishkan was erected as its parallel in the heavens and illuminated all the worlds. The world was beautified, all the gates of light were opened, and there was no greater joy than the joy of that day" (Zohar, vol. 2, 143a).

We can therefore understand very well Moshe's question: "Master of the World, can Yisrael make it," can they really understand and have the proper intentions to illuminate all the worlds? And what was the answer? "Even a single member of Yisrael can make it." Each member of Benei Yisrael! But how can this be? We are totally unfamiliar with the hidden areas of the Torah! But this is precisely the power of the misvot. Do we really understand what is behind the concept of our tefillin, about which it is said, "The Name of Hashem is called upon you"? They are more sacred than the head-plate worn by the kohen gadol! Can we possibly comprehend the impact they have in the upper worlds or what light they shed on our souls? We have no idea, nor do we need to. It is like turning a switch to activate nuclear power. One who turns the switch does not need to know how the system operates. He didn't build it. He just has to do his job, and the rest will happen automatically.

If the punishment for the desecration of Shabbat is so severe, "...its violator shall surely die" - and we know that Hashem's attribute of reward far exceeds that of punishment, then we cannot even imagine how much light we shine on the upper worlds through our observance of Shabbat, by our very refraining from doing "melachah" in accordance with the Al-mighty's command. The impact is so strong that, we are told, if Benei Yisrael would observe just one Shabbat properly we would be redeemed! Mashiah would come, a Bet Hamikdash of fire would descend from the heavens, the Glory of Hashem would be revealed to the world, we would all become prophets, we would enjoy boundless wealth and prosperity - all the result of the observance of Shabbat! Now we can understand the comment of the Gaon of Vilna zs"l: "Each moment at which a person blocks his mouth [from speaking lashon hara or slander, or to be drawn into an argument] he merits the hidden light which no angel or creature can possible imagine!"

This is the power of a misvah and the refraining from sin. They bring about the illumination of the upper worlds and great reward, the merit of the hidden light. What is our share in all this, what do we have to do? We just have to observe the misvot and thereby merit this great treasure, worlds full of light.

What a great dividend from such relatively minimal effort! It is as if we are asked to turn the switch so that money would start pouring into our bank accounts! And this is a poor example, as all the wealth in the world cannot possibly equal the reward of even a single misvah! "A wise man will take misvot," he will collect two handfuls, and then more, and then even more.


Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Arranged by Rav Moshe Yossef shlit"a

One Who Recites a Blessing and Tastes - May He Speak?

One who recites any berachah may not interrupt until he tastes from the food for which he recited the berachah. Even if after one recites a berachah he hears the berachah of someone else, he may not recite, "amen," even if that berachah is the same berachah as he, himself, had recited. Answering even amen would constitute an interruption between the berachah and the eating. However, since there are opinions otherwise, if one did inadvertently recite amen before eating, he does not recite a new blessing, since we never recite a berachah when its requirement is in doubt.

The authorities are in dispute regarding one who tastes his food after the berachah but hears the berachah of another before he swallowed the food. On one hand, perhaps the enjoyment of his mouth should be the determining factor, and since his mouth did taste the food the berachah has been followed up by an action and thus the individual should be allowed to speak. On the other hand, one may argue that the enjoyment of his stomach determines, and since he has not swallowed, the berachah has not been carried out, so-to-speak, and therefore one may not speak until after he swallows.

Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, in Yabia Omer vol. 5 (16) rules that the enjoyment of one's stomach is the determining factor, and he demonstrates that this is the view of many rishonim, including the Rambam. Therefore we should have concluded one may not recite even amen before he swallows at least some of his food. However, one may still argue that the taste in one's mouth is to be considered the beginning stage of the enjoyment of one's stomach, and therefore the berachah has already taken effect when one tastes, even before he swallows. In fact, many aharonim write that this is the halachah. Furthermore, the author of "Tal Orot" testifies that the general custom is to speak as soon as one tastes the food. And nobody ever suggested that one who sucks a sucking candy may not speak until he finishes the entire candy. Rather, the assumption seems to be that the enjoyment in one's mouth is considered the beginning of the enjoyment of one's stomach and, therefore, as soon as one tastes he may, strictly speaking, talk.

Nevertheless, optimally one should certainly not engage in unnecessary talk until he swallows that for which he recited the berachah, since this is the ruling of the Shelah as well as many other aharonim. Only with regard to the recitation of amen or other necessary recitations do we permit speaking before swallowing.

The Mishnah Berurah adds that ideally one should not speak at all until he eats a complete "kezayit" (around 30 grams), but, strictly speaking, once one has swallowed even a little bit he may speak. In summary, one may not speak at all, even recite "amen," after reciting the berachah before he eats. Once he tastes the food, even if he did not swallow, optimally he should not speak except necessary speech such as the recitation of amen, since he already tasted.

Rabbi Misod Hakohen Hadaad zs"l

"In every generation they rise against us to destroy us, and the Al-mighty saves us from their hands," especially during the month of Adar, about which Hazal testified, "Its luck is powerful." Rabbi Moshe Hadaad zs"l tells that the mayor of his town had his heart set against the Jews. He imprisoned the sons of the respected Moshe Parinati on false accusations and demanded an enormous ransom. At that time Rabbi Misod Hakohen Hadaad zs"l, a representative of Yeshivat Bet-El, came to the town to raise funds for the maintenance of the yeshivah. Rabbi Moshe, who told this story, escorted him as he went to the homes of various wealthy members of the community. When they came into the Parinati home they encountered a severe, depressed aura. The family spoke about the current crisis and expressed their desire to achieve salvation through the merit of supporting Torah scholars in Eres Yisrael: "We have heard of the great rabbi that he works miracles. Please, will he beseech the Al-mighty that he save us from this crisis and remove this wicked mayor from our town." The man then broke out in tears.

The rabbi engaged in quiet thought and then said, "Let your heart rest assured in Hashem. In another three days the mayor will be gone." "Amen," answered the man emphatically. Three days later a telegram came from the capital that the mayor was to immediately appear in the capital city. The town was amazed by the miracle! So may Hashem help us defeat all our enemies, and may all the salvation which we have experienced, such as the miracle of Purim, bring us to the ultimate redemption - "In Nissan we will ultimately be redeemed"!


"They shall make for Me a sanctuary"

The Ramban zs"l, in his introduction to the book of Shemot, writes that the Exodus from Egypt itself did not free the nation, nor was it the complete redemption, as there is no difference between a slave of Pharaoh and a slave to his inclinations. However, "When they came to Har Sinai and constructed the mishkan, and the Al-mighty had His Shechinah reside among them, then they reached the level of their forefathers, and only then were they considered redeemed." This is true on both the individual and national levels: independence by itself does not mean freedom if it is not accompanied by a strive toward the level of the patriarchs!

"Everyone whose heart moves him"

The Bet Yosef zs"l explains that not everybody's donation was accepted for the building of the mishkan. Contributions were taken only from those whose hearts moved them, who gave willingly and fervently. How were they to know who gave willingly and who didn't? Those who gave without being pressured, who came by their own initiative and demanded from the collectors to take their donations, they were the ones who gave willingly. Indeed, this was the response of Benei Yisrael: "Everyone who had [wealth] with him brought," by their own initiative and their own spirit of giving.

"From every person"

The word, "ish" (person) in this pasuk seems superfluous. The pasuk could have simply written, "From everyone whose heart moves him." Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai (Zohar) explains, "From every person - one who overcomes his evil inclination, he is considered a person." The message is so powerful. One whose inclinations control him, who cannot suppress his desires, is an animal, not a person. A person is one who controls his instincts, who can withstand his inclinations, as the pasuk states, "You shall be strong - and be a person!"


The Marten

The marten is a small animal of prey from the mammal family. It has a long, extended body, short legs and a long, hairy tail. It feeds of mice and birds, but its main battles take place against snakes. Despite the fact that the marten is no bigger than a cat, it can fearlessly take on a cobra even though cobras can be as large as six feet. After it defeats the cobra with great zeal, which is one of this animal's defining characteristics, it sits quietly and eats the snake in its entirety, including its head and venom. Should the snake try to bite it the marten slips away with amazing haste and waits until the snake relaxes and lies down on the ground. The marten then once again approaches the snake, pounces on it, and digs its teeth into the snake's head, delivering the fatal blow.

From this animal we learn the important quality of zeal in the service of Hashem, in the performance of misvot and acts of kindness.

A person who acquires for himself this attribute merits the ability to fight against the evil inclination which is likened to a snake. The yesser hara tries to effect the person, and he, with his great zeal, can defeat the enemy.


The Repaid Debt (6)

Flashback: The young Naftali, who, during a game, injured the officer who was riding in his carriage, was sent to the capital city to stand trial. On the way, he and the guard got lost during a torrential rainstorm. They came upon a small village and were staying with a local Jew. After the meal, the host urged the guard to put the chains back on the prisoner.

Naftali could not believe his ears, but the host repeated, "An accusation of treason is no small matter." The guard enthusiastically agreed, and soon enough the chains snapped and locked around the boy's hands. Naftali looked at the host with obvious disappointment and noticed the wink of his eye which was obviously intended for him as the guard was busy with the chains. He felt calm. He still did not understand what the host had in mind, if he was afraid that he would escape, that he himself would be accused of helping the boy, or if he was planning to save him. He did not understand, and he was outright exhausted. His fatigue clouded his thought process. In any event, the wink confirmed that the man is not mean-spirited, and he is sensitive and feels the boy's suffering. This alone was enough to comfort him. "It is late," said the host, "and tomorrow you two have a long road ahead of you. You should take advantage of all daylight hours tomorrow. I will make your beds so that you can rest after such a difficult journey." The beds were wooden boards with cloths spread out to soften the hard surface. But this did not disturb the weary guests one bit. Just as the final words of "keriat shema al hamitah" were on his lips, Naftali fell into a deep sleep.

When he opened is eyes, his entire body ached. The room was cold and the wind knocked against the windows. The host sat by the table and learned by candlelight. Did he not go to sleep or did he wake up early? His voice was quiet and serene. Naftali paid close attention - he remembered the "sugya" very well...

to be continued...


Who Can Build the Bet Hamikdash?

There is a well-known story of the Ar"i who, while walking with his students to the field to greet Shabbat, asked if they would go with him to Yerushalayim. They were a bit hesitant and asked if they could go ask their wives and tell them that they are leaving. He responded, "Too bad, there was a moment for great potential which has been lost. If only you would have agreed to come immediately, the redemption would have come!" They would have been spared the devastation of the Chmielnicki uprising, two world wars, all the rivers of blood, the terrible pain and suffering, the widows and orphans, the anguish and despair. But the chance was gone. But, what can be done? The students didn't know. Imagine if they would have known and would have missed the opportunity out of pure apathy. How harshly would we have condemned them!

Truth be told, there are many such people around today. The Gemara states, "The school-children are not disrupted [from their studies] even for the building of the Bet Hamikdash" (Shabbat 119b). A youngster educated with Torah education builds the Bet Hamikdash in his heart, he constructs his inner, spiritual world, and one is forbidden to interrupt him, even for the sake of the Bet Hamikdash, the place of residence for the Shechinah. Why? Because the establishment of the Shechinah in the youngster's heart and his identification with our ancestral heritage are far more important for us. What shall be said, then, about parents who are deciding where to register their children for schooling, knowing full well that the child's future is at stake. He will either be educated along the ways of our belief or taught to scorn all that is sacred, Heaven forbid. With which crowd will he become friends, from which teachers will he learn, what curriculum will he study and in what type of environment. These parents stand at a crossroads: to build in the hearts of their precious children a golden link in our historic chain, to build within them a Bet Hamikdash, or, by contrast, to build a pub. What can be said about such parents who, because of insignificant concerns, or out of pure apathy, decide upon the second choice? What can they tell themselves? How will they explain this to themselves years down the road when they see the results of the education and they suddenly realize that this could have been avoided so easily, by having sent their children to Torah institutions! What can we say about them - they could have redeemed their children, but they missed their chance.

excerpts from
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit"a

Shabbat and love of Israel (part I)

Aaron: Therefore Deah is everything.

Mr.Goodfriend: It is this that makes one close to G-d. "If this he has, he has everything; if this he lacks, what does he have?" (Nedarim 41b). He has no Mikdash or Shabbat.

Aaron: Sir, hitherto you have stressed the Shabbat as a time for reflection on the Creation of the Universe and on the endless wisdom and kindliness of the Creator. But in the verses which you quoted, two kinds of signs (Ot) are mentioned: 1) "A sign between Me and you for all your generationsto know that I the L-rd make you holy, and 2) "A sign forever that six days the L-rd made the heavens and the earth."

Mr. Goodfriend: Well said. This brongs us to a great subject: The love of the people of Israel as one of the forms of the love of G-d. He who loves the nation of the Jews thereby approaches near to the Creator. The Shabbat is a sign whereby 1) the Creator reminds us of the Creation and 2) of His love for Israel, and we demonstrate by means of the 39 abstentions 1) that He is the Creator and 2) that He has elected Israel.

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