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by Daneal Weiner
May the zechus of this Rav Wolfson d’var Torah be merit for the refua shelaima of Tamar Tema bas Leah Devorah, family and friends.
“Vayikchu li teruma”- A let them take for Me a portion. ArtScroll explains that there is no direct English translation for teruma. It’s root is rom- elevate. It’s proper translation would be “a portion of one’s possessions set aside for a higher purpose.” To elevate the individual and teach him/her the real purpose of the wealth Hashem grants us.
The Midrash says, “ ‘Vayikchu li teruma’- This is what this verse is saying, ‘Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad.’ ” What is the relationship between these two verses?
A different Midrash similarly says, “Vayikchu li teruma: This is what this verse is saying (Malachi 1:2-3), ‘I loved you,’ says Hashem, but you say, ‘How have You loved us?’ ‘Was not Eisav the brother of Jacob,’ answers Hashem, ‘yet I loved Jacob and I hated Eisav.’ ” This Midarsh also requires analysis.
The Gemorah Shabbos tells how Hashem held Mt. Sinai over Israel like a barrel. At that time we took upon ourselves the yoke of Torah, per force. We again took upon ourselves the yoke of Torah in the days of Achashveirosh, this time out of love and with a desire for them. How do we know this? From the words of the Megilla, “kimu v’kiblu”- [the Jews] confirmed and undertook. Now Chazal expound on these words to mean, “We confirmed what we had undertaken already.” Tosofos asks on this Gemorah how it can expound on these words when the Gemorah Megilla already did that concluding, “kimu v’kiblu”- It was confirmed on high what was undertaken below”?
The Chasam Sofer draws on the book, Duties of the Heart to answer the Tosofos’ question. Hashem does not accept additional/voluntary service until a person has taken upon themselves what was expected of them first. The context of the verse in the Megilla in which we find kimu v’kiblu says, “The Jews confirmed and undertook for themselves, for all their descendants and for all converts to observe the days of Purim, without fail, in the manner prescribed, at it’s proper time.” We said last week that Haman’s complaint to the King (of kings) was that His people are sleeping in their observance of Mitsvos. Now they take on more mitsvos? The two Gemorahs are now a perfect match. Gemorah Shabbos testifies we confirmed with love all the mitsvos undertaken of Sinai and Gemorah Megilla testifies that Hashem was now willing to confirm the additional mitsvos of Purim we had undertaken.
We have a parallel in the parsha. The word teruma appears three times in the first three verses. Rashi says, based on Chazal, that one mention is a reference to the ½ shekel per person census which went to make the sockets of the base of the planks which made up the walls of the Mishkan- Tabernacle. One mention is a reference to the ½ shekel per person census which went to buy the public offerings. And the third mention is what the Torah is talking about here. The voluntary contribution of any one of the thirteen materials listed in the subsequent verses towards the building the Mishkan.
The Gur Aryeh explains the why all three references appear now when our parsha is only dealing with the one. Since our teruma is a voluntary contribution, how does it find favor in Hashem’s eyes when we have yet to fulfill what is expected of us? The Torah therefore testifies to the other two terumos. Just as those will be confirmed and undertaken, so too is this voluntary contribution confirmed and undertaken.
Parshas Teruma is read every year at the onset of Adar. Adar means Purim and we found a parallel between Teruma and Purim. The Baal Haturim makes a more direct connection. He says the letters of teruma can be re-arranged to spell “Torah [letter] mem.” Mem has the numeric equivalent of 40. Torah 40. This represents Torah in its entirety as it was learned by Moshe the 40 days and nights on Mt. Sinai. Teruma = Torah 40 = the kimu v’kiblu of Purim. Vayikchu li teruma = Vayikchu li Torah mem. Parshas Teruma says to us, as we found in Chazal, “We took upon ourselves the yoke of Torah in the days of Achashveirosh.”
If we stop to think about it, that is a lot of credit Chazal attribute to Achashveirosh. In the Purim addition to the Shmoneh Esray we praise Hashem for the miracles and for the salvation “in the days of Mordechai and Esther.” Wouldn’t it have been nice for Chazal to have eternalized, “Torah was again accepted by the Jews in the days of Mordechai and Esther” and not “in the days of Achashveirosh”? This answer requires a little legwork.
When Amaleik attacked Israel just after the Exodus, they attacked the Jews who were weak in merit, who were lacking in fear of Hashem and who found themselves outside of the protective shielding of the Clouds of Glory. Tradition tells us they were members of the tribe of Dan who came out of Egypt with an idol in their possession. What tremendous love Hashem must have for us. After the 10 plagues and the splitting of the sea some Jews still clung onto their idols and when those ungrateful sinners were attacked Hashem, Himself promised to take vengeance against Amaleik in every generation. We just have to ask, if Hashem loved even them so much, why expel them from the Clouds of Glory in the first place?
There’s no question that no Jew will be forever banished from Hashem. Every one of Israel will eventually make total expiation for all sins. It is regarding this concept that holy writings bring up the shoresh hane’elam- the hidden root, the pintille Yid, that innermost spark of sanctity at the source of every Jew which can never be extinguished. Everyone of us inherited it from our father Avraham who was the consummate believer in Hashem. The Chidushai Harim, the first Gerrer Rebbe, explained the opening blessing of the Shemonah Esray, Baruch Atah Hashem, Magen Avraham- Blessed are You Hashem, Shield of Avraham as saying that Hashem guards that spark of Avraham, hereditary to every Jew, so that no matter how steeped in sin, that spark will never be extinguished.
That spark not only survives it also drives the soul to greatness. It is the free choice of every individual Jew to define the criteria for greatness. Those who chose true greatness, i.e. spiritual aspirations, the spirituality comes and embraces them. Those who choose the ‘worlds’ definition of greatness- fortune, fame, honor- ironically, they take themselves out of the world. Rabbi Berel Wein told about a television interview with a descendant of Trotsky, who is living and learning Torah in Bnei Brak. The secular interviewer, no longer able to hold himself back, burst out with the question, “What would your grandfather say to this?” himself being stunned by his guests chosen path towards greatness. He replied, “You don’t understand. I come from a family of great believers. Some of us had just believed in the wrong things.”
It is no contradiction that even with how much Hashem loves each and every Jew, the ones who chose to cling to their idols had expelled themselves from the Clouds of Glory. The mistake of Amaleik was thinking that once they were banished they were banished for good. They were still descendants of Avraham. They still had their shoresh hane’elam.
Yirmiyahu prophesized the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple should Israel not change their ways. “From the North the evil will be released upon all the inhabitants of the land.” “I shall pronounce My judgements against [Israel] for all their evil, for they have forsaken Me and burned incense to gods of others and prostrated themselves to their handwork.” “Kodesh Yisrael l’Hashem- Israel is holy to Hashem, the first of His crops; all who devour it will be held guilty, evil will come upon them.” Even while Hashem warns of the devastating judgement heading their way he still s, “Kodesh Yisroel l’Hashem- Israel is holy to Hashem.” Kodesh Yisroel l’Hashem = 1001 = Baruch Atah Hashem, Magen Avraham = Shoresh hane’elam. The shoresh hane’elam inherited for Avraham, our father.
Rashi, in his commentary on Yirmiyahu, says on the words Kodesh Yisrael, “Like Teruma.” All nations make up Hashem’s crops but Israel, as the Yirmiyahu says, is the first of Hashem’s crop. Like teruma- a portion of Hashem’s produce set aside for a higher purpose. To elevate the world and to teach the nations the real purpose of the wealth Hashem grants us.
On the flip side, the Rabbeinu Bechayai says here, on ‘vayikchu li teruma’ that ‘teruma’ means ‘Israel.’ And ‘Vayikchu li’ doesn’t mean ‘Take for Me’ but ‘Take Me,’ k’v’yachul. [“k’v’yachul” is an expression we say when we say something about Hashem we really can’t say but say anyway in order to understand an idea we otherwise couldn’t understand. Understand? You don’t say?] Maybe the Rabbeinu Bechayai drew from this same Midrash which the Bair Yoseph asks on. The Midrash goes:
Hashem says, “Take Me.” Proverbs 4:2, “For I [Hashem] have given you a good acquisition, do not forsake My Torah.” [The Midrash then brings more verses further illustrating how invaluable the Torah is.] Hashem says to Israel, “I have sold you My Torah, I have sold you Myself with it, k’v’yachul." A parable to this: A king has an only daughter. He marries her off to a prince from a distant land who then asks permission to return home with his new wife. The king says to him, “I can’t separate from her. To ask you to leave her I can’t do either because she is your wife. Do me this favor. Where ever you go, prepare a room for me that I might live with you.” This is what Hashem said to Israel. “I gave you My Torah. I can’t separate from her. To ask you not to take her I can’t do either. Where ever you go, build for Me a house that I might live with you.” As it says in the verse, “Make for Me a Sanctuary.”
It’s a beautiful Midrash but the Bair Yoseph wants to know why it switched subjects mid stream. It opened with the Torah being a good acquisition and closed with a parable tied into the Mishkan? He answers that the parable impresses upon us that the only relationship between the king and the prince is the daughter. If the prince decides to move to a summer home in Boca and leaves the daughter in a villa in France, the king won’t be calling AAA for roadmaps of the Turnpike. The Midrash opens impressing upon us how invaluable Torah is so we will we take it with us where ever we go. And once we do that, we are guaranteed that Hashem will always dwell amongst us. Vayikchu li- Take Me, to dwell amongst you. Hashem and we are partners in Torah.
The Gemorah Megilla shows how Haman and Achashveirosh are partners in crime with the following analogy. One owns a field with a hole. One owns a field with a large mound. While happening across each other’s fields the hole owner asked, “Who will sell me this mound?” The mound owner asked, “Who will sell me this hole?” The two owners met each other and the one asked, “Sell me your mound so that I may fill up my hole.” He replied, “Come and take it and it’s yours for free.” Thusly did Achashveirosh give his ring to Haman. Partners in crime. 2 birds of a feather. Takes one to know one. Apples and…apples.
Now that a different Midrash says it was Haman who wanted not just to destroy the vineyard called Israel but to cut out its roots so there could be no more growth, we know it is expressing Achashveirosh’s feelings as well. This is alluded to in the letters Achashveirosh spelling Ach v’shoresh = brother and root. Our brotherhood/unity with Hashem is in our being rooted in Him. Our shoresh hane’elam. Haman made the claim, “There is a nation scattered and dispersed.” We lacked unity and disconnecting ourselves from Torah giving Haman and Achashveirosh the opportunity to begin proceedings towards the destruction of Israel, Heaven forbid.
What was the principle charge against Israel in the heavenly courts? That we had bowed to Nebuchadnetsar’s golden image of himself. The book of Daniel (3:6) records the threat, “Whoever does not fall and prostrate himself will be thrown instantly into a flaming kiln.” Chazal say we served it outwardly to keep from being killed. So too Hashem threatened to kill us outwardly but had not intended to go through with it. But halacha forbids even an outward service of idols and demands us to choose the flaming kiln? What Chazal are really saying is that our shoresh hane’elam did not sin. According to law we did deserve death and merited a miraculous salvation because of our shoresh hane’elam. We further merited the opportunity to accept the Torah out of love and with desire which showed that from the very start we were Ach v’shoresh with Hashem. Shortly thereafter we merited the rebuilding of the Temple.
We have another parallel in the parshas. After serving the golden calf we are threatened with destruction and are saved. We receive the Tablets a second time. Hashem again commands the teruma and we merit beginning the building of the Mishkan because it was only outwardly we served the calf and our shoresh hane’elam did not sin. A Midrash says that only Israel was commanded to bring the teruma and as an atonement for the calf and not the Eirev Rav- the mixed multitude. Only Israel has a shoresh hane’elam which opens a window to atonement and to reunite with Hashem. Teruma = 651 = va’ani tamid imach- And I am always with you (Tehillim 73). Even when our sins give rise to an Achashveirosh, still we remain Ach v’shoresh with Hashem and He waits for us to vayikchu li teruma. Most appropriate was it for Chazal to eternalize all this by saying, “We again took upon ourselves the yoke of Torah in the days of Achashveirosh.” And not “in the days of Mordechai and Esther.” Vayikchu li teruma = 821 = Achashveirosh.
When Amaleik engaged Israel in battle, “asher karcha” is how the Torah says it. Rashi says, “Like a person who jumps into a hot bath. They burn themselves but they cool the waters for everyone else.” After the miracles in Egypt and the splitting of the sea who dared mess with Israel. Amaleik cooled us off. Rashi bases his commentary on the word “karcha” which contains the root kar- cold. Contextually, karcha is the verb form of the word mikreh- happenstance. As if saying Amaleik happened upon Israel and engaged us in war. A strange expression for the Torah to use since Amaleik specifically journeyed 400 parsahs to attack Israel. The Torah is pointing us to the essence of Amaleik. They represent happenstance. The reject the idea of Divine providence. They seek to create doubt were only certainty should exist. Holy writings have pointed out that Amaleik = 240 = safek- doubt. Their essence is the antithesis of ours. We are believers, descendants of Avraham. They are doubters, descendants of Eisav. In the Megilla it says by Haman that he told his wife kol asher karuhu- all that happened to him. From here Chazal pick up that Haman was a descendant of Amaleik. Achashveirosh was his partner in crime. Achashveirosh = 821 = asher karcha. Who did Amaleik attack? The back of the camp. The tribe of Dan. “V’atah ayeif v’yagaya v’lo yareih elokim”- And you were tired and weary and did not fear G-d. Amaleik attacked the Jews who were banished and whom they thought were never to return. V’atah ayeif v’yagaya v’lo yareih elokim = 995 = shoresh hane’elam (shoresh spelled without the vav). Never say never.
Judaism taught us 3250 years before Einstein that time and space are relative. Just as the Torah describes a space/place as “the back of the camp” so too there is a parallel time which can be called the “the back of the camp.” Certainly we are in that time, the time of the footsteps of the Mashiach. A time when the greatest challenges facing Israel are challenges in belief. The majority of Israel is assimilated. Do they even believe in G-d? And those who believe in G-d do they believe in Divine providence? And those who believe in Divine providence do they believe in Torah from Sinai? And those who believe in Torah from Sinai do they believe it is still binding t? And those who believe it is still binding today do they believe it enough to act like it, that Torah and mitsvos are our sources of sustenance and security and not our handiwork? How much has Amaleik filled our heads with doubt. Vayavo Amaleik vayilachem im Yisrael bir’fidim- And Amaleik came and fought with Israel in Refidim = 1340 = Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad. The ultimate showdown. The forces of doubt vs. the forces of faith. [In the Torah the words Shema and Echad are written with oversized last letters. The Chasam Sofer writes that these letters carry the numeric equivalent of 4 times their normal value. It’s possible he bases this on the halacha for inscribing these oversized letters that they should be four times the regular size. (Meaning twice the height by twice the width.) It is using these quadrupled values that Shema Yisrael = 1340.]
Now we can understand the first Midrash, “Vayikchu li teruma- This is what this verse is saying,‘Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad.’” Whether the teruma is that which atones for the sin of the calf or the Torah 40 which we came to confirm and undertake, at the source of either is Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad, the verbalization of our Shoresh hane’elam. A spiritual gene altered till perfection by Avraham passing his 10 tests.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Hashem did a little engineering Himself. We have in our daily prayers, a couple verses from Nechemya, “You [Hashem] selected Avram, brought him out of Ur Casdim, visamtah shimo Avraham- and changed his name to Avraham. You found his heart to be faithful before You.” When Hashem promised Avram children he look into the stars and saw children were not possible. Hashem took him outside of the stars. He was going to be under Hashem’s direct providence. Hashem gave him the letter hey, the power to have children. That’s not all the hey did. Visamtah shimo Avraham = 1340 = Vayavo Amaleik vayilachem im Yisrael bir’fidim. The herditary vaccination to retard the disease.
The second Midrash which begged explanation was, “Vayikchu li teruma: This is what this verse is saying (Malachi 1:2-3), ‘I loved you,’ says Hashem, but you say, ‘How have You loved us?’ ‘Was not Eisav the brother of Jacob,’ answers Hashem, ‘yet I loved Jacob and I hated Eisav.’ ” Hashem was addressing our abundant measure of sin when He said, ‘Was not Eisav the brother of Jacob,’ as if to say, “I thought Eisav was a brother to Jacob and Jacob behaved entirely different. It seems I’ve got 2 Eisav’s.” Yet Hashem concludes, “I loved Jacob and I hated Eisav.” Hashem looks into the hearts of Israel and sees their shoresh hane’elam and knows however far we stray we say, “I am always with You.” ‘Vi’ahavti eschem,’ amar Hashem- ‘I loved you,’ says Hashem = 1146 = zeh korban Achi’ezer ben Amishadai- this is the offering of Achi’ezer ben Amishadai, one of the princes who brought his offering at the dedication of the Mishkan. His offering carries the atomic weight of “‘I loved you,’ says Hashem” because he is the prince of the tribe of Dan. Even though they carried idols, still Hashem loves them, how much more so the rest of us.
With all this we better can understand the axiom of our Sages, “One who enters in the month of Adar should increase their happiness.” Because during Adar we confirmed and undertook the Torah from Sinai out of love and with desire. Because we’re guaranteed to survive, out last and out shine our enemies by being ach v’shoresh with the One True G-d. We should be happy realizing the sanctity of our beliefs and that we are the teruma of Hashem, a special nation put aside for a higher purpose. Happy in being a leaf of the tree which is rooted in our father Avraham. The book Avodas Yisrael adds that this month is the time to increase our happiness, even in this long exile, because Megilas Esther is from the same root words as Migaleh haHester- to reveal that which is hidden.
May we reveal our shoresh hane’elam- our hidden roots and may Hashem reveal His annointed one.
We need to stay away from that which weakens our belief, like pride and anger. Pride causes one to trust their own handiwork which diminishes ones trust in Hashem. And Chazal say about one who gets angery it’s as if they worship idols. Everything comes from Hashem. And everything He does is for our good. So why are we getting angry with a messenger of good tidings? Getting angry smacks of a rejection of Who is running the world which is indeed tantamount to worshipping idols.
This is the time for us to work on strengthening our belief in Hashem and in ourselves. Hashem loves us. The Minchas Chinuch on this parsha, regarding the mitsva of building a sanctuary for Hashem, writes that all Hashem wants is to bestow His goodness upon us. We know free goodness is not as enjoyable as earned goodness. Every little mitsva we do, every extra effort we make to connect with Hashem makes it that much easier for Him to dish out the goodness.
Want to work on your faith in Hashem? Say your blessings with conscious, deliberate attention. Do a mitsva for someone that no one will know about but you and Hashem. If your aspirations are spiritual then spirituality embraces you. Talk to Hashem like He’s there in the room with you. (psst. He is.) Better yet, when you lie in bed at night talk to him like He’s a free psychiatrist.
I recently spent Shabbos with a group in Bnei Barak and we merited a private audience with the Kolover Rebbe. Only a small tuft of a beard hangs from his chin, enough of a triumph over the nazi’s, yemach shemam, who experimented on his skin so that no beard should grow at all. Once standing literally at death’s door he said to Hashem, “I can say one last Shema Yisrael now or, I promise you, I will make thousands more.” The Rebbe did not tell us the miracle by which he was saved. He did say he travels all over Israel, talks to secular audiences, introduces public schools kids to programs and he has taught thousands upon thousands of Israeli Jews to say, Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad.
The Rebbe asked us if we wanted to know the secret for success. He said at the end of every night we should make an accounting. We should ask ourselves two questions. What did we do well that day and what we would like to improve upon? And then we should say to Hashem, “Hashem, I would jump into a flaming kiln for you. Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad.”
The Kolover Rebbe then taught us a tune for Shema Yisrael. I’ve been taught a lot of tunes in my days. It takes me quite a number of times to hear it sung before a can follow the tune, let alone remember it. It’s been 6 weeks since the 4 or 5 times I heard the tune sang that Shabbos night and having just stopped to think about it I remember it like I’ve known it my whole life. It must be because it was a tune to the words Shema Yisrael, because it came from the Shema Yisrael Rebbe, and because it spoke to my shoresh hane’elam. Rav Wolfson taught us that the shoresh hane’elam never sins. The Shema Yisrael Rebbe just taught me that when you speak to it, it never forgets.
All you descendants of Avraham, you better believe you’re gonna have an ach v’shoresh Shema Yisrael Shabbat Shalom.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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