Parshas Terumah - Inviting Hashem into Our Lives

By Rabbi Yosef Tropper

Posted on 02/18/18

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1) Beis Hamikdash - Place of Connection

Ramban and other Rishonim talk about the mishkan and the amazing and beautiful ideas which can be learned from these parshiyos. Ramban explains that the mishkan is a place of connection with the Rebbono Shel Olam and we will learn how to connect with Hashem through learning these parshiyos.

Hidden Dwelling

Ramban writes his famous line (Shemos 25:1), “V’sod hamishkan,” the secret of the mishkan, “Hu sheyihiyeh hakavod”, is that the honor of G-d, “asher shachein al Har Sinai” which dwelled on Har Sinai, “shochein alav b’nistar”, dwells in the mishkan in a hidden manner. When Hashem revealed Himself at Sinai, that was an open revelation where Hashem opened up Shamayim, like the Ramban describes, like the pesukim describes: As you saw Hashem there. He spoke to the Jewish people and took away all doubts from their heart, and forever this nation will carry around the emunah in the Rebono Shel Olam who created the world, took us out of Egypt, gave us the Torah and the mitzvos, will give us reward and punishment.  

The mishkan is a place where the Jews, after they walk away from Sinai, they need to preserve what they learned and invite Hashem in hiding, in the hidden part of our lives, like the Chovos HaLevavos refers to the chochmas hamatzpune, the internal world, our subconscious, our thoughts, that’s where the Rebono Shel Olam dwells, and that’s what the mishkan is all about. Just as Hashem revealed Himself at Har Sinai to give the Torah, so too we ask Hashem to dwell with us, to live with us and to be part of our lives. Hashem dwells where he is invited in, b’chol makom asher azkir es Sh’mi, avo aleicha u’veirachticha. Hashem will come in wherever He is invited. Our job, as we learn through the parshiyos of the mishkan is to open our hearts and invite Hashem into our houses, into our lives.

Human Invite

Hashem gaves us the opportunity to invite him into our hearts and minds. The following is a fascinating story that shows how each one of us is really an embodiment of Godliness.

I would like to share with you a phenomenal story which I personally verified and received permission to print from the person involved, Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf, Executive Director of the Seymour J. Abrams Cheder Lubavitch Hebrew Day School of Chicago. It was 1989, and Rabbi Wolf was in need of funds for the day school. They had just launched a program whose mission was to provide Russian immigrants with a Jewish education, connecting them back to their roots that the iron curtain had tried to separate them from. Mr. Seymour J. Abrams, a renowned philanthropist, was CEO of Brickyard Bank of Chicago where the day school held an account.

One fateful day, a conversation took place that would forever link Mr. Abrams and the school. Rabbi Wolf was casually talking with Mr. Abrams who then wished to expand his extensive Judaic collection. At the time, Chabad was a powerful organization in Eastern Europe and Mr. Abrams was hoping to enlist their help in obtaining some Judaic items from Russia. He mentioned to the Rabbi that he very much wanted to get hold of some precious Judaic and old Sifrei Torah located there. The Rabbi had a brainstorm and promised him that he would have the Sifrei Torah in a few hours! Mr. Abrams was perplexed by this offer. How could this job be carried out so speedily?

Rabbi Wolf then left and returned shortly after. With him he brought two young Russian boys who had just arrived with their parents from the Soviet Union. “Here they are,” said the Rabbi. Mr. Abrams requested an explanation. Rabbi Wolf then passionately declared, “here are the Eastern European Sifrei Torah that you wanted, they are living Sifrei Torah!”

Mr. Abrams saw the children’s innocent faces and their deep desire to connect to their Jewish heritage. He was truly moved. With tears in his eyes, he expressed to the Rabbi how touched he was by the demonstration and asked to know how he could help them. Immediately, he paid a full scholarship for the two boys. The school’s relationship with Mr. Abrams grew steadily and in 1992 he generously sponsored the dedication of the entire school, which now bears his name. His philanthropy has continued ever since and we pray that Hashem grant him only health and success to continue his generosity. All of this began with the appreciation of how precious a Jewish soul is and how every person is a living Sefer Torah! (I sincerely thank Rabbi Wolf for sharing this truly touching and relevant story with me. It is a lesson for all of us. Also, thank you to Ari Kirshner for making the introduction.)    

2) Why Repeat Luchos?

Ramban (Shemos 25:21) has a question, when  describing the aron, it says that you should have the aron and put the luchos inside, and the aron is described as being this box. We know there was wood; there was gold. Then there’s the kapores which is the top part, and then the keruvim on top of that.  Ramban is a little bit confused about what the pasuk is saying over here. We already were told that inside the aron you should put the eidos, the luchos.  That was already said earlier so, why does the Torah repeat this exact say direction about the aron.

Rashi: Telling Us When

Rashi answers that it’s coming to teach us that: Only while the aron is standing there, without a kapores covering is when you should put the eidos there, and then afterwards you should put the kapores on top of that. Ramban rejects this because if this was a tzivui, then the pesukim don’t seem to be expressing that because it says the aron could be called an ‘aron’ even when the kapores is there, so I don’t see any indication that you’re supposed to put the luchos inside only now?

Ramban: What Creates the Eidus

Ramban rejects all this, and says: What’s going on here is that when it comes to the keruvim the Torah describes what they are. They’re angels that spread their wings out, but it doesn’t tell us at all what their purpose is, what are they about? Therefore, this pasuk is coming to teach us  a new idea, that you should put the kapores, which is the top part of the aron, and on top of that it has keruvim on it, and what is the point?  You should put it because that’s where Hashem will speak from. I will come and speak to Moshe there, and I will dwell my shechinah there and I will speak. Hashem says, “I will speak mibein shnei hakeruvim, from between the two keruvim. That’s the whole purpose. That’s what creates the aron as the eidus.  It’s the place where Hashem’s voice emanates. Just like we find by the merkava, the chariot of G-d where Yechezkal describes that he saw the keruvim, and that’s why Hashem is called “yoshev hakeruvim”, the one who dwells in the keruvim.

Place of Peace

Obviously these are sodos HaTorah, and this is all from the Ramban, but what I take from this is a very interesting idea which is: Why is Hashem’s voice emanating from the keruvim? We know that the keruvim reflected Hashem and the Jews. When the Jews were close to Hashem, they were hugging each other, they were facing one another. But when the Jews were distant from Hashem they were looking away. So Hashem dwells in a place of Shalom. Right?  “Ein kli machzik beracha l’Yisrael kimo shalom.” Hashem dwells in a place of Shalom. That’s what brings Hashem’s shechinah down, and that’s the lesson that we’re supposed to learn from the keruvim that Hashem says: This is where my voice emanates when there’s peace.  That’s where you hear it.

How to Initiate

My daughter Ahuva asked me a question, which I think is a beautiful question. Why is it that in Hebrew, when we say “Shalom aleichem", and the person who replies reverses the order.  They say, “Aleichem Shalom.”  What’s the difference?  If someone says, “Good morning,” you say back to them, “Good morning.” You don’t say “morning good.”  So, why do you reverse it?

I believe that the p’shat is, and I’m sure someone has said this before me that the word shalom means peace, but it’s also the name of Hashem.  Chosamo shel Hakadosh Baruch Hu is emes, and Chazal tell us in other places that Hashem is shalom as well, and so it’s Hashem’s name, and so the first person that’s offering “Hello”, a warm hello and sign of peace, they have the privilege that they have the first words that come out of their mouth could be Hashem’s name.  Why?  Because it says, “Bakeish shalom v’rodfeihu.”  And, there’s many beautiful midrashim on that.  It says, “Bakeish shalom v’rodfeihu,” you should always pursue peace even if the person that you’re trying to pursue is not interested.  Try.  There’s a tremendous zechus for a person to always try to make shalom. Therefore, the person who is trying to pursue the peace and trying to welcome the peace, he has a zechus that he gets to say Hashem’s name first. We show the chashivus of how great he is.  He gets to say, “Shalom”, Hashem's name, first, because one who is pursuing the peace, and actively putting himself forward to ask for peace, he gets the credit that he gets to say Hashem’s name first because he’s closest to Hashem.  The next person who’s responding, it’s beautiful that he is accepting, but he only gets to say Hashem’s name as the second word, aleichem shalom. In life we should always strive to be the ones to offer shalom first, to offer that peace first because that’s what Hashem wants from us.

3) Place for Blessing

“Zer zahav saviv.” (Shemos 25:24) The shulchan had a golden crown. Ramban brings down from Rashi that it’s a siman for malchus. The shulchan represents osheir and gedulah, wealth and honor.  Shulchan melachim that we always talk about, the table of the king, that’s a place where his honor is shown. Ramban states this is the sod of the shulchan that the beracha of Hashem only falls upon something that is present and available for it to fall upon. “Vayar Elokim es kol asher asah, v’hinei tov me’od,” there needs to be some root of item that’s there, and then the beracha can expand upon that. Just like Elisha said to the woman who was asking for a miracle and needed money: What’s in the house? The beracha fell upon her oil, but as  soon as she ran out of vessels, “ein kaili,” there was no more kli, and, therefore, it stopped. So, too the Shulchan is a place, the Ramban is saying al pi sod, that the bread is there.  We put it there, but there’s a beracha mitzuyah b’issah, that even a little tiny piece of the lechem hapanim filled the kohein up. There had to be something. Hashem always wants us to do some hishtadlus, put something there, but He’ll do the rest.  And, that’s why it stays hot the whole week as well.

Kli To Receive Ruchniyus

The Rebono Shel Olam is unlimited in His ability to give us.  Just like Elisha told the woman: Just keep pouring that oil.  Hashem is unlimited.  The oil will never stop.  But, if you run out of keli, you run out of a vessel, and you’re not able to receive it, that’s where it stops. This is how ruchniyus works as well. However much we are harcheiv pi, v’amaleihu, how much we open our mouth and say, “Rebono Shel Olam I want the ruchniyus,” that’s how much we’re going to get, and however much we say: Okay.  No more.  I can’t handle anymore.  I’m not pursuing anymore, that’s when Hashem stops.

4) Lechem Hapanim: Why This Name?

It’s a machlokes rishonim exactly what lechem hapanim means (Shemos 25:30). The pasuk calls the lechem panim. Ramban brings down a couple of interesting p’shatim which are always enlightening.  The first p’shat is Rashi, “Sheyeish lo panim roim l’kan u’l’kan.”  So, it has two sides or two faces and they go in different directions.  And, that’s what it means.

In Front of Hashem

Ramban brings down a p’shat according to Ibn Ezra, and he says they’re called lechem hapanim because they were in front of Hashem always. Their name means the bread that’s constantly in front of me. That’s what it means.

Bitachon in Quest for Parnassah

Ramban brings down al derech haemes, al pi, kabballah, the word l’fany means that because it’s places in the North, birchas Hashem hi t’ashir, Hashem’s blessing makes us grow wealthy.  We know that the tzafon, the north, always represents the place which is hidden.  The shechina is not there.  Mi’tzafon tipatach hara’ah.  The gemara tells us that evil comes from the North.  Why is that?  Because the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, and it stays mostly in the darom, south.  That’s why it’s called dar, darom, that’s where the great sun dwells, and tzafun means hidden. The North, tzafun, is the darkest area where the sun shines the least. Like we have in the haggaddah: tzafun, something that is hidden away, the afikomen.

The place of rah is the place of challenge where man happens, where man fights the milchamah of going out to earn parnassah, which is exactly what lechem hapanim is about, parnassah.  Hashem feeds us.  With that kli zayim, man fights his battle, the zayin is the zan and mefarneis, where he recognizes that Hashem is the one who is feeding you or will you fight the battle and get distracted by it. Lechem, bread that we fight for is from the word milchama, locheim, to fight.  It’s a battle, and in that tzafun, that north where it’s located you have an opportunity to either connect to Hashem very deeply or, chas v’shalom, to be distracted and think that “kochi v’otzem yadi asah li es hachayil hazeh”.  

Lechem hapanim l’fany tamid hints to the ability to recognize that it’s in the area where I’m going to be fighting for parnassah, and I’m going to be fighting and looking at Olam Hazeh and thinking that, yeah, I need to work harder in order to make money, but when I still keep it hot from erev Shabbos to erev Shabbos and when I have bracha mitzuyah b’isa, when the Rebono Shel Olam takes care of me because of my bitachon, that’s the biggest challenges.

We should be zocheh to open our hearts and minds and to accept Hashem’s bracha.


Rabbi Yosef Tropper is a rav and psychotherapist. Learn more and subscribe at ParshaThemes.com