Torah Weekly

For the week ending 4 March 2006 / 4 Adar I 5766

Parshat Teruma

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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G-d commands Moshe to build a Mishkan (Sanctuary) and supplies him with detailed instructions. The Children of Israel are asked to contribute precious metals and stones, fabrics, skins, oil and spices. In the Mishkan's outer courtyard are an altar for the burnt offerings and a laver for washing. The Tent of Meeting is divided by a curtain into two chambers. The outer chamber is accessible only to the kohanim, the descendants of Aharon. This contains the table of showbreads, the menorah, and the golden altar for incense. The innermost chamber, the Holy of Holies, may be entered only by the kohen gadol, and only once a year, on Yom Kippur. Here is the Ark that held the Ten Commandments inscribed on the two tablets of stone that G-d gave to the Jewish nation on Mount Sinai. All of the utensils and vessels, as well as the construction of the Mishkan, are described in great detail.


A Package Deal

“The Keruvim shall be with wings spread upward, sheltering the Cover with their wings with their faces toward each other...” (25:16)

Rabbi, who is better?

Someone who is scrupulous in observance of Jewish ritual, has Grade-A tefillin, is super-careful what he puts in his mouth, but when it comes to what comes out of his mouth he’s not so vigilant — he can be hurtful and angry; sometimes he speaks malicious gossip,


Someone who drives to golf on Shabbat but just endowed an entire wing in the hospital and is universally loved by everyone he meets?

Many people think that you can be a good person without keeping the mitzvot. But what does it mean to be a ‘good person’. Judaism defines being a good person as someone who does what G-d wants. And what does G-d want? He told us in the Torah. G-d wants us to be good to each other, to care for the sick and the orphaned, to love converts and to protects widows. The human values that society cherishes are long-time Torah gifts to mankind-at-large.

However, for a Jewish person, G-d also wants us to keep Shabbat and to refrain from eating cheeseburgers. These are His desires no less than clothing the naked and visiting the sick. Torah observance is only complete when we commit to both a correct relationship with our Creator as well as our fellow man.

One without the other is only half the picture.

Look above the Holy Ark in any synagogue and you’ll notice a representation of the two tablets on which the Torah was engraved. Why weren’t the Ten Commandments written on one tablet of stone? Why did G-d hew two pieces of rock for His contract with the Jewish People?

Obviously you can’t say that G-d couldn’t find a piece of stone big enough for all ten — a little bit of quarrying is infinitely less than a blink of the eye for He Who carved the Milky Way out of nothingness.

And you also can’t say that He made two just in case one got lost — a “Cosmic Data Backup” — because what was written on the first tablet was different from what was written on the second.

In fact, if you examine what is written on the first tablet, you’ll notice that the commandments that they contain pertain to the relationship between G-d and man: “I am Hashem… You shall not recognize other gods in My presence… Don’t make a carved image… Don’t take the Name of Hashem, your G-d in vain… Remember the day of Shabbat to sanctify it…

The second tablet speaks of commandments between man and his fellow: Don’t kill… Don’t commit adultery… Don’t covet…

“The Keruvim shall be … with their faces toward each other…”

The Keruvim on the cover of the Ark that contained Ten Commandments symbolize the Torah itself. The fact that they faced each other teaches us that it’s impossible to observe the Torah unless our relationship with our fellow man mirrors our relationship with G-d, and vice versa.

One without the other is only half the picture.

For the Torah is a package deal.

  • Based on the Malbim

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