Torah Weekly

For the week ending 20 February 2010 / 5 Adar I 5770

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.


The Furniture Was Divine

“They shall make an Ark...” (25:10)

In the 1930's, in the desert kingdom of Mukhtar, things changed a lot after they discovered oil.

The sheikh was eager to benefit his people and to add to his own prestige. He built roads and hotels, palaces and airports. They had everything.

Everything, that is, except water.

The only liquid that was abundant in Mukhtar was black and viscous. It may have been black gold, but you still couldn’t drink it.

Short of towing an iceberg from the Antarctic (a idea which was under consideration), no one had yet found a solution.

The sheikh decided that he would go to America, since America was a country where they had solutions for problems that people didn't even know they had. How much more, reasoned the sheikh, they must have a solution to a problem that was obvious.

The sheikh stayed in the Waldorf Astoria for two weeks. When it was time to leave he summoned the bellhop to take down his luggage.

The bellhop’s jaw dropped when he opened the door to the sheikh’s suite.

There, sitting in the middle of the stateroom, was an enormous sea-trunk. It was so improbably large that it looked like some kind of magician’s trick where scores of people would start to emerge from it one by one. Realizing that he was easily out-manned by such an object, the bellboy retreated to return with reinforcements.

It finally took six able-bodied porters and a truck to move the trunk out to the docks, where, not unsurprisingly, the sheikh’s cabin trunk caught the eye of watchful customs officer.

“Good morning, sir! May I ask you what you have in this trunk?”

“Oh it’s nothing officer, just a few presents for my people back home.”

“Yes sir. Would you mind opening it up, please?”

“Well, really, officer, this is most unnecessary. I will take this up at the highest levels.”

“That’s your privilege, sir, but I’m afraid you’ll still have to open this trunk.”

When the lid of the trunk opened, the officer’s eyes widened in disbelief.

The entire trunk was filled with faucets of all kinds and shapes. Stainless steel, copper, modern, antique. Nothing but faucets. Faucets and faucets and more faucets.

"Officer, this is an amazing country. On my first day here I went into the kitchen and turned on one of these things, and, miracle of miracles, water just started to pour out of it! So now I am taking home to my people this brilliant invention. You westerners know a thing or two I have to admit!”

G-d told Moshe to go and tell Bezalel “Make Me a Mishkan (a Sanctuary), an Ark, and Kelim (the other furnishings of the Sanctuary)”. When Moshe told Bezalel, he reversed the order and told him to build an Ark, Kelim and a Mishkan.

Bezalel said to Moshe, “Moshe Rabbeinu, the way of the world is that a person builds a house, and then afterwards furnishes it. You’re telling me to build the furnishings first. Where am I supposed to put them?”

Why did Moshe change the order?

Moshe wasn’t giving Bezalel building instructions. He wasn’t talking to him like an architect to a building contractor. Moshe was speaking conceptually, stressing what was the essence and purpose of the Mishkan.

The Ark was the centerpiece of the Mishkan. The word for Ark in the Torah is “Aron” and comes from the word in Hebrew for light — ‘Ohr’. The Ark was the light of the Mishkan for it contained the Holy Torah, which is the light of the world. Without the Ark, the Mishkan would have been merely a shell, merely a dry faucet — without the living waters of the Holy Torah.

  • Sources: Talmud Berachot 55a, Rabbeinu Bachya, and a story heard from Rabbi Uziel Milevsky, zatzal

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