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Terumah – Living with the Torah’s Weekly Portion

Trumah: Sunday: Rectifying Foolishness

And they shall make an ark of acacia (shitim) wood”. Chassidut explains that the acacia wood in the Tabernacle alludes to the rectification of the spirit of foolishness (shtut, cognate to shitim). “A person does not transgress unless a spirit of foolishness (ruach shtut) has entered him,” say our Sages. Furthermore, the name of the place where the Children of Israel sinned with the daughters of Moav was called Shitim.

How do we rectify the spirit of foolishness? One may think that all that is needed is “the spirit of seriousness”. But in truth, the rectification is through “holy foolishness” (shtut dikdushah). This is the secret of the acacia (shitim) trees.

The Gemara discusses an example of holy foolishness. It tells of Rav Shmuel Bar Yitzchak, who would dance before brides with myrtle branches. Rebbe Zeira said that this was an embarrassment to the Sages. After Rav Shmuel Bar Yitzchak passed away, a pillar of fire descended to separate between him and the people. At that point Rebbe Zeira proclaimed: “The foolishness helped the grandfather (Rabbi Shmuel).” The myrtle is close to the acacia tree, as in the verse, “I will put in the desert cedar, myrtle and acacia.”

Holy foolishness manifests in the most inner relationship between man and wife. It is the holy fire between them (as in the verse, “And behold, Isaac was making his wife, Rebecca, laugh.”). The Holy of Holies in the Temple is called “the bedroom”. It is the place of intimacy between G-d and the Congregation of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant is the holy bed as in the verse in the Song of Songs, “Behold the bed of Solomon…its interior is inlaid with love.” From within this wondrous love, all the negative foolishness is rectified as in the words of the prophet, “and a fountain shall come forth from the House of G-d and it will water the river of Shittim”. The river that comes forth from the Holy of Holies, the place of the Ark, will rectify all unholy foolishness. Only holy foolishness will remain.

Trumah: Monday: The Cherubs

And you shall make an ark-cover (kaporet) of pure gold…and you shall make two cherubs of beaten gold from the two ends of the ark-cover”. The Ark and the ark-cover are written here as two separate vessels. The Ark is likened to the bed and the two cherubs of the ark-cover are likened to husband and wife, in whom the fire of holy love manifests, “A man and wife, the Shechina is between them” – similar to the Shechinah between the cherubs. The cherubs form an awning over the ark-cover with their wings, creating a covered, hidden place suitable for intimacy.

The cherubs had the face of a male and female toddler. (The word for ‘cherub’, ,כרוב is like כרביא which means ‘like a child’). The love between an adult man and woman is like burning fire, while the love between toddlers playing together is like the love between brother and sister, a pleasant love, flowing like water. The cherubs symbolize the unity of fire-like love and water-like love. The water infuses the atmosphere with gentle serenity.

The numerical value of the words “two cherubs” שְׁנַיִם כְּרֻבִים is the same as ‘bedroom’, חדר המטותas the Holy of Holies is called. The two cherubs are in the image of a male and a female, cognate to the concepts of giver and receiver. In gematria, “two cherubs” שְׁנַיִם כְּרֻבִים = “giver receiver” משפיע מקבל. All the sacrifices in the Torah are called rayach nichoach, a pleasant smell. Our Sages explain that this alludes to “nachat ruach (“a spirit of pleasantness”) before Me (G-d), for I have said and My will has been done.” Nachat ruach is the indwelling of the Shechinah between the two cherubs in the bedroom, as is alluded to in the gematria: נחת רוח = שנים כרבים = משפיע מקבל = חדר המטות.  (Nachat ruach = two cherubs = giver receiver = bedroom).

Trumah: Tuesday: The Secret of the Menorah

And you shall make the menorah of pure gold, in one piece the menorah shall be made”. Rashi explains: “the menorah shall be made” – by itself. For Moses found it difficult (to understand how to make it).  G-d said to him, ‘Throw the piece of gold into the furnace and it will make itself. Thus, it is not written, ‘You shall make”. The difficulty in making the menorah is understanding how to make it, complete with all its decorations, out of one piece of gold.

The menorah alludes to the souls of Israel. The seven branches are different types of souls – on different paths and with different styles. Every Jew is unique. There is no one else like him. But as much as each of us is completely different and stands alone – we are all literally one body, “in one piece the menorah shall be made”. This is difficult to understand, and it was difficult for Moses, as well. Only G-d knows the secret of the one-ness of Israel.

The menorah is the symbol of beauty in the Tabernacle. It is made of pure gold, a gracefully decorated paragon of esthetics and symmetry. This beauty (Tiferet) reflects the Divine Tiferet. The souls of Israel are also called Tiferet – “Tiferet Yisrael”.

An example of the completeness of the menorah: It has 7 branches, 22 cups, 11 knobs and 9 flowers. In all, 49 items – the number of branches squared.

Trumah: Wednesday: The Holy Hollow in the Heart

“And the middle bar inside the boards, holding them together from end to end”. Inside the boards of the Tabernacle, there was a middle bar (bariach/בריח) that connected them all, making them one. (Note that  bariach/חבר/middle board is an anagram forchaber/חבר/connect).

In order to connect two items, there must be a hollow in the middle, through which the middle bar can pass. This holds a deep secret: The Ba’al Shem Tov said that he can refute any logical Torah-learning argument. In other words, in every worldview, at every level and in every layer of reality, in any ‘world’ – there is always a point of vacuum – empty space, nothingness. (For example, the blind spot in our field of vision). It is specifically when we identify that point of nothingness that we can connect and weave all the dimensions and worlds together. Each of them has a lack that seeks to be filled.

On the other hand, a person who feels complete and believes that his worldview is impeccable, actually bears the greatest defect of all. Thus, the Ba’al Shem Tov, who strove to connect – emphasized that he could see the point of nothingness in everything, enabling him to join all layers of reality together.

The revelation of the Divine passes through the hollows inside the boards of the Tabernacle, permeating the entire world. This is a unique revelation, reaching from the loftiest of levels down to the lowest, weaving all of reality together with one thread. This is the positive hollow about which King David said, “And my heart is hollow inside me”.  I have a hollow in my heart. Through it, I connect to G-d.

Trumah: Thursday: Behind the Screen

And you shall make the veil (Parochet)…and the veil shall separate for you between the Holy and between the Holy of Holies”. Does the Parochet cover or reveal? Both! It conceals the Holy of Holies. But by doing so, it allows the wondrous light of the Holy of Holies to be revealed to us – allowing us to absorb the Holy of Holies within the Holy – just as it is impossible to look directly at sunlight without a protective screen.

Inside the Holy of Holies is the Kaporet (ark cover), upon which the Shechinah (G-d’s Immanent Presence) dwells, between the two Cherubs. Kaporet/כפרת and Parochet/פרכת are anagrams in Hebrew – teaching us that the revealed Parochet discloses the concealed Kaporet to us. There is another vessel in the Tabernacle with the same letters: the Kaftor/כפתור, knobs decorating the menorah. The menorah represents the Kaporet, for they are both made of one piece of solid gold. The connection between them is made by the Parochet, in a process of kaporet-parochet-kaftor.

“…and the veil shall separate for you between the Holy and between the Holy of Holies”. The word for holy, kadosh, is repeated three times in this verse, reminiscent of the verse, “Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh” (Holy, holy, holy). There is a cantillation note called a pasek in this verse. The pasek represents a ‘stop’ between the first kadosh and the other two – exactly like the parochet, which separates between the Holy and the Holy of Holies.

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