15 Feb 2018 Parshas Teruma/Adar: Covered Up
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Teruma, we are commanded regarding the construction of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle), where the nation would worship during their sojourn through the desert wilderness.
Moshe was to collect from the people gold, silver, copper, turquoise wool, purple wool, scarlet wool, animal skins, goat hairs, precious gems, wood, spices, oils and more (Shemos 25:3-7).
דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ-לִי תְּרוּמָה: מֵאֵת כָּל-אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ, תִּקְחוּ אֶת-תְּרוּמָתִי – And Hashem said to Moshe, speak to the children of Israel, and take for Me a portion, from each man whose heart motivates him to give, you shall take My portion (Shemos 25:2).
The donations were to come from those who wanted to donate, from those who wanted to be part of the communal construction of the makom ha’Shechina (place for the Divine presence to rest and dwell). If you want it, well and good; and if you don’t, you will not be forced to give.
And the people gave so much, that at the end of the collection, the call went out: there is enough and more than enough, stop donating! (Shemos 36:5-7)
And from these beautiful and luxurious materials, the Mishkan was built.
The Aaron ha’ay’dus (Ark of Testimony) was built from wood, covered entirely with pure gold, on the inside and the outside. In the deepest recesses of the ark – within three layers of materials (!) – lay the luchos (Tablets of Testimony) and the Sefer Torah. And then the three layers were covered with a lid of solid gold, protected by the Keruvim (Cherubs) atop the lid.
From looking at the Aaron, no one could tell that the holy Torah itself was inside!
And then this holy Ark, which housed the holy Torah, was put inside the section of the Mishkan known as the Holy of Holies, Kodesh ha’Kodashim, which was almost entirely off limits to any man.
And in the Kodesh, the section of the Mishkan known as the “Holy”, sat the golden Menorah, the Golden Altar used for the daily Ketores (incense) offerings, and the golden Shulchan (Table), which held the Lechem Ha’Panim (Bread of Surfaces).
Panels and beams were erected around the entire edifice to enclose all within. And then the Mishkan itself was covered with layers. Not one layer, not two layers, but three layers atop and surrounding the Mishkan! First went the embroidered Mishkan layer, then the second layer of covering, which was called the Ohel – a covering of goats hairs, and finally, the upper-most layer, called the Mich’seh cover, made of ram skins dyed red and techashim skins (a colorful animal which existed only at that time).
Furthermore, Rashi teaches that half the width of the additional upper panel (of the second layer of covering) was hung and folded over the screen at the east side, at the entrance to the Mishkan, דּוֹמֶה לְכַלָּה צְנוּעָה הַמְּכֻסָּה בְּצָעִיף עַל פָּנֶיהָ – resembling a modest bride who is covered with a veil over her face (Shemos 26:9 w/ Rashi).
We are left to wonder… if everything inside the Mishkan was so beautiful – and it was – why was it all so covered up? Should it not have remained revealed and exposed for all to see? Why take beauty and seemingly hide it?
R’ Benjamin Yudin teaches a beautiful lesson regarding the inyan (matter) of covering up that which is holy. “It is the same in the case of a sefer Torah. Obviously, we are proud of our association with this most sacred object, yet we ‘protect’ it with multiple coverings, a paroches (curtain/mantel) covering the doors of the aron kodesh (holy ark), and a mantel on the sefer Torah itself. What is kadosh (holy) is covered, not out of shame, but out of respect (emphasis in the original). This understanding forms the basis of the laws of personal tznius (modesty) as well. We must teach this perspective to our children and convey to them our sense of pride in this way of life” (Chinuch: Contemporary & Timeless, p.301-302).
The holier something is, the more covered it should be. Not because we are ashamed of what is within, but because we are proud of what is within. The Torah and luchos, the Aaron Kodesh, the implements and vessels within the Mishkan, were so elevated, so precious, so powerfully holy, that they were covered out of respect for the Godly holiness within.
As we enter the month of Adar, it is compelling to consider how Vashti was called to appear before the king, and how Esther appeared before the king.
When Vashti was summoned, she was ordered to come in her royal crown – and nothing more. Furthermore, she made her Jewish maids work unclothed (see Rashi to Esther 1:12).
When Esther went to the king… וַיְהִ֣י ׀ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֗י וַתִּלְבַּ֤שׁ אֶסְתֵּר֙ מַלְכ֔וּת וַֽתַּעֲמֹ֞ד בַּחֲצַ֤ר בֵּית־הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ הַפְּנִימִ֔ית נֹ֖כַח בֵּ֣ית הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ – And it was on the third day, and Esther donned royalty, and she stood in the inner courtyard of the house of the king, facing the king’s house…(Esther 5:1). Rashi teaches: בִּגְדֵי מַלְכוּת – she clothed herself with royal garments, clothing fit for a queen.
In a word, while Vashti got undressed and made those around her do the same, Esther covered up. Simply put: Esther got dressed.
When we appreciate the depth of holiness within, the Godliness within, the sanctity within, we will learn from the command to build the Mishkan. We will ensure that that which is holy remains covered, not out of shame, but out of respect.
May we surely merit to build within ourselves a Sanctuary for G-d, so that He may dwell within (Shemos 25:8).
בברכת חודש טוב ושבת שלום,