27 Feb 2020 Parshas Terumah: The Crown of Royalty, The Crown of Wealth
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Terumah, Moshe and the Bnei Yisrael are commanded regarding the donations for, and construction of, the Mishkan (the Tabernacle), from wherein G-d’s Presence would dwell amongst the people.
The Mishkan was a place of spirituality, which rested in the center of the Israelite encampment, in the innermost camp of the Macheneh Shechina. It was here, in the Mishkan, that the Kohanim (Priests) carried out their holy, divine service. The implements of the Mishkan included the copper kiyor (laver), mizbayach ha’nechoshes (copper altar), shulchan (golden table), mizbayach ha’zahav (golden altar), golden menorah, and the aron kodesh (holy ark). The kohanim donned the glorious bigdei kehuhah (priestly vestments) when they came to serve in the Mishkan, and it was here that the nation worshipped G-d in awe and reverence.
Three of the keilim had golden diadems, or crowns, all around. These were the aron kodesh, shulchan, and golden mizbayach. Rashi teaches that these three diadems corresponded to keser Torah (the crown of Torah), keser malchus (the crown of royalty), and keser kehunah (the crown of priesthood), respectively.
In regard to the shulchan, which was a wooden frame covered in gold, the Torah commands: וְצִפִּיתָ אֹתוֹ, זָהָב טָהוֹר; וְעָשִׂיתָ לּוֹ זֵר זָהָב, סָבִיב – and you shall cover it with pure gold, and you shall make for it a golden diadem (crown) all around; וְעָשִׂיתָ לּוֹ מִסְגֶּרֶת טֹפַח, סָבִיב; וְעָשִׂיתָ זֵר-זָהָב לְמִסְגַּרְתּוֹ, סָבִיב – And you shall make for it a frame a handbreadth [wide] all around, and you shall make a golden crown for its frame all around (Shemos 25:24-25).
Running along the top of the frame of the shulchan was the diadem, or crown, which adorned the table, much like a crown adorns the head of royalty. What was the lesson of this crown? Rashi (to v.24) teaches: סִימָן לְכֶתֶר מַלְכוּת, it was a sign of the crown of royalty, שֶׁהַשֻּׁלְחָן שֵׁם עֹשֶׁר וּגְדֻלָּה, כְּמוֹ שֶׁאוֹמְרִים שֻׁלְחַן מְלָכִים, for a table represents wealth and grandeur, as we find in the common expression “a table a kings”.
R’ Moshe Feinstein zt’l points out that, “The Torah tells us twice to fashion a crown for the shulchan. The same repetition occurs where the Torah describes the crown after it was made… As no word in the Torah is superfluous, it would be difficult to say that the double repetition is meant solely for the purposes of clarity or to reinforce the Divine command. Why did the Torah repeat the instruction, and completion of, the zer zahav, the golden crown, for the shulchan?
“It appears that the reason the Torah mentions the crown twice is this: Rashi (quoted above) explains ‘that the shulchan represents wealth and grandeur, as in a table of kings’. Rashi, however, does not say that the crown refers only to royalty, but rather that it equally symbolizes any wealthy person. When a person uses his wealth, he certainly does acquire a ‘crown,’ because many people will praise and glorify him.
“But in reality, the possession, and use, of wealth may bring one of two possible crowns. If he scatters his money for evil things, there will be some, and perhaps many, people who will be swayed by his influence, whose Evil Inclination will convince them that this evil is actually good. But this is a crown of eternal curse, like the crowns of wicked kings who earned eternal disgrace. However, if he scatters his money for the good things that Hashem has commanded, then even if he does not earn public adulation and praise, he earns a crown of eternal joy and blessing.
“By its repetition of the zer zahav on the shulchan, the Torah is telling us that all wealthy people earn one of these two crowns. Which crown they will attain – that of eternal curse or that of eternal blessing – is contingent upon how they choose to distribute, and use, their wealth.
“Furthermore, the Torah emphasizes that the crown should be fashioned on the molding (on its frame), to teach that we must see to it that the crown is on the molding, which was added for its beauty, so that the crown of the table (and likewise, our crown) will forever be beautiful, praiseworthy, and glorified” (Darash Moshe on the Torah, v.II, Artscroll, p.112-113).
As Chana said in her famous tefilah of shevach and hoda’ah (prayer of praise and thanks) to Hashem, ה’ מוֹרִישׁ וּמַעֲשִׁיר; מַשְׁפִּיל, אַף-מְרוֹמֵם – G-d is the One Who impoverishes and makes rich; He humbles, He also exalts (Shmuel II 2:7). Hashem controls who will and who will not be wealthy, and who will, and will not, sit proverbially (or literally) at the table of kings. HOW the wealthy man – how we all! – choose to use the gift of wealth G-d gives us is in our hands.
A wealthy man once entered the home of R’ Akiva Eiger (d.1837). During the visit, the man pulled out a cigarette from his silver case, lit it, and began to smoke. R’ Akiva asked him why he smoked. “Rabbi, it is my custom to eat my dinner at a leisurely pace. I eat several kinds of dishes, and drink several kinds of beverages, until I am quite full. It gives me pleasure to smoke on a full stomach.”
A few days later, a poor man of a pious family visited R’ Akiva Eiger and began to pour out his heart, telling the rabbi of his difficult financial straits. During the discussion, he took out a cigarette, lit it and began to smoke. R’ Akiva asked the man why he was smoking. “Honored rabbi,” answered the poor guest, “sometimes I have not even a tiny piece of bread in my cupboard, and am extremely hungry. It helps me to overcome my hunger when I smoke.”
“Look at that!” R’ Akiva exclaimed. “A wealthy man smokes because of satiety. A poor man smokes because of hunger. If they took the virtuous path, the rich man would give his surplus of food to the poor man, and they could both eat a normal meal, and neither would have to smoke!” (Tales of the Righteous, S. Raz, p. 111).
If we want to be worthy to don the crown of royalty and eternal blessing, let us ensure that we choose wisely and well, using our gift of wealth l’Shem Shomayim (for the sake of Heaven) in all that we do, for then we will certainly merit that our tables will be fit for a king!
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,