Terumah 5784: Constructing An Abode of Holiness & Spirituality

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Terumah, the Torah introduces us to the Mishkan.  The journey from slavery to freedom occurs in the book of Shemos – also known as Sefer ha’Geula (the book of Redemption) in three main stages: physical freedom (Shemos, Va’era, Bo, Beshalach), spiritual freedom (Matan Torah – Yisro and Mishpatim), and the culmination of freedom: the construction of a home where the Shechinah and Klal Yisrael would dwell together, keviyachol (Terumah, Tetzaveh, Ki Tisa, Vayakhel, Pekudei).  The apex of freedom is bringing HKB”H into our lives, into our homes, into our very selves, and living with His Presence daily.

Furthermore, as Matan Torah was a marriage between HKB”H and Am Yisrael, a home for Hashem and the nation to dwell together was now needed.

In Terumah, Tetzaveh and the beginning of Ki Tisa, Hashem commands Moshe regarding the construction of the Mishkan.  In Vayakhel and Pekudei, the Mishkan is built.

The Mishkan consisted of different spaces or areas, each serving a different purpose, and housing different keilim (implements).  In the courtyard of the Mishkan, which was surrounded by curtains, were two copper keilim: the copper altar for animal sacrifices (mizbayach ha’nechoshes) and the copper laver (the kiyor), which the kohanim used to wash their hands and feet before performing the daily avodah.  So important was this washing that a kohen who neglected to wash before his service was chayav misah (b’yidei Shomayim).

The next space was the interior of the Mishkan, known as the Kodesh (the “Holy”).  In the kodesh were three golden keilim: the golden altar for the daily ketores (incense) offering (mizbayach ha’zahav), the golden table (shulchan) which housed the show bread (the twelve loaves of lechem ha’panim), and the golden menorah, which was lit every evening.

Moving to the most interior space, known as the Kodesh ha’Kodashim – the Holy of Holies – was a single kli, the golden Ark – the aron kodesh – which housed the Torah (luchos and sefer Torah that Moshe wrote), and was topped with two golden keruvim.  It was between these two keruvim that the Shechinah dwelt, keviyachol, and from there the Voice of Hashem emanated to speak with Moshe.  Into this space of intense holiness, only the Kohen Gadol was allowed to enter, to perform the avodah on Yom Kippur.

The Mishkan was surrounded by wooden beams, which were covered in gold, and topped with three layers of coverings which lay atop, and down the sides of, the Mishkan.

In regard to the placement of the Shulchan and Menorah, the pasuk tells us: וְשַׂמְתָּ֤ אֶת־הַשֻּׁלְחָן֙ מִח֣וּץ לַפָּרֹ֔כֶת וְאֶת־הַמְּנֹרָה֙ נֹ֣כַח הַשֻּׁלְחָ֔ן עַ֛ל צֶ֥לַע הַמִּשְׁכָּ֖ן תֵּימָ֑נָה וְהַ֨שֻּׁלְחָ֔ן תִּתֵּ֖ן עַל־צֶ֥לַע צָפֽוֹןAnd you shall place the table on the outer side of the Partition (the dividing curtain between the Kodesh and Kodesh ha’Kodashim) and the menorah opposite the table, on the southern side of the Mishkan, and you shall place the table on the northern side (Shemos 26:35).

Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski z’l, writes, “This verse, with two references where the Table should be placed, appears cumbersome.  It would have been much more concise to say, ‘Place the Table outside the partition on the north side.’  This awkward sentence structure is an indication that the verse contains a message for us.

“The Table and the Menorah represent two aspects of life.  The Table and the showbread, which rested at all times on the table, represent the physical aspects of life, the food we need for survival, and the Menorah represents the light of Torah, and the spiritual aspect of our lives.

“When life begins, the infant knows only his physical needs and their gratification.  The juvenile mind cannot conceptualize or understand spirituality.  We thus begin life with our physical and material drives being dominant, and constant.  When one reaches the age of reason, the spiritual aspect of life begins to set in, and over time, this aspect of ourselves should achieve primacy.  The physical needs should eventually become subordinate to the spiritual.  Inasmuch as one cannot achieve spiritual goals unless one is physically healthy, one must provide the body with all its essential needs.  However, this should not be as in childhood, when satisfying one’s hunger or resting to overcome weariness were dominant.

“Too often, however, maturation is limited to the acquisition of knowledge.  We may learn how to do things we could not do in childhood, but the goal in life, sadly, may remain unchanged.  There may be brilliant people who have earned advanced degrees, yet whose goal in life is primarily pleasure-seeking.  Though their intellect has matured, their philosophy in life has remain essentially unchanged.  They begin life with the primacy of the Table, and end life with the primacy of the Table.  The only change is from baby food to gourmet cooking and a more sophisticated palate.  No “Menorah” has been introduced to alter their goals and direction in life.  This is why the Torah describes the placement of the Table and the Menorah in precise detail.  The beginning of life for all of mankind is, indeed, the Table.  However, maturity is not limited to intellectual progress, but requires that spirituality becomes the goal of life, and physicality becomes a means to a more exalted end (Twerski on Chumash, Artscroll, p.162-163).

The Mishkan is the blueprint for the homes we must build, and the relationship we are to have, and cultivate, with HKB”H in our lives.  As Torah Jews, as we mature and grow, this growth must not only be physical, it must be spiritual as well.  It is sadly a reality of the societies in which we live, that far too often, individuals seek the physical satiation of the Table, but neglect the spiritual quest of the soul.

In our journey through life, we must always remain well-satiated, and keep our physical selves healthy, not as a goal unto itself, but as a means to reach a higher goal.  Accessing, learning from, retaining, and integrating the wisdom of Torah into our homes and our lives is the highest goal we can reach.  When we live with the Menorah as our compass, and the Table the means to help us reach our goal, we will truly merit to construct a home, of which it will be said: וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ; וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם, and you shall make for Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell within them (Shemos 25:8).

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


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