As a forerunner to the Industrial Revolution, in last week’s Parsha, the RBSO in his magnificence, gave us commandments and mitzvois which created industries and professions that included lawyers, mashgichim, kosher catering and more, thus allowing a portion of the Yiddin to make a living. Nu, what follows income? Taxes!! And in this week’s parsha of Terumah- we are introduced to the first ever system of taxation, though – thinly veiled as a ‘donation’ to the RBSO. Nu, the immediate effect of this terumah was the driving, of course, of many yiddin to do business in cash and to avada under-report their income; a mesorah (tradition) mamish handed down from generation to generation. Also in this week’s parsha, the RBSO has even loftier ideas about jobs and industries for the Cho-sen People. This week, the Yiddin became architects, builders, carpenters and decorators. Of course not all the Yiddin; only those that were destined not to enjoy learning the newly minted heylige toirah- in other words, the oisvorfs! Let’s learn Parshas Terumah.
The BNY, having accepted the Ten Commandments and all the other laws that Moishe Rabaynuu brought down from the big mountain are revved up and good to go. They think they’re about to enter the promised land and why not- it’s been promised for hundreds of years going back to Avrahom Oveenu…but the RBSO has other plans. Avada, the RBSO knows that the Yiddin are about to commit the great big sin of the Eygel (golden calf) which we’ll zicher cover in great detail in just two more shabossim, and he needs to stall for time. How does He know you ask? Avada He knows because the RBSO is after all in charge of everything: everything is bashert- why? Because the RBSO wills it and we are but puppets. He’s about to elongate our trek through the midbar from days and weeks to forty years. Efsher the milk and honey are not quite ready. How will the Yiddin stay busy? Let’s remember that this is the midbar- no satellite, cable, regular TV or DVDs, computers, ipads or Blackberry’s – not even a farkakta radio. How will the bny keep occupied? It’s way before the printing press and toirah sheeh- baal peh (the mishna and the heylige gemorrah- don’t you know anything) – has not yet been given over: nothing to read – not even a trashy novel- gornisht – nothing.
What to do? Not to worry, the RBSO has a gevaldige plan. He makes up the first ever version of the scavenger hunt where everyone has to find and bring items from a set list over to Moishe and then wait for further instructions. Let’s read the pussikim together.
“Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel and they shall take for Me a portion (terumah), from every man whose heart will motivate him you shall take My portion (terumah).“ As an aside, who’s going to say no when the RBSO asks so nicely?
And now the details. “This is the portion (terumah) that you shall take from them: gold, and silver, and copper; and turquoise wool, and purple wool, and scarlet wool; and linen and goat’s hair; and ram skins that are dyed red, and techashim skins, and shittim wood; oil for the [menorah] light; spices for the anointing oil and for raising the smoke of the incense; shoham stones and filling stones, for the Ephod [apron of the High Priest] and for the Choshen [breastplate of the High Priest]. They shall make Me a Sanctuary (mikdash), so that I may dwell among them.” We’ll be back to some of these shortly.
The heylige Toirah goes into great detail describing the Mishkan’s construction. Raboyseyee- this is the midbar and the RBSO just gave the BNY a list of items one would normally find on 47th street and on Madison Avenue; what’s p’shat here? Later in the Parsha, following the depiction of the pure golden menoirah (candelabra) which was to be hammered out of one large piece of gold, the RBSO describes the structure of the Mishkan itself, detailing the splendidly woven and embroidered covers, curtains, and partitions, and the sturdy outer walls. Spoken mamish like an interior designer- lehavdil. Shteltsich di kasha (the question arises)…. If the RBSO wanted a Holy building then why didn’t it fall from Heaven? Seemingly everything else the Yiddin needed did? Moreover, and according to most, but avada not all opinions, the third and final Beis Hamikdash (Temple) will mamish appear from heaven- wow! What was the tachlis (purpose) of the yiddin building it? And why does it say that Moishe should take the donations, shouldn’t it say that the yiddin should give? I have no idea but thought these Kashas (questions) would stimulate your brains towards the heylige toirah as opposed to other stimuli that mistama you’re more accustomed to- rachmono liztlon (heaven forbid).
Before you minuvullim start having chazzerishe (disgusting) thoughts about shittim wood and oil, halt kup (pay attention) and please stay focused on this special parsha because the RBSO had a brilliant idea, one that would be copied throughout the millennia as Jews all over the world continue to collect funds to build little mishkans- now called shuls. Rabbis and Shul Presidents use these very words of Teruma to suck every last dollar out of us so they can build what they call the Mikdosh Me’at – our Shuls and structures. Adds The Zoihar azoy: that there must be a Moishe Rabaynuu in every generation who inspires the Jews to build Holy Temples; and the donations they must give are their talents, potentials, love, care, devotion and self-sacrifice. Oh- and avada, lots of money- or at least pledges. And avada, every Shul has a Moishe wannabee.
Raboyseyee: is it any wonder that we were in the Midbar so long, where the hec were the Yiddin to find these things? Have you been to the midbar lately? Have you seen gold or silver- any of the requested items? They didn’t even have food, instead relied on daily rations of Mun, yet they were instructed to find and bring gold, silver, precious stones, and shittim wood? Grada, this parsha always puzzled me and had you paid any attention at all, even the smallest amount, you too would have questions. As a kid learning in yeshiva, mistama this parsha didn’t preplex you as you just took it for granted that all these items were readily available- ober fin ve (but from where). I have no clue and very few of the commentators discuss this particular topic, instead they remain focused on the entire Mishkan and its significance. Still anyone that’s taken a jeep ride through the Judean hills and listened as the tour guide traced the route the Yiddin took over forty years has to be left wondering about the sources of these items.
The RBSO has just asked Moishe to embark on the ultimate capital campaign. Moishe is supposed to oversee the construction of elaborate objects, including the Tabernacle and the ark that will hold the heylige Luchois (tablets) given to bny on Har Sinai just two weeks ago, an ornate golden menoirah and the portable temple and altar, or mishkan, that the yiddin (Israelites) will use as dedicated holy space to make daily sacrifices for the next 40 years. And then avada, they were instructed to make gifluchtine (embroidered and orante) curtains; why not, it is the midbar and avada we want it to look nice for the neighbors.
For a people that were recently freed from more than either 210 or as much as 400 years of slavery, this was an ambitious task to say the least. What made this even more challenging was that the RBSO’s list did not include run-of-the-mill materials to build these important objects. Did you see a request for bricks, cement, sheetrock or even aluminum siding? Was there a home depot efsher nearby? Punkt farkert (quite the opposite)! His instructions specifically stated that these objects had to be built out of significant quantities of gold, silver, copper, blue, purple and crimson wool, linen, goat hair, ram skins and acacia wood and needed to be crafted in a very specific way. And even more harrowing for Moishe was that the RBSO expected that all of these items will be donated by “every person whose heart inspires him to generosity.” When was the last time you saw anyone inspired to give away gold? Have you seen the price per ounce lately?
Nu- let’s please keep in mind that this is the RBSO we’re talking about and avada He can make anything happen and did. Says the Medrish: The above items found their way into the hands of Bnai Yisrael through the RBSO’s divine plan, nu- doesn’t everything? We just need to see it. For example, all of the gold, silver, and copper came from the Mitzrim (Egyptians). How – what -when – where and why? Already you oisvorfs forgot? During the makoh (plague) of choishech (darkness) the, Bnai Yisroel were allowed to enter the homes of their masters to seek out any treasure that may have been kept hidden. This way, when they left, the Yiddin would know exactly what to ask for as compensation for their long years of slavery. Of course, the stupid goyim complied and parted with their beloved belongings. Efsher (maybe) you’re wondering when the yiddin had time to ask their masters for all these items given that we were taught that the Yiddin were chased out in the middle of the night, without time to bake the bread. Nu- takah a good kasha but don’t confuse this medrish with others or the facts. Let’s remember that the medrish is nice to hear and read but does not necessarily have to make sense or even be true. Of course it could be, but ver veyst? Was the writer there? Avada nisht! On a more practical level: given the choice and you could only take one, would you rather have a few ounces of bread or gold? Don’t forget, these were the Yiddin.
Let’s try another p’shat. The sea engulfed the Mitzrim at Kriyas Yamsuf and more gold, silver, and copper were washed ashore in the form of the Egyptian chariots. Of course, we believe that the chariots giving chase to the Yiddin were avada laden with these items; perhaps they wanted to bribe us into coming back?!
What about the other items? Many of those were also acquired through nissim (miracles): no kidding. A good example would be the fourteen precious gems. According to the medrish, when the RBSO brought the Mun to a Tzaddik’s (righteous individual) house, He included special bonus features. One such bonus was that the Mun came encrusted with precious gems. Mistama hard to chew but worth its weight in gold. Coincidentally, these precious gems were exactly the kind required for the Mishkan and the Tzaddikim gladly donated them. Nu- do you see how beautiful the heylige toirah can be? All you need to do is get your farshtupta kup (stuffed heads) out of the gutter and ponder how magnificent the RBSO was, is and could be- if only you would let him in.
Another good example of acquisition through a miracle was the skin of the Tachash. What’s a Tachash? Excellent question! Read on and we’ll shed some light on this as well. The RBSO only created one of these unique animals, and He created it to appear in the desert exactly when Bnai Yisrael were passing through; talk about timing. Its multi-colored coat was needed for the Mishkan. Presto! How do you like that? Seems like the midbar was one magical place.
Hey, did you think I was going to just glance over the Tachash without further comment? Zicher nisht (of course not). Listen to this you ladigayers (good for nothings): let’s see what the medrish has to say about these Tachash skins. This is the skin of a kosher animal known as a tachash, that lived in the desert. It had a single horn in the middle of its forehead, and its skin had a pattern containing six beautiful colors. And you thought the unicorn was a myth?
What was it takah? Nu- surprise- it’s a machloikes between Rebbe Yehudah who says that the tachash was a normal animal and that it was out of this tachash skin that the beautiful roof of the Tabernacle was made. Ober, Rebbe Nechemiah, maintained that it was an animal that was miraculously created by the RBSO in the midbar (desert) especially for the Tabernacle, and immediately after that, it ceased to exist. Could they both be right? Why not, it’s the medrish and anything goes; ver veyst (who knows)?
Rebbe Nechemiah brings a raya (evidence) for his opinion from the fact that the Toirah describes each sheet as being “thirty cubits long and four cubits wide”. It is obviously impossible to make such a large sheet out of the skin of any existing animal, so it must have involved yet another neis (miracle). Rebbe Meir also said that the tachash that existed in Moishe’s time was a unique animal. The Chachomim (Sages) (Shabbat 28b) were not even sure whether the tachash was a kosher animal, did it have the legal status of a wild animal (chayah) or a domestic animal (behemah)? How could the holy Mishkan be constructed from an impure (non kosher) animal? What purpose would this serve? Nu- let’s analyze: From the fact that it had a single horn in the middle of its forehead, we could takah say that it could be determined that it was a kosher animal. Why so you ask? There is a tradition that the animal sacrificed by Odom Horishoin (Adam) was also a one-horned kosher animal and who are we to argue with tradition? This same animal appeared at that time for Moishe. He used it to make the Tabernacle, after which it was concealed, never to be seen again. Are you thoroughly confused? I am. Let’s go veyter.
Avada (likely), there are many questions that one can ask about this Midrashic teaching. Lemoshol (for example), since the Toirah actually states that these sheets were made of a product taken from a goat, which is a domestic animal, how could Rebbe Yehudah say that it was taken from a wild animal? Moreover, what is Rebbe Nechemiah’s proof that it was made miraculously? It is obviously possible to weave a large cloth out of goat’s wool, doesn’t your eishes chayil have at least one shearling? On the other hand, that would be somewhat illogical and here’s why and zicher you’ll be able to follow p’shat here. We have to conclude that it is impossible to say that the sheets covering the Tabernacle were made of a goat product because goats are normally seen as being associated with the side of evil. That is why the animal sent to Azazel was a goat. It is also the reason that one who inadvertently commits an act of idolatry must bring a goat as his sacrifice. This is also the reason that many of you should be keeping an inventory of goats, you chazerrim (swine)that you are.
This is why the Midrash says that these were not normal goats, but special unique animals, created miraculously. Nu, as you can see- the BNY had miracle goats and the mircale tachash- gevaldig mamish. When the RBSO told Moishe to make the Tabernacle, Moishe was astounded and responded azoy (like this): “Lord of the Universe, is it possible for Israel to accomplish such a thing?” Realizing his surroundings in the desert, where would it be possible to find all the rare materials needed for the Tabernacle? Even in a large city, finding some of the requested items might pose some challenge. Said the RBSO, “Even a single Israelite will be able to make the Tabernacle” and explained that He would provide Divine help and blessing in everything that would be brought. If anything was completely lacking, it would be given to them miraculously. This is how the tachash was obtained for them. OK case closed, miracles abound.
And now for the highlight of the parsha: Shittim wood. What the hec is a Shittim tree and where did the BNY find it in the midbar? Mistama (likely), you’ve been wondering where the BNY were going to find a 72 Amah (about160 foot) wooden beam. Not just one, but 48 of them. The answer goes way back to Avraham Oveenu who planted this tree and, in its shade served his Malochim guests and davened. Over time, the tree grew and during Kriyas Yam Suf (splitting of the Sea) the Malochim (maybe even the same ones) cut it down and dropped it on the shore. The Bnai Yisrael figured that such a large tree could be used for something important so they brought it with them. Sure enough, this tree was destined to be the middle beam of the Mishkan- nu- gey veis (go know).
Want another p’shat- here we go. This one will blow you away. Says the Yalkut azoy: Yankiff Oveeny saw prophetically that the BNY would have to build the Tabernacle. He therefore took large acacia trees from the Holy Land to Mitzrayim and planted them there. Yankiff left a command for his descendants that when they left Egypt, they should take those trees with them, since such wood could not be found in the midbar. The Yiddin did this, and therefore had shittim wood with which to build the Tabernacle.” Like that one? Nice but want more? Try this next one for size.
These trees are called shittim because they were planted along the Shittim Brook. This brook had a quality that whoever drank its water would become sexually stimulated and immoral. The Sodomites used to drink from this brook regularly, and were takah a bunch of chazerrim perverts, oy vey. When the Moshiach arrives (from Crown Heights), this brook will dry up completely. Nu, thankfully you’re safe until then. You hear this chevra….long before Viagra, there was the Shittim brook. Not FDA approved but seemingly still gave wood!
And this is why Yankiff took some of these trees with him when he went to Miytzrayim. He wanted his descendants to use the wood to build the Tabernacle, and in that zechus (merit), the power of the urge that leads to sexual misconduct would be weakened. Yankiff also realized that when the BNY would leave Egypt, they would stay at this Shittim Brook. Ober (but) if the shittim trees were used to build the Tabernacle, the water would not lead them to sexual temptation. Seemingly, the brook had magical powers. Nice plan, unfortunately it didn’t work out too well and you oisvorsfs are living proof!!
Says the Medrish veyter: It is for this reason that the only ones who sinned at Shittim Brook were members of the Eruv Rav (mixed multitude) by sexual misconduct with the Moabite girls (Bamidbar 25:1). The emesdike ( true) Yiddin did not sin; mistama they weren’t thirsty or preferred Diet Coke. The shittim wood that they carried out of Mitzrayim to build the Tabernacle subdued their evil urges and prevented them from being overcome by passion. Or, perhaps they were so tired from schlpeeing the (about) 160 foot wooden beams, that they had no koiach for sexual activity, even with the Moabiite shiksas. If not for the miracle powers of this tree the Israelites would not have survived, since the RBSO gets mamish pissed off and hates sexual immorality and severely punishes those involved in it. And let this be a warning to all of you: wood or no wood, you must overcome your desires and stop laying blame at the Shittim Brook for your perversions.
It’s takah emes (seemingly true) that the RBSO was angry with the Yiddin in the Midbar and hit them with a plague (Bamidbar 25:4,9). Why were they punished if they didn’t partake in the forbidden relations? Excellent kasha. Apparently, this was their punishment because they did not do anything to prevent the Eruv Rav (mixed multitude) from sinning; maybe they were too busy watching? Says the heylige toirah that the only thing that stopped the plague was the bravery of Pinchas, who subdued the RBSO’s anger. But let’s not run ahead, we’re only in Shemois. If the BNY themselves had sinned however, nothing would have helped and we’d all be wiped out, loi olanuu. Why we’re still here, I don’t know. For this reason, the Tabernacle, the Ark, the Shulchon (Table), and the sacrificial altar were all made out of shittim wood. From here we takah see that wood has many uses, holy and not.
It was obviously a givaldige neis (great miracle) that the yiddin were able to carry all this wood. The Medrish suggests that they mamish carried it across the Red Sea at night. The pillars made out of the shittim wood were ten cubits long and quite heavy and logically, it would have been impossible to carry them, even with wagons, had these been available. And there were not merely two or three such huge pillars, but as the parsha describes, there were 48 in the Tabernacle itself, four used to hold the cloth partitions, and fifteen cross poles and boards. The RBSO helped them bring the wood all the way from Egypt while they were being pursued by their enemies who wanted to kill them. As I said before, the midbar was like Disney word, a magical place with daily miracles- don’t you wish you were there?
Says another Medrish: Mamish because of Yankiff Oveenee’s ruach hakoidesh, he did for his descendants a gevaldige groise toiva (very great favor) in instructing the BNY to take the trees from the Shittim Brook to Mitzrayim. Moreover, having these trees with them while there for 210 years, also weakened their evil urge for sexual misconduct in Egypt with the hot mitzri shiksas. Avada you all know that Egypt was known to be a place of very loose sexual morality, mamish like Thailand. You didn’t learn that in Yeshiva? Ok- now you know. Nevertheless, although the Yiddin were there for more than 210 years, they were never involved in such immorality and for this reason they deserved to be liberated. Beautiful p’shat- no?
Anyway Raboyseyee, here’s a short summary of the entire Parsha. It contains 3 mitzvois; 1 ahhh-say (positive) and 2 los (prohibitions). The one positive mitzva is a super-mitzva, in that it includes the many commands to make all the furnishings of the Mikdash. Further, the fulfillment of this mitzva facilitates many others. The Rambam gives 14 rules for the counting of the 613 mitzvot and Rule #12 is that it is not “appropriate” to count as separate mitzvois those commands that are part of a more all-encompassing mitzva. Therefore he does NOT count among the 613 the mitzvois to make the Aron, Menoira, Shulchan, Altars, etc. since they are included in building the Mikdash. In other words, all the details of the building of the Mikdash are included in this one single Mitzvas Ah-sei. And now you have something to say at the shabbos tish.
A gitten shabbos and a gitten choidesh.