D’Var Torah: When physical items represent a spiritual truth | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

D’Var Torah: When physical items represent a spiritual truth


Loving one’s fellow as oneself is the most important mitzvah in the Torah, and as important as it is, it is equally as difficult at times when our “fellow” is someone with whom we disagree, feel frustrated, or just don’t feel any particular connection. It’s a good thing that the Torah provides endless inspiration and guidance for seeing the connection we share with others, and awakening us towards feeling connected with others – and this parsha is no exception!

At first glance, this week’s parsha, Terumah, just seems to be relating the details of acquiring materials for building Hashem’s house, the Mishkan. Barely a few months after their miraculous exodus from Egypt, the fledgling Jewish nation was ready for their first capital campaign in order to build the Mishkan, the portable Temple which would serve as the heart and soul of the Jewish people.

The Lord spoke to Moses saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My offering. And this is the offering that you shall take from them: gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple, and crimson wool; linen and goat hair; ram skins dyed red, tachash skins, and acacia wood; oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the incense; shoham stones and filling stones for the ephod and for the choshen.”

Rashi comments that this is not one campaign, but rather three campaigns. Campaign #1 was for the silver sockets that served as the foundation for the structure of the Mishkan. Campaign #2 was a general fund for the communal offerings that would be offered on behalf of the Jewish people. Campaign #3 was the building material needed for the Mishkan such as gold, silver, copper, various types of hides, wool and wood.

It is easily understood why the construction of the Mishkan and the offerings for the Mishkan required separate finances: one addresses the capital campaign and one is an operational budget. However, the separate campaign for the foundational sockets seems unnecessary.  Seemingly, all building parts of the Mishkan should be included in the general building fund, yet the silver foundation sockets warranted their own fund. Additionally, the foundation socket campaign had an interesting restriction: one was required to give a set amount of a half shekel (whereas one could donate as much gold or ram hides to the Mishkan as one pleased).

Once we understand what each part of the Mishkan represented, we can find some clarity in the seemingly inconsistent fundraising practices related in the parsha. Every physical item represents a spiritual truth; the various parts of the Mishkan represent different parts of our inner psyche and soul. The tapestries are the “trappings” — the tools we have, namely, our external capacities. The sockets in the Mishkan represent our unchanging inner core, which serve as a strong foundation for the beautiful “beam and tapestries,” those unique talents and abilities.

Knowing that the foundation sockets represent our inner, unchanging, essence – our soul – we can begin to understand why the donation required an equal share. Every Jew is connected to one another “by the essence of their souls, all Jews are connected and share one Father.” The symbolism of the equality is powerful, and sends a message that is quite effective in reminding us that the foundation, the area in which we are all equal is what will make our Mishkan last. Though the beams and tapestries may strike a much more imposing figure than the humble little sockets, the reality is that there can be no Mishkan structure without a strong foundation.

Furthermore, a structure relies on each piece of the foundation to work together to offer support to the whole. By recognizing our commonality with our fellow Jew, we are able to function successfully as a unit, focusing on our true purpose of elevating and bringing more good into the world.

The Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, teaches that “in the case of those who give major consideration to their bodies while regarding their souls as of secondary importance, there can be no true love and brotherhood among them, but only [a love] which is dependent on a [transitory] thing.” (Tanya, Chapter 32)

Only when we remain conscious of that inner core can our Tabernacle last. We must meditate on the fact that “all Israelites are called real brothers by virtue of the source of their souls in the One G‑d; only the bodies are separated,” (Tanya, Chapter 32) that each of us has a responsibility towards our fellow, because he is a part of us!

When we love our fellow Jew not for what abilities they have or what they can contribute with their talents, but because of who they are – because of their soul and essence, we can work together towards bringing the redemption, Moshaiach, and with it, a lasting peace for all of humanity, may it be speedily in our days.

Rabbi Cheski Edelman is the director of The Shul Center in Bayside.