A Taste of Torah – Parshas Terumah

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

In Parshas Terumah we begin the section of the Torah that deals with the building of the MishkanI, the Tabernacle. When the Torah ends the description of the Mishkan, it goes on to describe the laws of the service in the sanctuary and the ritual laws of purity. This is followed by the special laws of the Kohanim. A full third of the Chumash deals with the construction, rituals and history of the Mishkan.

This requires some analysis since we know that the Torah puts great emphasis on man’s internal thoughts and connection to Hashem. The prophets decry the empty gesture of ritualism.  In several weeks (Parshas Zochor) we will read Shmuel HaNavi’s admonition of:

הנה שמוע מזבח טוב להקשיב מחלב פרים
Why does the Torah attach so much importance to the pageantry and pomp of the sanctuary and the service?

This question has been generalized by many who don’t understand the function of the מצוות מעשיות – the practical mitzvos. Isn’t it sufficient to love Hashem and practice his moral ways without eating matzoh or wearing teffilin? If I meditate on the Creator and his world, do I still need to keep all of the minutiae of hilchos Shabbos, the laws of Shabbos?

The answer to these questions are found in the passuk of ד’ חפץ למען צדקו יגדיל תורה ויאדיר – Hashem desired to give it (the Jewish people) virtue and so he enlarged the Torah and made it (or them) mighty” (Yeshayahu 42:21). This important passuk is explained in several ways:

  1. Hashem wants us to succeed in this life as well as the eternal life. As the architect and planner of this world, he gave us mitzvos that will help harmonize our lives with the cosmic and the practical aspects of this world. This wisdom is known only to him, and as Jews who serve Him, we trust his superior knowledge.
  2. Mitzvos provide us with the opportunity to show our allegiance to Hashem, especially when we do things that aren’t intuitive to us. It is our way of surrendering our will to Him. It is the foundation of our relationship with Him, and He provides us with the opportunity to connect to him through mitzvos.
  3. We want to earn our keep and since Hashem doesn’t “need” anything from us, He wanted us to have an opportunity to earn a reward by obeying him.
  4. There are many dimensions to the world beyond the reach of our senses. These spiritual realms are impacted by our observance of mitzvos. Since we cannot comprehend what these worlds are, we also cannot comprehend how our actions effect the real “Tikkun Olam.”

We are entering a period in the Jewish calendar which is rich with ceremony and practical mitzvos. We should embrace these mitzvos as a great gift that allows us to contribute to the world’s perfection, achieve eternity for ourselves and to build our relationship with Hashem.