Friday, February 23, 2007

Terumah by Reb Jay

In this week’s parsha, the Jewish people are commanded to build the Mishkan (tabernacle): “They shall make a sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell amongst them” (Shemos 25:8).

Then instructions are given on building different vessels which would be inside the Mishkan, starting with the Aron (which would hold in it the Tablets which Moshe received at Sinai): “They shall make an ark of shittim wood” (Shemos 25:10). After the Aron, commands are given to build the Keruvim, the Shulchan and the Menorah. Only after this are the detailed instructions given for how to build the Mishkan itself, its covering, its walls etc.

If the Mishkan was intended to have been built first, why were the specifications given for the ark first? And when Moshe gave over the instructions to Betzalel the son of Uri, who had been appointed to build the Mishkan, he told him to first build the ark, then build the Mishkan. Betzalel correctly deduced that first the house is built in which the “furniture” will be placed (Meseches Brochos 55a). Why would Moshe deviate from the order given to him by Hashem?

In Judaism, spiritual acts and instructions often have as much significance as physical ones do. Even though the physical construction of the Tabernacle was to take place before the construction of the ark, because the ark housed the Torah it was the focal point of the Tabernacle. So the first mention was of the Tabernacle, as that was to be the first tangible thing to be built. But the specifications were given first for the ark, because the ark is the purpose of the tabernacle not vice versa.

The Mishkan was built as an equal to the world (Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar), a world of compressed spirituality, a place where Hashem’s presence could dwell in this world. The Torah was the impetus and the blueprint for the world: “Hashem looked in the Torah and created the world” (Zohar HaKadosh Parshas Terumah). So just as in the Mishkan, on a spiritual level, the ark preceded the Mishkan, as the raison d'être of the Mishkan was to be the ark, so too the Torah preceded the world, as the raison d'être of the world is the Torah.

What does it mean the Torah predates the world? The concepts listed in the Torah are not subject to the constraints of time. True, there are certain commandments at the present time which are not in practice, such as the laws of the Karbanos, and the laws relating to a king. This is not because these laws are no longer relevant, but rather, we lack the necessary means to fulfill them.

The idea that the Torah is older than the world itself forces us to confront reality in a completely different fashion. Instead of trying to see and understand the Torah through the glasses of contemporary mores, we must view contemporary reality through the spectrum of the Torah.

One of the biggest challenges to being a Jew in our society is the problem that very often our views will conflict with the New York Times, G-d forbid.

The perspective of the Torah is the perspective of Hashem. A perspective not clouded by changing views.

We must remember to view the Torah from this perspective, and when we do so, we will see the wonder of the Torah, that it is truly timeless.

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