Torah Fax

Friday, February 27, 2004 - 5 Adar, 5764

Torah Reading: Terumah (Exodus  25:1 - 27:19)
Candle Lighting Time: 5:26 PM
Shabbat Ends: 6:27 PM

No Small Token

Frequently, we hear about the need to study the Torah in its original Hebrew. A translation, no matter how good, is incapable of conveying the subtleties and multiple layers of meaning contained in the original Hebrew.

A good example of the richness of the original Hebrew is the word Terumah, the name of this week's parsha. Terumah is translated as "offering," and it is mentioned in the following context: "G‑d spoke to Moses saying: Speak to the Children of Israel that they shall take unto me Terumah." The Torah then goes on to enumerate the various items that the Jews were requested to contribute to the building of the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary in the desert.

If all the Torah meant with the word Terumah is that the Israelites should offer their gold, silver etc. to the Mishkan fund, why couldn't it simply state: "Speak to the Children of Israel that they should give me gold, silver, etc.? Why the need for the word Terumah? Also, the Torah uses the expression, "take unto me Terumah-an offering." Shouldn't it have said, "give me an offering?"

The answer lies in a more accurate translation of the word Terumah. Terumah, in fact, does not mean a gift or an offering. It derives from two separate roots that mean both separate and elevate. To explain: in essence, the contributions to the Mishkan were not just a means to an end. True, there was a need for a Temple and Moses conducted a fund drive for contributions towards its construction. But there was much more than that. The process of giving for the Mishkan had intrinsic importance in and of itself.

The Israelites were asked to do much more than simply make a donation to the Mishkan. This was much more than just a gift or a charitable donation of expendable funds. The connotation of the word gift is that one gives something that they purchase specifically for someone else. Occasionally, one will give away something that one already owns more than one of or if that item is of no more use to the giver. But how many people will take an expensive heirloom and give it away to a friend as a birthday present? The Terumah donation in the desert required exactly that. The Jews had to part with their most precious belongings.

To help us appreciate the fact that the giving for the construction of the Mishkan required great sacrifice on the part of the Jews, the Torah uses the word Terumah, meaning that it involved both separating something of great sentimental or monetary value and parting with it.

But the simple translation of the word Terumah also provides us with yet another dimension of what it means to give. When one takes his material possessions and separates them for G‑d, one uplifts those very possessions as well as oneself. These items of gold and silver are no longer simply material items, they are now holy - they have become uplifted. Indeed, not only are these objects elevated to a higher plane of existence, the people who have parted with these items and have given them to a holy cause are likewise elevated. The donors are no longer plain mortals. By donating to a holy cause, one surpasses the level of any of G‑d's creations and assumes a relationship with G‑d that transcends everything else in the universe.

Fort this reason, the Torah does not simply state "give me an offering," but rather "take unto me Terumah." By giving in the manner of Terumah described above, one literally "takes Me (meaning G‑d)." By giving a contribution one is simply giving, but by doing Terumah one uplifts himself or herself to the point where they become one with G‑d.

The word Terumah, our Sages tell us, is also a composite of the word Torah Mem. The letter Mem has the numerical value of 40 and "Torah Mem" refers to the Torah which Moses received after spending 40 days on Mt. Sinai. Thus, by selflessly giving Terumah, we not only "take G‑d," as mentioned above, but we also connect to the Torah on an much deeper level.

This will be accomplished in its most full measure when Moshiach comes. In the age of Moshiach, whose name begins with the letter Mem, we will be uplifted along with the entire world to a whole new plateau of existence. By doing Terumah, not just giving, we hasten the process and prepare the world for the Messianic Age. 
Moshiach Matters

Though the Talmud says that “in the future time, Mitzvahs will be annulled” (Nidah 61b), this is to be understood in the figurative sense: the degree of Divine energy elicited by the performance of Mitzvahs today is exponentially inferior to the degree of G‑dly light that will be brought about by the fulfillment of the Mitzvahs in the age of Moshiach. (The Rebbe Rashab, 5th Rebbe of Chabad)

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