Torah Fax

Friday, March 3, 2006 - 3 Adar, 5766

Torah Reading: Terumah (Exodus  25:1 - 27:19)
Candle Lighting Time:  5:31 PM
Shabbat Ends: 6:32 PM
Go South Young Man
The Mishkan, the portable Temple built by Moses in the desert that we read about in this week's Parshah, contained several key objects. In addition to the ark that contained the tablets, the Mishkan also contained a Menorah, which was lit every day of the year, a Golden Table that contained the twelve showbreads and an incense altar.
Every detail that related to the Temple was obviously significant. In this vein, the Talmud notes the importance of the specific locations that these objects occupied in the Mishkan. The Menorah, which symbolizes enlightenment and wisdom and was to be placed on the south of the sanctuary, suggests that wisdom is connected with the south. The Table, with its showbread, symbolizes material wealth and prosperity and was placed on the north side of the Mishkan. The Talmud thus suggests that wealth is connected with the north.
The Talmud therefore declares: "One who wishes to become wise should face south (when praying the Shemoneh Esrei, the daily silent prayer) and one who wishes to become wealthy should face north. (Though one should face east, toward Jerusalem, when praying, the Talmud explains that one who wishes to become either rich or wise can turn slightly to one of these two directions, while still basically facing east.)
A number of questions may be asked. Firstly, why does G‑d's blessing of wealth or wisdom depend on facing a specific physical direction? And why is the north connected with wealth and the south connected with wisdom?
The further north we go, from the perspective of Israel, the colder it gets because less of the earth's sunlight reaches the earth. Indeed, the Hebrew word for north is Tzafon, which means "hidden," indicating that the sun is hidden.
Conversely, the further south one goes, towards the equator, the hotter it becomes because the sun shines more brightly and strongly there.
The Psalmist tells us that the brightness and warmth of the sun represent the openness and radiance of the Divine presence. (See Psalm 84:12, "For a sun and a sheath is G‑d.") The north and south therefore are representative of the concealment and revelation (respectively) of the Divine presence.
When one wants true wisdom, he must direct his prayers to the south, meaning toward divine inspiration. True wisdom is not merely a collection of knowledge but a means of understanding and coming closer to G‑d. By facing south, a person shows that he desires to acquire G‑dly knowledge and he wants to get closer to G‑d.
When one wants wealth, meaning when he is obsessed with material needs, he faces north. He shows that he is not interested in developing a relationship with G‑d, and, in fact, he is quite "cold" to the notion of spiritual growth.
But the Talmud continues: "Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi says: A person should always face the south, because as a result of acquiring wisdom, one will also become rich."
The suggestion here is that wealth is not intrinsically evil and that the desire for riches is not always an unG‑dly pursuit. By facing south and showing a desire for holiness, one can also merit to be given material wealth. After all, wealth - just like everything in creation - can and must be used in the service of G‑d. And by facing south while praying - showing a keen interest and craving for the divine - one demonstrates that he is a perfect candidate to receive wealth from G- d with the intention of utilizing it for G‑dly purposes.
Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi wishes to tell us that materialism and spirituality should not be viewed as mutually exclusive worlds. Any perceived dichotomy between the material and the G‑dly is merely superficial. It is our job to "face south" and see the G‑dliness in the physical.
For this reason, when Moshiach comes, Maimonides tells us, there will be an abundance of material goods and riches. We will not have to shun materialism in the Messianic Age like some reclusive hermits, rather, we will see the holiness in everything, including the material and the mundane. "In that time there will be no hunger… and the delights will be as plentiful as the dust of the earth… and the exclusive preoccupation of the entire world will be to know G‑d" (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Moshiach, end of chap. 12).

Moshiach Matters
The prophet tells us that “Just as in the days of your going out of Egypt, I will show you miracles.” This includes the fact that as the Jews left Egypt they were given riches, gold and jewels by the Egyptians. Similarly now, as we prepare to go out of exile together with Moshiach, every Jew deserves to be rich, and  G‑d certainly blesses each of us to become wealthy. Therefore, we should strive to become rich spiritually, with many Mitzvos - and we should also strive to be wealthy on a material level. (The Rebbe, Shabbat Trumah, 1992)

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