Torah Fax

Friday, February 8, 2008 - 2 Adar I, 5768

Torah Reading:  Terumah (Exodus  25:1 - 27:19)
Candle Lighting: 5:03 PM
Shabbat ends: 6:05 PM

The Half Full Cup Runneth Over

Our Parshah begins by giving us the measurements for the Holy Ark. The Torah tells us that its dimensions were to be: two and a half cubits by one and a half cubits by one and a half. Commentators note that all of the dimensions of the ark end with a half. None of the measurements for the other vessels, including the Menorah and the Altar, ended with such odd measurements in all three of their dimensions.

One answer, based on the Kli Yakar (a 17th century Biblical commentary) with additional elucidation based on Chassidic thought, suggests that there are three dimensions to Torah knowledge that parallel the three physical dimensions of length, breadth and depth. Each of these three aspects of Torah knowledge is partly accessible and partly elusive.

The height - or depth - measurement represents the depths of Torah knowledge. Torah, though accessible by human intellect, is in no way limited by it. This is especially true of the mystical aspects of the Torah, which go well beyond the reach of human comprehension. Indeed, our tradition tells us that Torah preceded creation by "two thousand years." In addition, it is taught that the souls of the departed "relearn" the Torah they learned on earth upon entering heaven on an entirely new and supra-rational level.

The fact that there are aspects of Torah which transcend human intellect makes perfect sense when one considers that Torah is actually Divine Wisdom. Indeed, one might ask a contrary question - how could it be that such a sublime form of knowledge be accessible at all to even the greatest of human minds? Part of the answer to this question is understood through appreciating the miracle of the Giving of the Torah at Sinai. There, G‑d "gave" us the Torah, meaning he made the sublime and purely spiritual wisdom of the Torah (at least partially) accessible to our finite intellect. While we grapple with Torah teachings and ideas, we should be aware that these are pathways to connect with the divine, with the infinite. For this reason, the height of the ark ended in a half-cubit - teaching us that we should always be aware that whatever it is we understand of the Torah, it is only part of the whole picture. We are merely scratching the surface of a deep, mystical knowledge that has yet to be unraveled.

The breadth of Torah represents the mass of scholarship and varied subjects within the realm of Torah knowledge. Torah is more than just the Bible or even the Talmud and its countless commentaries. Every novel interpretation put forth by a contemporary scholar, every imaginable insight, every application of Torah Law to a new medical or scientific issue by a Halachic authority, is all part of Torah knowledge. In the words of the Jerusalem Talmud: "Whatever novel idea a worthy student will give forth has already been given by Moses at Sinai."  Thus the measure of Torah teachings, is infinite. Therefore, the ark’s breadth ends in a half-cubit to inform us that as much knowledge as we have mastered, we have still not completed the job.

The length of the ark represents the ability to take a Torah idea and extend it to another. For example, a teacher may wish to impart knowledge to his students, who may not be as advanced intellectually as he is. Thus, he must find a way to bring his understanding of the subject matter down to the level where his students can "digest" and grasp his thoughts. Sometimes, a complex idea can be illustrated by way of an analogy or a parable. There might be other techniques used. The ability to take Torah knowledge from and experienced mind to a newer, less knowledgeable person is analogous compared to the Torah’s “length.”

But the student must realize that notwithstanding his ability to grasp the ideas that the teacher is conveying, something inevitably gets lost in the transference. One must always seek to return to the teacher for further elucidation. Without constant review, he will only have part of the knowledge, a half-cubit. (Note: there is a concept that after forty years one can finally attain the level and intellect of one's teacher, but discussion of that teaching will have to be left for another week.)

When Moshiach comes, each of these areas of Torah knowledge will be greatly enhanced. Moshiach will reveal the mysteries of the Torah on an entirely new level. In addition, our breadth of Torah knowledge will be much greater and our ability to share Torah knowledge with others will be enhanced, as Maimonides writes in his conclusion to the Mishneh Torah: "In that era, the preoccupation of the entire world will be solely to know G‑d. The Israelites will be great sages and know hidden matters and they will attain knowledge of their Creator… as it is said 'The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the sea bed.'"

Moshiach Matters


The prohet 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 Moishiach, 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)
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit

© 2001- 2008 Chabad of the West Side