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Parashat Terumah

I learnt the following truism from coaching Yeshiva Bachurim and frum people. The Torah Jew is concerned more about finding spirituality in the mundane than he is by anything else. This is an area left uncovered by the psychologists of the world.

No matter where the Bachur is holding, no matter how far he has fallen. Inappropriate behaviors, drugs, hurting himself, suicide attempt. Somehow, when I ask what he really wants, it always boils down to the issue that he wants – needs – to know one thing: What does it mean to believe that I can connect to G-d and bring Him into my life? What does it mean to pray, and know that G-d is right there in front of me? No matter how low a frum girl has fallen, she wants to know what it means for her to build a home into which she can bring G-dliness. The Torah Jew cannot live the carousel life of the Gentile and stay spiritually stable. Work to make money, make money to buy food, eat food to have energy, energy to go to work, etc… He needs to find, in every step of the way, not just a purpose, but a spiritual purpose.

One of the difficulties in understanding Shabbat is understanding how, specifically the 39 acts of building the Mishkan make up the acts that are forbidden on Shabbat. If we are supposed to rest on Shabbat, how does it make sense that removing a black seed from a watermelon, tying a knot in a certain way, putting on makeup, can be considered desecrating the Shabbat, for similar acts were used in the making of the Mishkan, whereas there are so many tiring acts that a person might do on Shabbat that are not considered desecrating the Shabbat? Why should it make a difference if I cook with fire or with any other element? Why are the categories of “work” used to build the Mishkan the foundation and the definition of what is classified “not resting” on Shabbat?

In order to explain this, we need to understand a discussion between G-d and the Angels, in the beginning of Creation. G-d relayed to the angels that Man is smarter than the Angels, for Man knows how to name things according to their essence. Regarding himself, man called himself Adam for he was taken from the earth, the Adamah. What does this mean? Why is Man’s being created from earth his essence?

The answer is that the whole essence of man is to take the earth, the physical, the mundane, and make it holy. Finding spirituality in the physical. When Moshe wanted to take the Torah, and the angels argued that it was theirs – תנה הודך על השמים Moshe won the argument.  He told them that the Torah can show man how to make the mundane holy – to take something physical and elevate it to a level of holiness.  Angels are not expected to do such things. (Shabbat 88b)

That is why, out of all actions that can be considered work, it is those involved in the making of the Mishkan that define work that has importance to it, that is the foundation for all actions forbidden on Shabbat. Because the building of the Mishkan was unique, in that human beings created something spiritual from something physical. Any other type of manmade creation is taking something physical and reshaping it – into something that is also physical. (See Siftei Chaim Terumah) This is the uniqueness of man. An angel cannot take something physical and make it spiritual. But man is made with this intent in mind (Messilat Yesharim Chapter 1, Yalkut Yosef Hil. K. Shema 64/6/footnote 6).

It is much more difficult to live a life of balance than it is to live a life of extremism. It is easier not to speak than it is to communicate without gossiping. It is easier to stay in Yeshiva or Kollel and learn, than it is to learn while you are working or in Ben Hazemanim. G-d does not want us to rid ourselves of the Yetzer Hara, but to love Him with it. ואהבת את ה’ אלוקיך בכל לבבך. Love G-d with both, your Yetzer Hatov and your Yetzer Hara. This is the whole life of a Jew. Facilitating peace between these two extremes is a constant challenge we all have to struggle with. It is such a serious challenge that we need to pray for success in it. 3 times a day. עושה שלום במרומיו.. יעשה שלום עלינו ועל כל עמו ישראל Throughout the day, we ask G-d to grant us peace and to grant peace for all of His nation. What is the repetition? The first mention is about our coming to peace between the physical and the spiritual that we all have inside us. And when we do, G-d brings peace on all of His Nation.

This has ramifications to every minute of our lives. It is a mistake to say that life is time and time is life. Because time is just a way to measure life. All of life is really a combination of three things. מחשבה מעשה דיבור. Thought, action, and speech. We need to make these as holy as possible. Making our thought, action and speech, holy.

To love G-d with your Yetzer Hara means to love Him even when you are down, because He always believes in you. It means to love Him, even if you have sinned, because He knows that you are human, and you needed some time to figure yourself out, and He understands you. It means to make Shabbat the most enjoyable day of the week, while keeping all the enjoyment very spiritual. If one needs to leave learning,  that means that G-d wants him to bring G-dliness to the physical, materialistic and mundane, that he finds in his life. If someone needs internet access to live, G-d wants him to make it holy with the filters that keep him holy. This is the project of the month of Adar. Adar stands for אלף דר, or ‘אלופו של עולם’ דר ,  recognizing how the Master of the World lives among us.

This is one of the deepest, most fundamental principles of Judaism. Judaism is a religion of balance. Of harmony between physical, material and mundane with spiritual, meaningful and moral. This equilibrium has its ramifications in all life areas of a Jew. Jewish males start off their lives differentiating themselves from the people of the world by making a covenant with G-d, specifically on the part of the body that is so physical, because the uniqueness of the Jew is sanctifying the mundane. Women live their whole lives taking the physical and making it spiritual. Changing diapers 24/ 7, setting the table, clearing the table, etc. Making home a place for the spirituality of the man that lives there to soar, to open a Sefer, to bless G-d for the deliciousness of Shabbat, and to enjoy spending quality time with his own wife, alone.  Men are איש, while women are אשה. The man is about the letter י, or Olam Haba, and the woman is about taking the letter ה which is Olam Hazeh, and making it holy.  כי בי-ה ה’ צור עולמים, with the letter י G-d made Olam Haba, and with the letter ה G-d made Olam Hazeh (See Menachot 29b).

So, ladies, change your child’s diapers with love, because you are emulating G-d who cleans us of our sins with love. Find G-dliness in the laundry, for you are dressing up your family to become the representatives of G-d to the world. Clean the dishes, set the table, make the best food you can, because you are making your home into your very own Mishkan.                                              

About the author, Yosef

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