Torah Weekly - Parshat Terumah

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Parshat Terumah

For the week ending 8 Adar 5761 / March 2 & 3, 2001

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    Hashem commands Moshe to build a Mishkan (Sanctuary) and supplies him with detailed instructions. Bnei Yisrael are asked to contribute precious metals and stones, fabrics, skins, oil and spices. In the Mishkan's outer courtyard is an altar for the burnt offerings and a laver for washing. The Tent of Meeting is divided by a curtain into two chambers. The outer chamber is accessible only to the kohanim, the descendants of Aharon. This contains the table of showbreads, the menorah, and the golden altar for incense. The innermost chamber, the Holy of Holies, may be entered only by the kohen gadol, and only once a year, on Yom Kippur. Here is the ark that held the Ten Commandments inscribed on the two tablets of stone which Hashem gave to the Jewish nation on Mount Sinai. All of the utensils and vessels, as well as the construction of the Mishkan, are described in great detail.




    "Remember what Amalek did to you, on the road when you were leaving Egypt..." (Devarim 25:17-18)

    Learning Modern Hebrew is a daunting task for many a new immigrant, but there is one Hebrew phrase that can be picked up as soon as you get off the plane. It requires no glottal stops or verbal contortions. In fact you don't even have to use your mouth or your lips to form this expression at all -- because you say it with your fingertips.

    Israeli sign-language for "Rega!" ("Wait!") consists of lightly clasping the upward-pointing fingertips together with the thumb and pulling the hand downward a little. This is repeated several times. It helps to communicate your insistence that the other party wait if you also angle your chin down and look at him through narrowed, upturned eyes.

    We live in an impatient world.

    This Shabbat is a special Shabbat, Shabbat Zachor. Zachor means remember. Shabbat Zachor is about remembering something which strikes at the very center of our existence, at our fundamental view of the world.

    "Remember what Amalek did to you, on the road when you were leaving Egypt..."

    When the Jewish People were leaving Egypt, there was a nation who came out and attacked them. That nation knew of all the miracles that G-d had done for the Jewish People in Egypt but it didn't faze them. They still attacked. Their name is Amalek. They are the incarnation of atheism in the world. They are the scoffer who says nothing is important. Nothing is real. There is no law. No Judge. No judgment. Nothing. The world stood in awe as the sea divided for the Jewish People. But Amalek merely smirks. One good sneer can banish a million miracles.

    Amalek attacked the Jewish People when they were "on the road." What is the significance of the road? A road connects. There is no road in the world which leads nowhere. Every road connects here with there. Amalek waits in ambush beside the road from the head to the heart. Deep inside every Jew there is a primordial sense-memory of standing at Sinai. We are believers who are the children of believers. Why is it then, that so many of us feel so far from G-d? Why is it that so many of us wonder if there is a G-d? Enter the clown. Amalek stops that sense-memory on the highway from the head to the heart. His very name spells out his mission. The gematria (numerical equivalent) of Amalek is 240. The gematria of safek -- "doubt" -- is also 240. Amalek is the power of doubt in the world that tries to sever the Jewish heart from its Source.

    But there's another road on which Amalek awaits in ambush. A road symbolizes purpose. And where there is purpose, there is hope. This world is a road, sometimes a dark and lonely road, but it leads to a great palace of light. Amalek says there is no road. There are only moments. There is only this moment.

    In the United States, psychologists have identified a frightening new phenomenon they call road rage. Road rage is when someone is driving too slowly in front of the Road Rager. So he puts his foot on the gas, overtakes the "rage-ee" and deliberately tries to kill the person who's driving too slowly, either by forcing him over the side of a precipice, or if there's no convenient precipice, he'll make the innocent victim pull off the road, take out a gun and pump him full of bullets.

    We live in a world where impatience has reached homicidal proportions. Why? Because there is nothing more than the moment. That is my life. If you steal this moment, you are stealing my life; in other words -- you are killing me. Therefore you deserve to die.

    Bilaam prophesied (Bamidbar 24:20) "Reishit goyim Amalek" -- "Amalek is the first among nations." If you take the first letters of each of these three words, "reish," "gimmel" and "ayin," they spell rega -- which means "moment." Amalek's message is that the moment, the rega, is all there is. All I have is the moment. Quick! I must cram my life with moments. For there is nothing else. There is no purpose. No road. No destination. Just the moment. And then extinction.

    On this Shabbat, Shabbat Zachor, the Torah gives the Jewish People a mitzvah to remember what Amalek did to us during the Exodus and to eradicate the name of Amalek. Why is it that we fulfill this mitzvah specifically on Shabbat?

    Shabbat is referred to as "last in action; in thought, the first." When G-d created the world, His ultimate purpose was Shabbat. Shabbat shows us that this world is not just a machine which runs for no purpose other than to continue running. Shabbat is the most distant whisper of a world beyond. A world where we harvest everything we have sown in this world. Shabbat is the ultimate expression of purpose. It stands in ultimate opposition to a world which is obsessed by the moment.

    Haftara Zachor

    Shmuel I 15:1-34



    Parshat Zachor is always read the week before Purim, because on Purim we celebrate our deliverance from Amalek's most notorious descendent -- Haman.

    The haftara of Parshat Zachor depicts another encounter with the descendants of Amalek: King Shaul was commanded to annihilate Amalek, but he failed to kill their king Agag. While in captivity, the last of the Amaleki, Agag, managed to sire a child, and it was from this child that Haman was descended.

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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