TERUMAH (Exodus 25 – 27)
GOOD MORNING! This edition heralds the beginning of the 27th year of the Shabbat Shalom Weekly. More importantly, this coming Shabbat is my eldest grandson, Yehuda’s, Bar Mitzvah! Therefore, I thought it would be an auspicious time to share some insights into the concept of Bar and Bat Mitzvah.
A Bar or Bat Mitzvah should be a time of joy, a more meaningful involvement in Judaism and love for our heritage. Unfortunately, as the following story illustrates, many young Jews consider a Bar or Bat Mitzvah their graduation ceremony from Judaism — as alluded to in the following story:
A rabbi, priest and minister were having coffee together. The priest lamented over the problem of bats in the belfry which every effort had failed to eliminate. The minister sympathized that he had church mice which he couldn’t get rid of. The rabbi, however, said, “I used to have a problem with pigeons in the synagogue, but I got rid of them.” The priest and the minister begged for his secret. “Well”, says the rabbi, “I don’t know if it’ll work for you, but one Saturday I got all of the pigeons together and Bar Mitzvahed them …. and they never came back!”
Besides the education we give our children in Sunday school or other institutions, they must see that we enjoy being Jewish. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, of blessed memory, commented that perhaps the biggest factor in the deterioration of Jewish life in the United States was the complaint of immigrant parents in front of their children that “It’s tough to be a Jew.” What child wants to be a part of something difficult and depressing?
One cannot transfer his feelings for Judaism through intellect. Only when the child can partake in a home where there is joy in doing mitzvot (Torah commandments) — lighting Shabbat candles, a Pesach Seder, Chanukah, giving Tzedakah (charity) to poor people who come to your door — can they absorb the joy of being Jewish and living Jewishly.
Bar Mitzvah literally means “Son of the Commandment” and Bat Mitzvah means “Daughter of the Commandment.” At the age of 13 for a boy and 12 years for a girl, they respectively become fully obligated in and culpable for the observance of the commandments — responsible morally and legally for their actions. The Torah teaches that women are created with greater insight and understanding than men and because their intellectual and emotional facilities develop more quickly, they become obligated earlier.
Writes Rabbi Shraga Simmons, “On a deeper level, just as their bodies are growing and changing, so too, their souls are growing and changing. Kabbalistic tradition says that a person’s spiritual being has several levels of soul. A new level of soul (called neshama) comes into awareness at Bar/Bat Mitzvah time. This is the time when moral awareness and sensitivity fully develops, enabling young people to take responsibility for their actions.”
Sometimes, one meets a man who says he was never “Bar Mitzvahed.” He may never have had a celebration, but once he turns thirteen, he is accorded by Jewish law the status of “Bar Mitzvahed.” He can be counted in a minyan (a prayer quorum), give testimony in a Beit Din (Jewish court of law), and enter into contractual agreements. He is fully responsible for his own behavior in front of God and man. It is customary for a boy to be called to the Torah for an Aliyah (to make a blessing over the reading of the Torah), to lead the davening (prayer service) or to lead the Birchat HaMazon (Grace after Meals) and in this way, make a public statement that he is a Bar Mitzvah. Also, at age 13, a Jewish boy begins the obligation to put on Tefillin (Phylacteries) every day (except Shabbat and holidays).
The occasion may be celebrated simply (schnapps, herring and crackers) or lavishly, but it is important to avoid opulent ostentation — which will give the Bar/Bat Mitzvah the wrong lesson about life. The Bar Mitzvah and the community must appreciate the celebration as a religious event and not a secular extravaganza. As one person put it, “Better there should be less emphasis on the “Bar” than on the “Mitzvah.”
Sums up Rabbi Simmons, “Bar/Bat Mitzvah means to become educated, and to strengthen one’s Jewish pride through knowledge and understanding. It means to grow Jewishly, one step at a time. It means standing up for Israel and respecting every Jew. It means taking responsibility for the world, using the Torah as our guide, because that is the mission of the Jewish people. And most of all, it means to love being Jewish!”
Terumah (25:1 – 27:19)
This week’s Torah reading is an architect’s or interior designer’s dream portion. It begins with the Almighty commanding Moses to tell the Jewish people to donate the materials necessary for the construction of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary.
The Torah continues with the details for constructing the Ark, the Table, the Menorah, the Tabernacle (the central area of worship containing the Ark, the Menorah, the Incense Altar, and the Table), the Beams composing the walls of the Tabernacle, the Cloth partition (separating the Holy of Holies where the Ark rested from the remaining Sanctuary part of the Tabernacle), the Altar and the Enclosure for the Tabernacle (surrounding curtains forming a rectangle within which was approximately 15x larger than the Tabernacle).
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from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
The Torah states regarding the portable Sanctuary that traveled with the Israelites during the 40 years in the desert:
“You shall place the Table outside the Partition, and the Menorah
opposite the Table on the south side of the Tabernacle, and
the Table you shall place on the north side” (Exodus 26:35).
It would have been much more concise to say, “Place the Table outside the partition on the north side.” What lesson for life is the Torah coming to teach us from the placement of these furnishings?
The Table and the Menorah represent two aspects of life. The Table and the Showbread (which rested on it) represent the physical aspect of life, the food we need for survival; the Menorah represents the spiritual aspect.
When life begins, the infant knows only his physical needs and their gratification. The juvenile mind cannot conceptualize or understand spirituality. We thus begin life with our physical and material drives being dominant. When one reaches the age of reason, the spiritual aspects of life sets in, and should achieve primacy. The physical needs should eventually become subordinate to the spiritual. Inasmuch as one cannot achieve spiritual goals unless one is physically healthy, one must provide the body with all its essential needs. However, this should not be as in childhood, when satisfying one’s hunger or resting to overcome weariness were dominant.
This is why the Torah goes out of its way to describe the placement of the Table and the Menorah. The beginning of life is indeed with the Table, but at some later date, the Menorah must be given primacy. After that, the Table is still very much a part of life, but is now subordinate to the Menorah. Maturity is not limited to intellectual progress, but requires that spirituality becomes the goal of life while the physical requirements are only the means.
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words.
Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits.
Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny”
— Mahatma Gandhi
JOKE OF THE WEEK
Lost in translation
Shimshi and his mother were visiting their cousins for Shabbat and in shul on Shabbat morning, the Rabbi announced that they could choose a chumash that was in Hebrew or English.
Little Shimshi tugged at his mother’s sleeve and whispered, “Mommy, I want the one in Hebrew.”
“But Shimshi,” his mother replied, “You can’t read Hebrew.”
Little Shimshi replied, “Mommy, I can’t read English either.”
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