1. Today is the first Shabbos of the month of Adar I. It is also the sixth day of the month, and we read the portion of Terumah. The principle of Divine Providence directs us to find meaning in this confluence of phenomena.

In seeking the quality of Adar we should recall the statement in the Megillah, that Adar is:

The month which had been transformed for them...to gladness, and...to festivity. (Esther 9:22)

The Gemara also says that when one is forced into a legal confrontation with a non-Jew he:

Should make himself available in Adar, when his luck is good. (Taanis 29b)

During Adar the Jewish mazal shines and all matters of Yiddishkeit are uplifted and more successful.

Let us analyze the different facets of the month; for we have a leap year, Adar I, and the Shabbosim of the month.

The main characteristic of a leap year is that the month of Adar has twice as many days as in a regular year (Adar I and Adar II). No doubt, a double dose of days of happiness and rejoicing is a good context within which to rise higher and increase holiness.

Adar I is called the “first” Adar. It has all the spiritual qualities of the “second” Adar plus the fact that it is first in time and first in importance, as compared to the “second” Adar.

Every Shabbos of every month rises and is “separated” above the other days of the week, and in Adar the special quality of Shabbos is therefore enhanced. The first Shabbos of Adar opens the channel for the special blessings of the entire month, for it is through the Shabbosim that the weekdays are blessed.

The Torah portion we read will also express the special quality of this Shabbos and since the name symbolizes the essence, let us analyze the name “Terumah — offering.” Terumah stems from the root “to separate” or “to raise.” Thus, the portion of Terumah indicates that this is the first Shabbos of the month which is raised above the other months — when the mazal is uplifted. The first Shabbos of the month clearly symbolizes this attribute.

The date of the month also carries a special significance, for it is the eve (erev) of the seventh of Adar, the birthday of Moshe, our teacher, whose birth “filled the house with light.” Moshe’s birthday played an important role in the circumstances that led to the change which made Adar a month of happiness.

The Gemara relates:

When the lot fell on the month of Adar he (Haman) rejoiced greatly saying, “The lot has fallen for me on the month in which Moshe died.” He did not know, however, that Moshe died on the seventh of Adar and was born on the seventh of Adar. (Megillah 13b)

To this Rashi adds:

The birth of Moshe is capable of atoning for his death. (loc. cit.)

So, when the first Shabbos of Adar falls on the sixth of the month, its role of introducing the blessings and joy of the month is enhanced by its proximity to the source of that joy — the birthday of Moshe, our teacher.

Moshe’s theme in life was Torah, as the prophet says: “Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant” (Malachi 3:22). The Midrash elaborates on this:

Because Moshe devoted (sacrificed) his life for the Torah, therefore it was called after his name. (See Shmos Rabbah 30:4)

Now we know, that in the word T’eR’U’M’aH’ we have a symbolic reference to Torah, for it has all the letters of the word T’O’R’aH’, plus the “Mem” — which represents the number forty, being the period of time Moshe spent on the mountain receiving the Torah. But the letter Mem also stands for Moshe.

When Terumah is read on the first Shabbos of Adar which falls on the sixth of the month — it connects the Torah of Moshe with the special qualities of the month and raises the day to greater heights, and strengthens the benevolence it will radiate on the entire month.

What practical lesson do we garner from this teaching? To undertake the proper commitment and resolutions to implement the aspects of the month of Adar.

The theme of Adar expresses itself in the general fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos as expressed by the following:

The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor...light means Torah...honor means phylacteries. (Megillah 16b)

This connotes the involvement in Torah and mitzvos. Furthermore:

Moreover, many from among the people of the land professed themselves Jews: for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them. (Esther 8:17)

All this will bring to the ultimate redemption of which our sages assure us that G‑d will:

Bring one period of redemption close to another period of redemption. (Megillah 6b)

Just as the month of Adar brings with it the theme of practical Torah and mitzvos which will usher in the redemption, similarly, we find this theme in the portion of Terumah.

It was mentioned that the word Terumah — T’eR’U’M’aH’ — is comprised of the letters Torah -T’O’R’aH’ — plus the letter Mem. This refers to the Torah which was given in 40 days (Mem=40). But in Torah study we may discern two opposite approaches.

(A) Torah is generally considered to be aloof from the world as the Midrash says: “The Torah preceded the creation of the world by 2000 years” (Bereishis Rabbah 8:2).

This means that even when Torah is here in the world it stands in a state of aloofness, as something which “precedes” the world by 2000 years. Furthermore, if you speak of the essential quality of Torah it is surely beyond the temporal limitation of the time and space of the material world. In this sense Torah reaffirms its association with the term “Terumah,” which means “separated” and “raised” — it is completely aloof, with no connection whatsoever.

(B) And yet, Torah was given to the Jewish people in the time framework of forty days. This shows that Torah is encompassed by time and space, which present temporal and corporeal restrictions within the worldly context.

The solution to this paradox is that the Torah which is lofty and aloof should be drawn into, and revealed through, the luminaries of the world. To the degree that the time and space of the world must be absorbed into the revelation of the Torah. When the Torah tells us:

They shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell among them, (Shmos 25:8)

it is hinting at just that symbiosis of worldliness and Torah. For the main revelation of G‑dliness in the world was in the Mishkan.

In a person’s personal Divine service we may also discern certain differences in the manner of Torah study.

(A) Purely abstract; Torah study which involves debate and argument, differences of opinions, and the approach that: “These and these are words of the living G‑d” (Eruvin 13b).

(B) Study that is directed to the correct halachic conclusion with its practical rulings in the real world. As the Gemara tells us:

Study which leads to conclusions which teach the halachah. (Yoma 26a)

Although these two avenues are clearly different, and perhaps even opposite, nevertheless, a person may incorporate both approaches in his Divine service.

Your spiritual service of G‑d is not dependent on the final halachic ruling, and even the rejected Halachic opinion may provide immense spiritual enrichment. So that in the abstract you may follow both opinions! This is often the case when Chassidic philosophy bases spiritual advice on the non-accepted halachic opinions. You may first follow one opinion and then the other, e.g. first — you may serve G‑d with the theme of Beis Hillel and then concentrate on the theme of Beis Shammai. For truly, both opinions are the words of the living G‑d!

In fact, you may incorporate into your Divine service all seventy facets of Torah interpretation. This is possible when we speak in abstracts and symbolism.

When, however, we deal with reality, physical action, in the real world, then we may only follow the opinion which has been given halachic validity. The clearly defined Torah law!

Here the TORAH-M indicates that we must not be satisfied with abstract Torah concepts, rather we must reach the final halachic rulings and follow its directives.

Here we see that the real goal of study is to develop the concepts to the point of application, as the Sages of the Talmud said: “Study is greater, for it leads to action” (Kiddushin 40b), and “Not study, but practice is the essential thing” (Avos 1:17).

Thus, in our work for the month of Adar we must see to actually effect the light and joy, rejoicing and honor for the Jewish people in the reality of the world, and we must likewise bring the true redemption. And although the “Sanctuary” referred to in Torah may also mean an inner spiritual “sanctuary” in the heart of every Jew, yet, the real meaning of “Sanctuary” is the down to earth, physical, Third Holy Temple, which will include all the aspects of the previous Tabernacles and Temples all together.

May we all take the blessings of this Shabbos to enthusiastically work in all areas of the theme of Adar and “bring the redemption close to the redemption,” and may we merit the Third Beis HaMikdash speedily and truly in our time.

2. On the subject of the seventh of Adar it is interesting to note that among Chassidim there was no custom of special observance of the day, e.g. they did not have the custom to fast.

The reason for this is, that it is not customary among Chassidim to fast often, as the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya:

..in contemporary generations, it is forbidden to engage in many fasts. (Iggeres HaTeshuvah ch. 3)

Similarly, in Shulchan Aruch the Alter Rebbe rules:

A man does not have the right of absolute control over his body...he may not cause himself pain...even if only by withholding food or drink from himself. (Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Laws of Damages to the Body and Soul, p. 4)

This is because one’s life is not his own possession, rather, it is the possession of the Holy One, Blessed be He.

And although the purpose of fasting on the seventh of Adar is traditionally associated with teshuvah, we have not seen the custom carried out among Chassidim.

It is a bit strange, however, that we don’t find some other yearly custom being observed on the seventh of Adar.

Chassidus teaches that on Lag BaOmer, the day of the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, we celebrate an Hillula (joy of wedding). Why do we not take an example from Lag BaOmer and introduce some form of celebration on the seventh of Adar — especially since we know that Rashbi’s soul was a “spark” of the soul of Moshe.

Another point should also be considered. In addition to being the day of passing of Moshe, the seventh of Adar was also his birthday. In fact, it was because of this fact that the month of Purim was transformed from mourning to rejoicing!

And yet it is forgotten! Evidently, because of this lack of observance it also caused a lapse of memory. Tonight a Melaveh Malkah will take place which has been widely advertised and publicized. Its importance has been connected with supporting the neighborhood and other good causes. The only thing which was forgotten is the fact that the Melaveh Malkah will take place on the seventh of Adar — the birthday of Moshe!

When you reflect on the purpose of the Melaveh Malkah it is obvious that the hope is that all the participants will contribute their “gold, silver and copper” as we read in today’s Torah portion — the emphasis is first on gold, then, those who have no gold should give silver, and at least copper.

Much effort has been expended to see that the success should be overwhelming and that the income should be substantial. So, it is very strange to see that they forgot to stress the simplest point, that the Melaveh Malkah is taking place on the seventh of Adar — the birthday of our teacher Moshe. Most amazing of all is the fact that the name of the shul is “Ahavas Moshe” and they did not show “love” for Moshe by remembering that it will take place on his birthday!

The commentaries teach us that in the portion of Tetzaveh (which we start reading this afternoon) Moshe’s name is only mentioned symbolically. Evidently, they too forgot to mention Moshe and only symbolically is he referred to in the name of the shul “Ahavas Moshe.”

Human nature is such that when one is informed of a mistake he has made he makes every effort to double his effort and eliminate the error. Hopefully, here too, all the organizers will, in the remaining hours till the Melaveh Malkah, enthusiastically exert every effort to publicize the fact that the Melaveh Malkah will take place on Moshe Rabbeinu’s birthday (and Yahrzeit).

This will increase the hoped for results that people will contribute “gold, silver and copper” in a happy and joyful manner and it will bring to the essential goal that:

Great is charity in that it brings the redemption nearer; (B. Basra 10a)

the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach, when we will merit the true Sanctuary, the Third Beis HaMikdash. May we actually see this promise materialize with our youth and elders, sons and daughters, “a great company shall return there,” “with their silver and gold with them,” speedily and truly in our time.

* * *

3. In the portion of Terumah the Torah introduces the command to build the Tabernacle.

They shall make Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell among them. (Shmos 25:8)

The Torah then goes on to speak of the various vessels and utensils to be placed in the Tabernacle, starting with the description of the ark, “Make an ark” (Ibid:10).

This order is a bit perplexing. It would seem that the Torah should first inform us of the details of the Tabernacle itself and then speak of the vessels. Why does Torah start with the ark? This though is alluded to by Rashi when he describes the discussion between Betzalel and Moshe concerning the order of manufacture:

(Moshe had suggested to Betzalel to build the vessels first (cf. ibid. 25:10)) but Betzalel said to him: “Surely it is the way of the world first to build a house and then to place the household utensils in it!” Moshe further said to him: “Betzalel, you must have been sitting in the shadow of G‑d, for certainly G‑d did thus command me” (cf. ibid. 31:7 ff.). And, consequently Betzalel made the Tabernacle first and afterwards he made the vessels. (Rashi, Ibid., 38:22)

This raises the question: Why did not Rashi explain the strange order right here at the beginning of the construction of the Tabernacle. The other classic commentaries do deal with this problem and they venture to explain the point. In fact the Ramban (Nachmanides) explains:

The main purpose of the Tabernacle was to contain a place in which the Divine Glory rests, this being the ark, just as He said, “And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the ark — cover.” Therefore he first gave the commandment about the ark and the ark-cover, for they are the first in importance. (Ramban on 25:1)

Now, if the Ramban finds it necessary to explain this point, it would seem that Rashi, the chief among the commentaries of simple text, would surely be responsible to give us the plain meaning and explain why the Aron (ark) is commanded first.

We may explain Rashi’s silence by assuming that the five-year-old Chumash student can understand this point by himself from the sequence of the verses.


On the verse: “They shall make Me a Sanctuary” Rashi had explained: “Let them make, the glory of My name, a place of holiness.” The five-year-old Chumash student understood from this that the purpose and goal of the House of G‑d was to be a “place of holiness” for the glory of G‑d’s Name. Then when he learns the verses about the ark he finds the statement “and there I will meet with you and I will speak with you from above the ark- cover.” It now becomes clear to the five-year-old Chumash student that this (the ark) is in fact the purpose of the Mishkan — he therefore has no question why it is mentioned first.

In studying about the ark and its cover another difficult point comes to mind. The Torah says:

Make a golden cover for the ark two and one-half cubits long and one and one-half cubits wide. (Ibid. 25:17)

Rashi continues:

..as was the length of the ark, and its breadth was the breadth of the ark, thus it rested on the thickness of its four walls. Although it does not assign any thickness, our rabbis have explained, that the thickness thereof was one handsbreadth. (Rashi loc. cit.)

Several questions come to mind:

A) After stating that Scripture “does not assign any thickness” for the ark-cover, why does he deem it necessary to tell us its thickness; must we know the thickness to understand the simple meaning of the verse? Rashi does not give us all the details of all the components of the Mishkan — his purpose is to clarify the plain meaning of the verse. What do we lose in simple meaning of Scripture if we remain ignorant of the thickness of the ark-cover?

B) Specifically in the case of the thickness of the ark-cover it would seem that Rashi should not have to give us the information, because in similar cases the thickness of other vessels is also not given to us in the Torah, e.g. the Table, or the branches of the Menorah. Why must Rashi tell us the thickness here?

C) In the Talmud, where the thickness of the ark-cover is discussed and explained, it is referred to with the term height, not thickness. Rashi however, in the Talmud as well as in the Chumash, uses the term thickness. Would this not indicate that Rashi purposely wants to exclude the cover from the group of vessels for which these dimensions (LxWxH) are given, since it is only the cover of the ark we are only interested in its length and width. It may have been very thin and not thick enough to actually be measured.

D) The Rashi annotators indicate that when Rashi wrote “Our rabbis have explained” he was referring to the discussion in tractate Sukkah. However a careful study of that section in Sukkah will reveal that Rashi’s terminology “Our rabbis have explained” cannot refer to that debate, for the systems of derivation and exegetics used there cannot be referred to simply as “explained.” It behooves us therefore to say, that Rashi was not referring to the exponential debate in Sukkah, rather his eye was on the plain meaning of the words and a simple rabbinic interpretation based on the actual reality of the vessels.

In the world of Talmudic logic it may sometimes happen that the logical atom-splitting and fine-tuned debate and “pilpul” will lead to disjunction — seeing the subject as an abstractionism rather than a reality. One may lose sight of the simple down-to-earth, physical, facts of the matter.

The five-year-old Chumash student knows that when he has two toys and you give him two more toys, he has four toys. Yet, his teacher may get so involved in logical exegetics that unless he sees a sentence which says: 2+2=4, he is not sure if the sum of two and two is three, or maybe five! He is so consumed by the esoterica that he cannot perceive simple reality!

The fact of the matter is, that pure gold is soft and not strong. For that reason gold coins and gold jewelry must have other metals alloyed with the gold to harden and strengthen them.

Consequently, if you will make a large flat plate of pure gold two and one-half cubits by one and one-half cubits, with the intention of placing it on the walls of the ark to serve as a cover, if the plate is thin, its physical properties are such that it will not remain flat but will cave in, by force of its own weight.

Thus, the physical nature of gold required that the ark-cover must be very thick to hold its own weight.

Now, when the Torah tells us the dimensions of the ark-cover, its length and breadth, we are surprised — after all, if the cover has to fit properly on the ark is it not obvious and irrefutable that the cover must be the same size as the box it is to cover!? The Torah, however seems not to be satisfied with this single derivation and does give us the measurements of the ark cover. For this reason Rashi asks: What about its thickness, which also must be of a certain dimension dictated by physical principle and absolute logic! And since the Torah fails to tell us the thickness we turn to the rabbis, who figured out that it was a handsbreadth thick.

In the case of the Table or the Menorah we are not pressured to give or to find a measure of thickness, because if Torah does not tell us, we don’t have to discuss it in the plain meaning of Scripture. (In the rules of the Mishkan it would be necessary — but not in the translation of Chumash.) In the case of the ark-cover since Torah tells us the size of the cover, which we would have known on our own, we must also search for the measure of its thickness.

So Rashi’s comments here are really down-to-earth — no novel interpretations or earthshattering revelation — in Torah exegetics or homiletics. Just the simple, physical properties of gold.