046 Torah Portion of the week Teruma – Finding Your Inner Calling – How to Connect – A Powerful Parable about the Shattered Crown & A Great Story about the Rav Shach and Peace in Your Home – Why Get Married – The Ultimate Torah Podcast
The Torah Podcast Transcript
046 – The Torah Podcast – Finding Your Inner Calling – How To Connect
Torah Portion of the Week – Teruma
This week’s Parsha, Teruma, is all about the Mishkan, the Sanctuary where God dwelled in this world. The verse says, “They shall make Me a Sanctuary so that I may dwell among them.” Now, this concept is very difficult. How could it be God, who is infinite, have his presence in the Mishkan which is finite in this world? God is greater than all the stars and all the heavens, all the galaxies. And here we have His presence dwelling inside a small Mishkan. How is that possible? That’s one question. Rav Miller from Gateshead has another question. We have a Chazal that tells us that if a person fulfills one mitzvah, it’s as if he fulfilled the entire Torah. In one place it says that if a person fulfills the mitzvah of tzitzis, a fringed garment, it’s like he fulfilled the entire Torah. Shabbos is equal to the entire Torah. It’s a similar concept – how can you have one thing equal to everything? It’s either limited or expansive. The same thing with God’s presence – it’s either limited or it’s unlimited.
Rav Miller brings the Sforno who explains that really the Mishkan was bedi eved, which means “after the fact”. The Ramban holds that the idea of a Mishkan, God dwelling in this small place on the earth, was lechathila, which means in the first position, that it was planned that way. And the Seforno says, “It’s bedi eved. It’s only after the sin of the Golden Calf, after the sin of the Golden Calf, so then God decided that we need a Mishkan. We need a house where God dwells.” The Sforno says, “So that I shall dwell in your midst to speak with you and receive the prayers of the service of Yisrael.” Not as it was before the Golden Calf. Why? Because over there, there’s a different verse. Let’s take a look. The verse in Shemos 20:20 says, “You shall not make images of me; Gods of silver and Gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.” Here’s the point. “An altar of earth you shall make for me. And you shall slaughter near it your olah offerings and your peace offerings, your flock and your cattle. In every place where I will mention My name, I shall come to you and bless you.” There, the Sforno says, “It’s not necessary to make temples of silver and gold and precious stones in order to bring Me close to you. It is sufficient an altar of earth.” Before the sin of the Golden Calf, the Jewish people could pray in any place. They could come close to God anywhere. It didn’t matter where. And the altar itself was made out of earth. Nothing fancy, no form, which means the relationship to God was much closer; a much more personal relationship. But after the sin of the Golden Calf which means that they put a medium between them and God, they didn’t want a direct relationship. So then, everything became formalized at that point. By the Mishkan it says, ‘They should take from them gold and silver and copper and turquoise wool, and linen and goats’ hair, rams skin.’ All kinds of formal things to create kavod and honor but it had a shape and a form. It required the expressions of human honor. It was defined in our terms, as compared to God’s terms. But this was a lower level relationship. The formal relationship, I spoke about it in last week’s Parsha. When you’re with your family and the ones you love, you have a less formal setting. When you deal with outsiders, it’s more formal. So, God made us lehavdil, opposed to this, like outsiders. He said, “You want to put something between Me and you, fine. We’ll formalize it this way.” Baruch Hashem, the relationship was not broken, and God’s presence did come in and dwell there. But the form was different.
So, you see, we moved from a closer, all-encompassing relationship to a little bit more distance and a formal relationship. You can see this in other places in the history of the Jewish people. For example, the Madregas Adam brings down that when prophesy stopped – there was point where there were prophets everywhere – people would have a direct relationship and an experiential connection to God. When that stopped, at that point what opened up? Babylon. In Babylon you had Sura and Pumbedita. These were the two great Yeshivas. It’s not that the relationship between the Jewish people and God was broken. It just moved down to a lower level. Instead of direct prophesy, you had the form of yeshivas. So, Hashem draws the line based on our relationship to Him. The closer we are, the less formal, the more open, the more connection we have to God. The further we want to be, the further we are, so we’re removed a little bit.
You’ll see that today. For example, in the Orthodox world you have the centers of the yeshivas where all the Orthodox people center around. They live in Brooklyn, they live in Lakewood, in Yerushalayim. All the religious people center around their place of religious life. And that’s because there’s a demarcation point where God-forbid, our children would go off the wrong way, so we have to disconnect ourselves. But really in theory if a person is strong, if they have a strong relationship with God, he could be anywhere. It doesn’t matter where he is. It’s only because of the weakness that we have to separate ourselves, and we’re worried about our children. Obviously, also outside there’s a lot of trouble happening out there. There’s a lot more impurity in the world that’s being pumped at us, so we have to protect ourselves. But this is not a new story. This goes all the way back to Adam HaRishon. It says that before Adam sinned, the heel of his foot was more radiant than the sun. What does that mean? Even his most physical part, even all the way down to his heels, he was purely spiritual. He had such a great love and connection with God that his whole body shone. There was no contradiction between spirituality and physicality. He was purely spiritual. Now we have a very diversified connection to God, and each individual has his own personal connection to God, which means what? Some people, their way to serve God is through their intellect; other people through their emotions; other people physically. There are different senses which have now taken over. What does it mean? Each one of these stages is what’s called golus, going into exile, where before a person was 100% connected, or the Jewish people were 100% connected. Then they go into golus, they go into exile, which means the connection weans down. We’re only connected in certain aspects. You even see this in the religious world, where some groups focus on emotionalism. Some groups are purely intellectual. Some groups want to work Eretz Yisroel as part of their avodas Hashem, of serving God, and each one is specialized. But the goal is to grow to a point where you take your specialization and you expand it into your entire being. That’s called sheleimus. That’s called reaching completeness.
Rav Simcha Zissel also has this problem. He wants to explain the Ibn Ezra, who says that, “God being in one particular place is a very difficult concept, because God is infinite.” Back to our original question; the possuk says, “The whole world is filled with His glory.” So, how can we answer this? He wants to explain with an example from the sense of smell. Even though you smell something with your nose, but the smell penetrates your entire being. You could smell something and become totally relaxed, which now comes out that the place that we feel connected to God is the place that’s going to lead to our sheleimus, our completion. It can spread to the rest of our being. Even though we have a sensitivity in one area – whether it’s emotional, intellectual, physical – Eretz Yisroel for example is more connected. Even though there’s a limitation or a specialization or a sensitivity in one particular area, it’s connected to the whole. And even though we are attracted and we only see the light in certain aspects of our worship to God or our outlook on life, that light really radiates to the entire being, to all of life, to our entire relationship with God. The problem is, if we’re in a fallen state, we only see that light. We’re only sensitive to this particular area. But if we would go further into it, we would see it’s connected to the whole. And that answers how one mitzvah could be like you did the entire Torah.
The Gemara in Shabbos says, “Rav Nachman said, ‘I’m assured of a place in the World to Come because I fulfilled the mitzvah of having three meals on Shabbos.’” And Rabbi Yehuda said, “I am assured of a place in the world to come because of my devotion in prayer.” So, it’s a little bit strange. How can it be because of one mitzvah, they’re so sure of their chelek, of their portion in the next world? The Maharal wants to explain that this mitzvah they did to perfection. They chose a mitzvah, and they did it to perfection, so they know they connected. Even though the scope is limited but it’s connected to the whole, which is similar to the idea in Pirkei Avos 2:9. It says, “Come and see which is the right path.” You have five talmidim, students. Each one answered something different. One said, “A good heart,” one said, “A generous eye,” one said, “A good friend,” one said, “A good neighbor.” On that, Rabbeinu Yona asks, “How can it be the one thing. Why, we need all these things – we need a good heart, we need a good friend, we need a good eye, we need a good neighbor. We need all these things. How can you say one thing?” I want to read you the Rabbeinu Yona. “In all good character traits a man needs to connect. Rather, he should connect in one completely,” he says, “Because it’s better that a person has one character besheleimus, with completeness, and then it will be easier for him to reach the other character traits; whereas if he’s just a jack of all trades, he’s not going to reach there.” So, the answer is that a person has to find his calling. He has to find where he’s connected, where he feels good, and work on that. Through that he could reach sheleimus. He could complete himself and become whole, by working on the place that he’s connected. That’s what it means, that one mitzvah can equal the entire Torah, because it’s connected to the entire Torah. It’s the gate through which a person should go. And if a person is not doing this, he always feels like he’s off. Something is wrong with his life. He doesn’t feel good about his life. You have to do what you’re good at, what you’re happy with, even in terms of what a person works at. He The Chovas haLevavos brings down that a person should do what he’s good at. That’s the job he should do. says, “Just like all the animals, they have intrinsically built into them their way to get food, it’s also true by human beings.” If a person is a good car mechanic and he loves it, he shouldn’t become a lawyer just because he thinks he’s going to get more money. It’s not true. If he would continue to be a car mechanic, so he can wind up opening many shops. He could also become rich that way. Hashem built into each individual what he enjoys, what he loves, and that’s his way. That’s the way he should go. That’s how he’s going to reach completeness, which means that a person goes back to his source. He starts to find himself. He becomes real, authentic.
Rav Wolbe brings down the Ramban who explains that the redemption of Mitzrayim, Egypt, did not happen until the Mishkan was built. It wasn’t when they walked out of Mitzrayim. It wasn’t when they came to Eretz Yisroel. It was only when the Mishkan was built and the presence of God came back, at that point that’s called redemption, because redemption means connecting yourself back with the Creator. We need to redeem ourselves in all the many aspects of our lives; whether it be with our wives and our kids, our friends, our family; between us and God, between man and man, it has to be sheleimus. It has to permeate every part of your being.
Pirkei Avos says, “Whoever repeats something in the name of the one who originally said it, brings redemption to the world.” Why redemption? Because we repeat something over in somebody’s name, you’re bringing it back to the source. You’re reconnecting. That’s what it means, to be redeemed, to be close to God. Everything we do we have to bring back to its source. But it works in both directions, actually. The idea of shechina, it says, “The shechina dwelled in the Mishkan. What’s the shechina? The feminine aspect of God, which means His presence in the world – the diversity. And that’s why it’s split into pieces. This is God’s manifestation in the world, which diversifies. For example, we know when we say Selichos, at the end of the Selichos, Erev Rosh Chodesh or at different times of the year, at the end we say Shema Yisroel one time. It means the one-ness of God. Then we say, “Baruch Shem kavod” three times, which means double plus one. One plus and another one – three times. It’s spreading apart. And then we say, “Hashem Hu Elokim,” Hashem is God. We say that seven times, which is three plus three and another one. It keeps spreading wider and wider. It’s God’s presence in the world. It’s the infinite entering into the finite. This is how we can answer how God’s presence could be in the world, because it’s the point, it’s the gate, it’s the shaar. What does it mean, “God’s presence is in the world?” The connection to God was in the world. At the Mishkan, at the Temple, a person could reconnect with God. He could connect up with infinity, but it was the gate, the gateway.
I want to end off with Rav Noam Elimelech. He says like this. He brings a Gemara in Pesachim 50:A. “Rav Yeshua was ill and bed-ridden. When he became conscious his father asked, ‘Son, what did you see?’ ‘Father, I saw an upside-down world. I saw the upper beings being below, and the lower ones above.’ He answered him, ‘What you saw was the clear world.’” Rav Noam Elimelech explains that God created this world, “Yeish meayin,” something from nothing. Infinity – pure spirituality. It’s nothing. From that came the physical. He says that the tzaddik, righteous person comes along and does the opposite. He takes the physical and he makes it spiritual. If he wants to nullify a harsh decree, something physically bad is going to happen, he brings it back to its source. What does it mean, “I saw the upper beings being below, and the lower ones above?” The tzaddik brings the upper world down, while he takes the lower world up. He becomes a conduit for spirituality in the world.”
By finding our inner connection to God and building on it, we are connecting ourselves back with our source. And that connection will expand into other parts of our being. And on the opposite side, doing mitzvos, we’re bringing God into the world. We’re taking the spirituality and bringing it into the physical world, which is the completeness of a ben adam, of a person. It’s the female and male aspect. Receiving from God is the female aspect, to be a mekabel. And to be a mashbir, to influence, to do the mitzvos into this world and to spread Torah, and to spread the ideas, and to help other people and do chessed and kindness, this is the male aspect. God’s presence in the world was the place, the Mishkan, the Temple, was the place where we could feel. We could intellectually know. We could sense the presence of God. Even though it’s true it was in a limited way, but that could spread. And that’s our job, to spread it to the world.
A Powerful Parable
The Maggid Mi Dubno brought the same possuk, “You shall make a Sanctuary for me and I will dwell in their midst.” He said that when the Jewish people do the will of God, the shechina, the presence of God dwells in the Temple, in the Mishkan, and when not, it leaves. He brings a raya, a proof, from the Gemara in Sanhedrin that says, “When Titus destroyed the Beis HaMigdash a bas kol came out. A voice came out from heaven and said, “A burnt Sanctuary you have burnt.” In other words, the shechina had already left. He did not really destroy the Beis HaMigdash. The Beis HaMigdash was already destroyed, because the Jewish people were not going in the way of God, and God’s presence had already left.
He wants to explain that with a moshul, a parable. One time there was a king who ruled his kingdom with a firm hand. And the people, all the different townships decided to make him a very expensive crown with precious gems on it, and pearls. On each one of the stones they would write the different names of the different cities. So, they made this crown and it was the anniversary, the day that he was throned, and they brought it to him. It was a beautiful crown. What happened over time? The different cities rebelled. Unfortunately for them, the king prevailed. What happened after that? He invited all the heads of all the different cities to the capital. They’re all waiting in fear, “What’s he going to say to us? “ The King didn’t say a word. What he did is, he took the crown off his head and he threw it on the ground and it shattered. They said to him, “Why did you do that? Your kingship is already established. The rebellion is over.” He says, “Do you think I need this crown? I love this crown, because it made me remember the loyalty of all my subjects. But now I don’t want to remember them,” so he threw the crown to the ground and he destroyed it. He said, “Because every time I will remember you, I get angry.” So too with the Beis HaMigdash. When the Jews are doing the will of God, he remembers them and He’s happy, and He feels good. However, when the Jews are not doing the will of God, the Beis HaMigdash itself makes Him angry.
Great Stories – Rav Shach
When Rav Shach would hear his student with weak logic or an untrue approach, he would ask the person, “Do you really think this is the logic that God had at Sinai?” For him, it was crystal clear that the Torah was taught at Sinai from God himself. He once related when he learned the Midrash on Parshas Teruma, this week’s Parsha, he was so affected by it that he couldn’t sleep for several nights. The Midrash goes like this. “I sold you My Torah, and it’s as if I sold myself along with it. It can be compared to a king who had an only daughter, and another king took her as a wife. So, that king wanted to go back to his homeland. The first king said, ‘Listen, this daughter is my only child. To separate from her I cannot. But to tell you that you can’t take her I can’t either, because now you’re her husband. So, please make for me a small room where I can live by you, for I cannot bear to be separated from my daughter.’ This is what Hashem said to the Jewish people. ‘I have given you My Torah. To separate from it, I cannot. To tell you not to take it, I cannot. Just wherever you go, you should make Me a Sanctuary. At least I could dwell among you.’” When Rav Shach learned this he said, “Hashem says concerning the Torah, ‘To separate it I cannot.’ The Torah and the Holy One Blessed Be He are one. Whoever learns Torah clings to God Himself. How great is the reward, and how awesome the responsibility.”
Peace in Your Home
Rav Diament has a question – why should you get married? The possuk in Bereishis says, “It’s not good for a man to be alone.” But the Targum explains, “It’s not correct for him to be alone.” But he has a question. “Doesn’t it seem that to be alone would be better in terms of serving God? Then you’re totally free, you have no responsibilities You can serve God all the time, all day, all night”. He brings an example. Let’s say a person wants to daven Vasikin, early in the morning when the sun first comes up. They’re about to say Shema. You would think that’s a very great thing. The only problem is, when they’re about to say Shema, they want to shout the Shema but they can’t. You know why? Because all the neighbors are sleeping. So, even though it’s true in theory that a person would think, “Well, if I was only alone I’d be able to serve God better.” But you see that God put us into this world. The person now has to be quiet during his davening, not to wake up his neighbors.”
So too with a wife. A person’s thinking, “Listen, how much bittul Torah, how much time do I have to spend with my family? How much do I need to make for my family? Why is this a better situation?” But we see that that’s lechatchila what God wants. That’s the first position. God could have made man to have children without being married. Only man has a family, wife and kids, and takes care of everybody. It’s man who needs to make a wife and a family. Sheep and goats don’t have a wife and a family. But that’s what God wants from man. That’s why it’s correct. You say, “It’s not good,” but it’s correct. It’s the right thing. Why is it the right thing? Because that’s how a person grows. It’s the same idea we spoke about before. There’s pure spirituality, and there’s bringing it into this world. The process of bringing spirituality into the physical world is the growth that we have to go through. You can’t always be in theory, you have to be in reality. And that’s why we work on our character traits, which means bringing spirituality into the physical, into our physical bodies – the expression of spirituality, that’s where the work is. That’s why God wants a man to be married. He doesn’t want him to be a hermit like the other religions say, to be a monk. No – Jewish men get married. Jewish people get married, because our whole goal is the shleimus, like I spoke about before, the extension of spirituality into the physical world and into your body, and into your character. The fact that we have challenges is our purpose in life. If we had no challenge God-forbid, then we don’t need to be here. The challenge is the purpose. But the problem is that some people think that there shouldn’t be a challenge.
He brought a story of a yeshiva guy that refused to admit that he had any problems. He would blame everything on his wife. He would quote the Rambam that says, “A wife does what her husband wants.” He wouldn’t take any responsibility for himself. The Rav said, “I’m going to Rav Kaminetsky and I’m going to ask him.” What did the Rav say? “Tell him that a ben Torah would never demand of his wife that she should do her husband’s will. A ben Torah will make sure that she wants to do her husband’s will. You can’t demand. It has to be done with character. You have to be so loving and so giving that your wife wants to do what you want.” He said, “He’s not a ben Torah. A ben Torah means a person who lives and follows the Torah.” The problem is, people are always trying to escape. They don’t want to admit that there’s problems. They don’t want to admit that they have to change. That’s why some people don’t want to get married. But that’s the whole purpose of marriage. He always knows if one of the couple doesn’t want to come to the sessions, it’s probably because they’re guilty. He wants to explain why getting married is the beginning of adult life. He brings a Seforno that explains, “We know that Batya when she took Moshe Rabbeinu out of the water, called him Moshe, which means she pulled him out of the water. Moshe means, ‘the one who drew out.’” But the Seforno asks, “Wait a second. He shouldn’t have been called Moshe, Batya should be called Moshe. Why? She drew him out. He was drawn out, true. But let’s switch it around. He shouldn’t have the name of Moshe. He should at least have the passive name.”
He wants to explain, “No. Moshe, if it was decreed from Heaven that I would draw you out, it was only for the sake that you should draw others out.” In other words, everything that you received, that’s what you have to give. That’s what you have to do. That’s your purpose in life. That’s the beginning of adult life. All your life, your parents took care of you, changed your diapers, fed you, sent you to school, gave, gave, gave to you. When you reach an adult, it’s time to give. Everything you received has to be passed along, which is the same relationship with God also. You receive from God, and then you give to others. You receive from God and you do mitzvos. That’s why it’s better that man should not be alone. Man is required to have somebody to give to.
OK, that’s it for this week’s podcast, I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it with your friends, and please leave a comment on iTunes.