Terumah 5779


The most desired form of service[1]

ככל אשר אני מראה אותך את תבנית המשכן ואת תבנית כל-כליו וכן תעשו
[Construct] as I have shown you, [i.e.] the form of the Mishkan and the form of all of its vessels, and so shall you do[2]

There’s a Midrash which brings[3] an interesting dispute: which verse contains the most all-encompassing mitzvah in the Torah? Ben Zoma feels it’s the famous verse Shema Yisroel, “Hear, O Israel!”[4]. It’s a declaration of a Jews’ faith in Hashem, and their dedication to follow His mitzvos. Ben Nanas disagrees, and says that the mitzvah of loving your neighbor as yourself[5] is more inclusive. Shimon ben Pazi brings an unexpected verse to show his opinion: Prepare one lamb in the morning, and the second lamb in the afternoon[6]. This verse refers to the twice daily tamid offering in the Temple. He somehow sees this verse as being more all-encompassing than the other two. Rabbi Ploni is described as having stood on his feet, declaring that the halacha is like Shimon Ben Pazi. He proves it from a verse in this week’s parsha: [Construct] as I have shown you, [i.e.] the form of the Mishkan and the form of all of its vessels, and so shall you do[7]. This is a very perplexing Midrash, which begs to be expounded.

We declare twice a day Shema Yisroel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One. This is our way of accepting the yoke of Heaven. We accept that Hashem is the source of all sustenance, and all life is in His hands. Anyone who understands this fully automatically becomes obligated to fulfill His will, by performing His mitzvos. From this we can understand why Ben Zoma feels that Shema Yisroel is the most inclusive verse. It leads to the performance of the entire Torah.

However, this verse more directly affects our performance of mitzvos between Man and his Creator. Interpersonal mitzvos, between Man and his fellow, are not as evident from Shema Yisroel. Although they too are the will of G-d, it’s harder for us to associate improving our interpersonal relationships with Divine service. Therefore, Ben Nanas chose the verse of loving our fellow as ourselves. Just like a person loves themselves and wants to improve their connection with Hashem in order to reach perfection, so too they must want the same for their friend. This verse then includes more than the first: mitzvos between Man and his Creator as well as between Man and his friend.

There’s yet a third level that is missing from these two verses. We are taught that there is no comparison between mitzvos performed by an individual and those performed by the community. A group that gets together with one collective will accomplishes a lot more than the same number of individuals doing the same act separately. Collective Torah learning[8], tzedakah giving[9], prayer reciting[10], are always better than when done by individuals. When done together, the mitzvah is greater, and each contributor gets a portion in the reward. Not only that, but they get reward as if they had solely performed the mitzvah, since without them it wouldn’t have happened.

All of this is something that we can learn from the tamid offering in the Temple. It’s one of the communal offerings in the Temple, where one offering is brought for the entire Jewish people. Each individual contributed towards it, and therefore is considered as if it was offered for their sake. Hashem prefers communal offerings, as they’re the paradigm example where everyone collectively is involved in the mitzvah. Hashem considers it as if each individual themselves brought the offering. From this offering we learn the importance and potency of collective mitzvah performance. This is why Shimon ben Pazi decided that the verse about the tamid offering is more inclusive when it comes to the service of Hashem. The other verses simply taught that each individual should perform their mitzvos. This verse teaches that it’s better for the community to get together to perform a mitzvah.

Rabbi Ploni then brought a verse in this week’s parsha to prove that Shimon ben Pazi has the correct understanding. The verse ends “and so shall you do”. The word “and” seems out of place, as the phrase is seemingly summarizing what was just stated. The word “and” implies that the conclusion of the verse is focusing on a different aspect[11]. In parshas Terumah, Hashem commanded that every individual donate towards the Mishkan whatever their heart directed. In reality, there wasn’t need for each individual to contribute. The Jews at that time were so rich that a single individual could have provided all the materials for the Mishkan[12]. However, Hashem’s desire was different. If every Jew contributed to the Mishkan, then each person would have a portion in it. Every aspect of the Mishkan would be considered a communal mitzvah, which is more desired by Hashem.

The verse that Rabbi Ploni brought says: “and so shall you do”. Meaning, just like the Mishkan was a communal mitzvah, with all that comes with it, so too shall you try to perform other mitzvos as well. Hashem’s desire is that all the Jews should come together to serve Him. We see this as well in the mitzvah of the tamid offering, that communal mitzvos are highly desired by Hashem. That verse however only teaches us this concept with regards to the tamid offering. We only see in our parsha that this concept applies to all mitzvos as well.

Good Shabbos

[1] Based on Kesav Sofer to Exodus 25:9

[2] Exodus loc. cit.

[3] This Midrash has no known origin. The earliest source for it is in the introduction to Ein Yaakov, where the author says that he found it among his collection of Midrashim. Torah Sheleimah doesn’t seem to bring it in his work, implying that he doesn’t believe it to be from Chazal

[4] Deuteronomy 6:4

[5] Leviticus 19:18

[6] Numbers 28:4

[7] Exodus loc. cit.

[8] See Megillah 3b

[9] I’m not sure the source of this

[10] A minyan’s prayers are more heard than that of an individual (see Berachos 8a)

[11] Cf. Rashi and Ramban ad. loc.

[12] Shemos Rabbah 33:8