Parashat Truma





The Renewal of Sanctity Requires a King, A Prophet, and a Great Sanhedrin

The tribe, the false prophet and the High Priest, are judged only by a Bet Din of seventy-one. An optional war is to be declared only by Bet Din of seventy-one. The City and the temple yards are expanded only by a Bet Din of seventy-one.

 (Mishna, Sanhedrin 1:5)


"The City" - Yerushalayim, whose holiness is greater than the holiness of the rest of Eretz Yisrael.

"The courtyards" - Their holiness is greater than that of Yerushalayim. Sanctity may be renewed, as is written (Shemot 25), "Exactly as I show you... so shall you make it" - for all generations. Just as the sanctuary was sanctified by Moshe - who took the place of the Great Sanhedrin - so in future generations all additions to the City and the courtyards are to be determined by the Great Sanhedrin.

 (Commentary of Rabbi Obadiah from Bartenura, ibid., ibid.)


Expansion of the City and the courtyards is determined by the king, by the prophet, by the Urim and Thumim, and by the Sanhedrin of seven-one elders, as is written, "Exactly as I show you... so shall you make it" - for generations, and Moshe our teacher was a king.

 (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of the Temple, 6:11)





Gabriel Weil


In memory of my father and teacher

Rafael ben Avraham, of blessed memory,

Lover of peace and pursuer of peace


The parasha of Teruma focuses upon the Mishkan - the Sanctuary - and its utensils. The Torah orders the construction of the table: "You shall make a table of acacia wood, two cubits long, one cubit wide, and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold, and make a gold molding around it." (Shemot 25:23-25)

And finally, "And on the table you shall set the bread of display, to be before Me always." (Ibid., Ibid. 30)

We shall attempt to understand the meanings which some commentators assign to the table, its structure, and the Bread of Display.

It should be noted that there exists an uncharacteristic degree of unanimity among the commentators of various periods, seemingly because the Table and the Bread arouse universal associations.

One commentator (quoted from a collection in the "Rav Peninim" chumash) explains:

The Table and its properties all allude to man's table as he eats, so that it be "a table before God". And his table shall atone for him as does the alter, as in the words of our Sages: Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Yochanan both said: When the Temple was in existence, the altar atoned; now man's table atones. Therefore, the table was overlaid with gold, reminiscent of the charity which man must give to the poor before and during his own dining, and of the guests at his table... And Rashi, of blessed memory, explained: And thus indigents come and are supported and this is considered as the offering of a sacrifice on the altar. And so, too, the manner in which he gives to the poor with a full heart, with love and joy, and a smiling and welcoming countenance... this is "and you shall overlay it with pure gold" - literally, with his coin and his fistful which he gives to the hungry and the thirsting.

The Table, then, symbolized man's obligation to share with the hungry before he attends to his own food. Thus the table atones for him, just as the sacrifice would atone for him when the Temple was functioning. The gold of the Table symbolizes the giving to the poor, the charity. When you eat, remember that there are those who have not what to eat.

Perhaps this the reason for the presence of the Table and its coverings in the Mishkan, to teach us that this obligation is holy; it is a religious obligation.

Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, in his commentary on the Torah, sees the table as:

... a symbol of the source of a comfortable existence, i.e., that phase of national life which creates a comfortable standard of living: the development of the material aspect of the national life.

He then continues to detail his understanding of the significance of the bowls (those forms which kept the breads in their prescribed shape until the times for arranging them on the table):

"Through this form, every bread was equal (or almost equal) for the purpose of bearing the next loaf (they were ranged on the Table in two stacks of six loaves each) as it used for its own base. Does this express anything else than, putting all selfishness aside, the giving oneself up to the interests of one's brother-man as being the condition demanded for a comfortable standard of living? That every man acquires and holds as much for others as for himself, grants as much, or nearly as much of the abundance of his table to his neighbor as to his own table.

Hirsch goes on to say:

Apart from one's fellow-men, Jewish wealth is to be directed to God. But directing one's wealth to God is again only to be achieved by using it for the support of one's fellow-men... brotherliness is one of the first conditions for our prosperity and welfare.

 (Rabbi S.R. Hirsch, The Pentateuch, Shemot 25, translated from German by I. Halevy)

Rabbi Hirsch, then, moves the discussion to the collective plane. The national welfare, symbolized by the Table, is conditional upon solidarity, upon everyone's ability to maintain a mutual relationship with the his fellow-man, upon his giving. Here too, according to this explanation, there is no separating the mitzvoth between man and God from those between man and his fellow - all are inter-twined, defying differentiation.

The Jewish-French philosopher, Emanuel Levinas (whose essays "Nine Talmudic Readings" have recently been translated and published in Hebrew) speaks about the Table of the Mishkan in a chapter of his book "Beyond the Passage" )L'Au Dela du Verset 1981). In his view, the gold molding around the Table is a crown of sovereignty (as per Rashi: "A gold molding - symbol of a kingly crown for the table has wealth and greatness, as people say 'a table of kings'). The king, he whose table is open, is the one who provides food for man. The Table with the Bread of Display symbolizes the unceasing concern which the political rule must exercise in order to satiate humanity's hunger. This is not a assignment for the end of days, but for now; now we must attend to the needs of hungry humanity. According to Levinas, Jewish government is always modeled after Yoseph the righteous who fed Egypt. He believes that this is the primary goal of the political establishment, and this view is unique to Jewish tradition.

The Bread of which we speak, the Bread of Display (translated into French as "The laid out bread") is the "Lechem HaPanim" [literally - Bread of the Faces]. Why? Rashi explains that it is because the Bread had two faces - two sides which face the two sides of the Mishkan. According to Ibn Ezra, "Lechem HaPanim" is so called because it always faces God.

Levinas sees the explanations as being similar; what is bread which faces God doing - if not facing man? Towards which goal is it to be directed if not to the nourishment of people? The horizontal direction of the look (i.e., the look between man and man) is the continuation of the look which comes from above (i.e., the look between God and Man). "Horizontal" and "vertical" are concepts which are today being discussed in the search for the meaning of religiosity; is the emphasis upon 'between man and his fellow' as against 'man and God' - or the converse? In L's view, both directions focus the same movement.

Undoubtedly there is, in these symbols, a tie between the spiritual and the nourishment of humanity. They remind us of the political character of the hunger problem. Despite the progress of modern thought and technology, despite the U.N. and UNESCO, western politics have not succeeded in solving this problem. Therefore, maintains Levinas, the Table and the Bread of Display are real and current issues.

In summation, he stresses that we are dealing with "holy bread". The symbolism relates to bread for the hungry; this merits its becoming holy bread.

Levinas's explication, then, emphasizes another plane - beyond that of the individual and the relations between individuals; the State plane, the plane on which governmental care of the poor and hungry must be of primary concern. Again, this obligation is symbolized in the Mishkan, i.e., it is a religious responsibility.

It seems that in a period of economic crisis, with its privatization, globalization, the state's tendency to disencumber itself of caring for the weak, and the weakening of the solidarity between various sectors of society, the above-described messages must learned again and again. The concern for the weak is embodied in the Mishkan, it is a religious obligation. Do we meet this standard on the individual and national plane? Does the religious world represent these values and fight for them? Is not the construction of the national table for those in need of it, in a period when soup kitchens are on the increase, is this not the true establishment of the Temple?

Dr. Gavriel Weil, a member of Kfar Maimon, is a clinical and educational psychologist






"And you shall make the planks for the Mishkan" - said Rabbi Avin: This may be compared to a king who had a beautiful portrait. He said to a member of his household: "Make me one like it."

He replied: "My Master, the King, how can I make one like it?"

Said the King: "You with your materials; I will appear in my glory myself." So said The Holy One, Blessed Be He to Moshe: "See and do."

Said he to Him: "Master of the Universe, am I a god, that I can make such as these?"

Said He to him: "In their form, of blue and purple and crimson yarn, and just as you see above, so shall you do below, as is written "acacia wood upright" - as are placed in the royal suite above - and if you make those below as they are above, I will place there councilors from above, and will rest my Shekhina in your midst below."

 (Shemot Rabba, Parasha 35)


... another midrash places an utterance of Shelomo in Moshe's mouth: "But will God really dwell on earth?" (I Kings I:27) and the Midrash continues: Said The Holy One, Blessed Be He to Moshe: Not as you think, but 20 planks at the north and twenty planks at the south and eight at the west, and I shall descend and constrict my presence below . . yet more, I shall descend and I shall constrict my presence within a square cubit.

The phrase "a square cubit" refers to that cubit which is between the two poles of the Ark of the Testimony in the Mishkan; between them Moshe would hear the voice of God "addressing him from above the cover that was on top of the Ark of the Pact between the two cherubim." (Bemidbar 7:89)

This description teaches us that man can serve God beyond the concepts of place, for whoever desires to really serve God is found in the proximity of Him whom heaven and the heavens of heaven cannot hold, and if man does not intend to really serve God, then even heaven and earth are insufficient.

The Mishkan was not erected in order to be a dwelling for God, but to be a dwelling for Israel who accept upon themselves the word of God, and this is not at all dependent upon dimensions.

 (Y. Leibowitz: Seven Years of Discussion on Parashat Hashavua, p. 370)



"And I shall dwell in them" - He did not say in it; that the place which they shall consecrate for his dwelling shall be within the Children of Israel.

 (Ohr Hachayyim, Shemot, 25:8)



And it says "And may the favor of the Lord our God be upon us" (Psalm 90:17) [is best understood bearing in mind] that which is written "And they shall make for me a sanctuary and I shall dwell in them" - it does not say "in it" , but in them, for the Shekhina is primarily for Israel. There [in Psalm 90] he said that the favor of God, i.e., the shining glory of his Shekhina, blessed be He, will be upon us, "establish for us the work of our hands; the work of our hands establish thou". It appears that that the word "konneneyhu" - "establish thou" refers to the Shekhina; therefore he said that the work of our hands - the Mishkan - made preparation for the Shekhina and for ourselves so that we dwell together in one compartment, for the Mishkan was a dwelling place for the higher beings and the lower beings as one, and therefore he said "establish for us... establish thou". Similarly it is written "the place, O Lord which you have made for your dwelling" (Shemot 15:16). This it what I have to add to all the commentaries on this psalm, to explain it as referring to the erection of the Mishkan.

 (Kli Yakar, Shemot, Ibid., 43)



"And they shall make for me a sanctuary and I will dwell in them". It would have seemed proper to say "in it". But it says "and I will dwell in them," for every man must make a sanctuary, and this is an everlasting obligation. The Zohar writes that the tephillin, which are the secret of the carriage which man wears which is the Mikdash, will also purify man and all his limbs, and then he is the image of the Mishkan and the Mikdash.

 (Sefer HaShelah, Rabbi Yeshaaya Horowitz, Tractate Taanit 28)



A simple way [of understanding this], since Israel proclaimed "We shall do and we shall hear" we see that they received the Torah with willing heart and soul, so much so that they preceded doing to hearing. Immediately The Holy One, Blessed Be He, answered "Let them take for me an offering etc." to establish a sanctuary, as is later written, "And they shall make for me a sanctuary and I will dwell in them" inside their hearts they are a sanctuary of God, and they merited that their heart be in their domain...                             

(Yeytiv Panim, II, p.12b)


Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotsk used to say: The Shekhina can be found wherever one lets Him in...           


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