Parshas Teruma seemingly has almost nothing to do with the Judaism that we practice nowadays. Some may, chas v’shalom, incorrectly think that a Parsha containing the specifications of how to build the mishkan, or tabernacle, has nothing to do with how we live our lives, and that it is a portion of the Torah that is less important, or downright unnecessary, so therefore they can pay less attention to it. But those who think that way are completely and utterly mistaken. There are so many things to learn out of this week’s parsha, through a choice of language or phrasing or by other means. It would be a shame to just read through parshas Teruma as a ancient instruction guide and not think about what significance it has to the modern day Jew.
The mishkan was constructed with various materials and measurements, but each and every material and measurement is important and is in the Torah to teach a unique lesson. The commentators on the Torah are very intune to this idea, so whenever a new utensil or material is mentioned they immediately explain the depths behind them. One of the most interesting vessels of the Beis HaMikdash is the aron, and there are vast amounts of insights behind every detail of its creation.
Just a few pasukim into the first aliyah the Torah goes into detail about the aron, or ark, that would contain the luchos habris. There is a famous gemara in Maseches Berachos that says that Bezalel asked Moshe how it could it be that the first thing that should be built is the aron, before the mishkan that would house it? Moshe agreed with Bezalel and really the mishkan was built before the aron. But that begs the question, why then was the aron commanded first? The answer is simple, the Ramban answers that in the parsha we aren’t being commanded in how to build the mishkan, but rather a lesson is being given to every single Jew in the world, that the Torah is much more important than the building that stored it and not the other way around.
Another interesting idea we learn from the aron is found in the first pasuk where it is mentioned. The pasuk reads “וְעָשׂ֥וּ אֲר֖וֹן עֲצֵ֣י שִׁטִּ֑ים אַמָּתַ֨יִם וָחֵ֜צִי אָרְכּ֗וֹ וְאַמָּ֤ה וָחֵ֨צִי֙ רָחְבּ֔וֹ וְאַמָּ֥ה וָחֵ֖צִי קֹֽמָתֽוֹ”, “and they shall make an aron of acacia wood, two and a half amos long, one and a half amos wide, and one and a half amos tall.” The Me’am Lo’ez asks why are all the measurements in halfs? He answers that the reason is because one should always feel that his accomplishments in learning Torah are only half of what they could be and that a person should always be aiming higher in his desire to learn. Another answer given is that the lesson behind the half measurements is to teach us not be haughty. In order to be the proper receptacle for the Torah we must be humble.
If you pay close attention to the grammar of the Torah you will notice something about the commandment to build the aron is a little different from the commandments for the other vessels. Regarding the aron the pasuk uses the language of וְעָשׂ֥וּ, in the plural, while by the other vessels the Torah chooses to command us with the singular versions of the verbs. Why is that the case? Interestingly, in the next pasuk we are commanded to cover the aron with a box of gold on both the inside and the outside, and in that pasuk it switches to the singular version of the verbs. What is the reason for that? Ramban answers that when the Torah chooses the plural version of the verb, the obligation that it is referring to applies to everyone individually, whereas obligations using singular verbs only apply to the nation as a whole. Since the Torah writes in the plural regarding the aron the obligation to make the aron is on each and every Jew. The midrash also says this, but adds that the way that everyone helped to build it was that they donated money toward the construction of the aron, they helped actually construct it, or they thought about the aron, and that the reward for doing this was meriting to understand the Torah.
On his most recent visit to my yeshivah, Rav Yonason Sacks Shlita, the Rosh haYeshiva of Beis Medrash L’talmud, said in the name of Rav Asher Weiss Shlita that the aron serves two different roles: one is to safeguard the Torah, while the other is to be a vessel in the Beis HaMikdash. The two roles of the aron are symbolized in the two different materials used to make the aron. The wood symbolizes the idea of being a place to keep the Torah, while the gold symbolizes the vessel aspect. That is why the pasuk that discusses making the aron out of wood is in the plural, while the one about making the aron out of gold is in the singular. This teaches that the obligation to keep and safeguard the Torah is on each and everyone us. But that is not the case with the vessel aspect of the aron, which is an obligation on the nation.
I think that from this week’s parsha we can learn a lot about how to properly conduct our actions and prioritize things in our lives. From the parsha we see that we must always strive to learn more, and that in order to do so we must not be haughty. We learn as well that there is an obligation for every Jew to have Torah at the forefront of his mind. I believe that even the short amount of time I have spent in yeshiva so far has helped me start to apply these lessons, and I am grateful for every moment I have here. We should all be zoche to be someone who helps make the aron that safeguards the Torah.
Student Studying in Yishrei Lev