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Parashat Teruma: Joining Together to Build the Mishkan

Parashat Teruma begins with G-d’s command that Beneh Yisrael donate materials for the construction of the Bet Ha’mikdash. Interestingly, He issues two commands. First, He instructs that the people should bring a "Teruma" ("donation"), and then He calls upon "every man whose heart stirs him" to bring "Terumati" – "My donation." How are we to explain these two commands?

Rav Abraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apta (1748-1825), in his work Oheb Yisrael, answered by noting that the word "Teruma" ends with the letter "Heh," whereas the word "Terumati" ends with the letter "Yod." These two letters, he explained, reflect the difference between these two donations. Tradition teaches that G-d created all of existence with the spiritual power of two the Hebrew letters – "Yod" and "Heh." Specifically, He created our world with the letter "Heh," and the next world, the eternal, spiritual world, with the letter "Yod." While we cannot claim to fully understand the concept of creation through letters, it suffices for our purposes that "Heh" and "Yod" are associated, respectively, with the realms of the physical and the spiritual. "Heh" is related to our physical existence here in our world, whereas "Yod" relates to the spiritual realm.

On this basis, the Rebbe of Apta explained the two different donations mentioned in the beginning of Parashat Teruma. Most people gave a "Teruma" – a worldly donation, a donation of gold, silver, and other physical materials. There were, however, especially righteous people – "every man whose heart stirred him" – who donated "Terumati," referring to the "Yod," the spiritual aspects of existence. They lent to the project of the Mishkan their spiritual greatness, and this was their donation.

Rav Pinchas Friedman (contemporary) elaborated on this idea and explained what it means to give a donation of spirituality. The Gemara in Masechet Hulin (7) comments, "Yisrael Kedoshim Hem" – all Jews are holy – and it proceeds to note that there are two groups of Jews. There are those who want to donate money but lack the means to do so, and there are those who have the means but do not want to give. Both groups, the Gemara establishes, are "holy." Rav Zusha of Anipoli (1718-1800) explained this remark to mean that when these different groups come together, they are, collectively "holy." Those who want to give but are unable to, provide the intention and desire, whereas those who prefer not to give, but nevertheless give, begrudgingly, to avoid embarrassment, provide the action. Together, they combine to form the perfect, complete Misva.

This is what the Rebbe of Apta meant. Those among Beneh Yisrael who had materials to donate for the Mishkan provided the "Heh," the actual materials, whereas those who did not have materials donated the "Yod" – their intent and desire to participate. Together, they combined to produce the Mishkan, a structure worthy of serving as the residence for the Shechina.

No single individual is perfect; we gain perfection only by combining with others, by bringing our "letters" together to form the complete Misva. This can only happen through "Ahdut," through genuine unity among different types of Jews, through which we come together to blend into a single, cohesive unit. May we all join together with genuine "Ahdut," and feel a sincere bond with all our fellow Jews, even those much different from us, so we can work together to build our "Mishkan" and become worthy of the presence of the Shechina.

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