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לימוד תורה

The contribution to society that elevates our lives

The Parasha in our everyday life - Terumah 5782

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - Rosh Yeshivat Hesder 'Meir Harel' Modi'in

Last weekend, I and a group of 10 educators, public figures, and commanders participated in a seminar marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Helicopter Disaster, at Har Ve'gai School in Kibbutz Dafna, an Official Event that included an educational chapter attended by hundreds of 11th and 12th graders with a diverse panel and encounters with different student groups, educators, public officials, and commanders. This event has been taking place for twenty-five years. I was asked to participate in its early years and I happily did. I told about my dear student the late Shiloh Levy who fell in the Helicopter Disaster while a fighter in the Sabotage and Engineering Battalion - Nahal Division.

Over the years I was occasionally invited again to participate. This year the seminar was held under the title "Between Partnership, Responsibility, and Memory" - with a view to internal solidarity in Israeli society and its implications on the readiness for meaningful and combat service in the IDF. At the end of the day, there was an official ceremony. The educational chapter was concluded by an interview with Tali Lipkin-Shachak with Chief of Staff Lt. Col. Aviv Kochavi, and answers to the students' questions to the Chief of Staff. Among other things, he was asked:

What do you answer to someone who is not interested in enlisting? "And to his statement: "The best to be fighters!" As a reference to the poster "The best for cyber!"? And "What will the service give me?" And other questions that reflect the wondering, confusing, questioning, and priming systems of value concepts in the postmodern age. It already touches on the core of the basic human instinctive terms of existence and shapes them. Not only on the national level but also the personal level.

I first met Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi twenty years ago as a paratrooper brigade commander in Operation Defensive Shield, our brigades fought shoulder to shoulder in Nablus. Even then, I was under the impression that he is a quality officer, with values, a thinker, with general knowledge, combative, creative, and eloquent.

The Chief of Staff answered the students' questions patiently, and took off in his answers to philosophical heights of thought, even as he opened his answers with 'Let's make it simple'. From time to time I turned around, to watch the hundreds of students in the hall; I was interested to see if the crowd from the WhatsApp generation, and the short text, were still listening and able to follow. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they did not lose him.

The chief of staff opened with the most basic thing: "We do not have the luxury" not to enlist in the face of the existential threat that surrounds us from six directions, a growing threat that requires each of us, in turn, to stand up and be a partner in defending the country. He did not say a single word about the 'duty of recruitment', which is enshrined in law, and that was good.

He later mentioned Viktor Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning"* and explained to the youth that the most important 'driving force' that motivates a person to do things even if they are difficult and demanding is the 'value meaning' that it gives his life. And the students were listening. At the end of the conversation, several dozen people stood by the stage and asked the Chief of Staff for a selfie. And the Chief of Staff agreed.

Our Parasha, Parashat Terumah deals with a triple contribution, for the first time in our history as a nation. The people of Israel are asked to make their donation, and to be partners in the establishment of the Tabernacle:

דַּבֵּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְיִקְחוּ־לִ֖י תְּרוּמָ֑ה מֵאֵ֤ת כׇּל־אִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ לִבּ֔וֹ תִּקְח֖וּ אֶת־תְּרוּמָתִֽי׃

"Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him". (Shmot 25:2)

תקחו את תרומתי. אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ שָׁלֹשׁ תְּרוּמוֹת אֲמוּרוֹת כָּאן, אַחַת תְּרוּמַת בֶּקַע לַגֻּלְגֹּלֶת שֶׁנַּעֲשׂוּ מֵהֶם הָאֲדָנִים... וְאַחַת תְּרוּמַת הַמִּזְבֵּחַ בֶּקַע לַגֻּלְגֹּלֶת לַקֻּפּוֹת לִקְנוֹת מֵהֶן קָרְבְּנוֹת צִבּוּר, וְאַחַת תְּרוּמַת הַמִּשְׁכָּן נִדְבַת כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד (תלמוד ירושלמי שקלים א').

"Ye shall take my heave-offering — Our Rabbis said: the expression תרומה is used here three times, being an allusion to three different heave offerings; one is the heave offering which consisted of a beka (half a shekel) a head, and of which the sockets were made… another is the heave-offering for the altar — a beka a head that was given to the funds (more lit., “the basket”, in which collections for communal or charitable purposes were made) from which to purchase the communal sacrifices; and the other one is that implied in the word תרומתי “My heave offering” and referred to by the word כסף in the next verse — the heave-offering for the Tabernacle which was a free-will gift from each individual" (Rashi ibid).

In this way they will share in the Divine Presence:

וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם׃

"And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them". (Shmot 25:8)

The meaning of the word donation- תרומה is הפרשה מממונם "the setting aside of the money or materials for the construction of the Tabernacle" (Rashbam ibid).

This donation is neither limited nor obligatory, it is from the 'goodness of the heart'. And it is added to two other 'donations' that are 'identical' to everyone, 'the half shekel', to make the sockets, the basis for setting up the Tabernacle, and to the public sacrifices. A combination of the egalitarian public commitment and the 'transition to commitment' which is charity, individual. This is how a Tabernacle is built! And in this manner, you have the Shechinah.

The word donation comes from the root 'rom' (Radak's Roots Book) its simple meaning that one lifts and separates something from something, but it also has the meaning of 'elevation' רוממות:

לָרוּם֙ מֵעַ֣ל הָאָ֔רֶץ "ascend from the earth" (Yehezkel 10:16), as 'elevated' from reality because of its holiness:

עָ֘לִ֤יתָ לַמָּר֨וֹם "You went up to the heights" (Psalms 68:19)

"Donation" has special holiness. But not only is the donation 'exalted', but the donor also elevates his life, from the routine of earthly life to virtue and holly one, as his heart chooses to contribute on his own for an exalted purpose.

*Man's Search for Meaning is a 1946 book by Viktor Frankl chronicling his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II and describing his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positive about, and then immersively imagining that outcome.

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