What’s really important? It all depends upon who you ask. Some people think their family is the most important thing in the world. They’ll do anything for their children. For others, their job takes precedence over everything else. They spend seventy hours a week working and they might not even remember the names of their children. Others value fast cars and good food. And there are those for whom learning Torah is the end all and be all. Like I said, it all depends who you ask.

What does this have to do with Parashat Teruma? Parashat Teruma contains the production drawings for the Mishkan and most of its vessels, perhaps the most beautiful of which is the menorah, a seven-light candelabrum made of pure gold. On the steps down to the Kotel there is a gold-plated menorah that could be used in the Beit HaMikdash were it built today, and it is indeed striking. The Torah introduces the menorah with the following words [Shemot 25:31]: “You shall make a menorah of pure gold. The menorah shall be made of hammered work; its base and its stem, its goblets, its knobs, and its flowers shall [all] be [one piece] with it.” The pieces of the menorah were not to be fashioned and then fused together; The entire menorah was to be sculpted out of one piece of gold. Next Hashem gives Moshe the following instructions [Shemot 25:32-35]: “Six branches coming out of its sides… Three decorated goblets on one branch, a knob and a flower… On [the stem of] the menorah [shall be] four decorated goblets, its knobs and its flowers… so [shall be done] for the six branches of the menorah”. Here’s what I find troubling: How can Hashem tell Moshe that the “goblets, knobs, and flowers” should all be made out of the same piece of gold before He tells Moshe that the menorah needs “goblets, knobs, and flowers”? Which goblets? Which knobs? Which flowers? It would have been more logical for the Torah first to lay out the design of the menorah, stating which parts were required, and only then to conclude with the requirement “These pieces that I just told you about should all be sculpted from one piece of gold.”

A natural way to approach this problem is to compare it to a similar problem in the construction of the Mishkan[1]. The Talmud in Tractate Brachot [55a] notes a discrepancy in the procedure of the building of the Mishkan when it is first described to Am Yisrael by Moshe compared to the procedure actually carried out by Betzalel. When Moshe initially describes the building of the Mishkan, he first describes the building of the vessels of the Mishkan, beginning with the Holy Ark, and then he describes the building of the actual Mishkan. However, when the design is implemented the order is reversed: First the Mishkan is assembled and only afterwards the vessels are constructed. Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook explains in “Ein Aya” (a commentary on the Aggadic sections of the Talmud) that Betzalel and Moshe each understood the concept of precedence in his own way. Moshe, the consummate prophet, understood that the purpose of the Mishkan was to serve as a dwelling place for Hashem’s presence on earth. The most important part of the Mishkan was the Aron Hakodesh, the dwelling place of Hashem’s presence. Everything else was gravy. When Moshe described the building of the Mishkan to Am Yisrael, it was not according to chronological order, but according to spiritual substance. So when he describes the building of the Mishkan, he begins with the heart of the Mishkan – the Ark. Betzalel was an engineer and he was concerned with one thing – the building of the grandest Mishkan he was capable of. He would furnish the Mishkan with the most intricate and beautiful vessels the world had ever seen. So when Betzalel builds the Mishkan and its vessels, he does so in the most logical manner: he first builds the Mishkan, a structure to house the vessels, and only then does he construct the vessels.

Perhaps we can implement this concept with the menorah, as well. Perhaps Moshe is again concerned with spiritual importance, and is telling us that for some esoteric spiritual reason the most important requirement pertaining to the menorah is that it be made out of one piece of beaten gold. Whether it contains flowers, bed knobs, or broomsticks, is irrelevant. All of the components must be beaten out of one piece of gold. When describing how Betzalel built the menorah, however, we would expect the verses to appear in a more logical order. But this is not so. When the Torah describes how Betzalel built the menorah, it begins the description with words that mimic nearly verbatim the words in Parashat Teruma [Shemot 37:17]: “He made the menorah of pure gold; of hammered work he made the menorah, its base and its stem, its goblets, its knobs, and its flowers were [all one piece] with it.” Here, too, the verse appears as a preface and not as an epilogue. For both Moshe and Betzalel it was critically important that this verse appear at the beginning of the discussion of the menorah. What could it be about this verse that was equally important to Moshe and Betzalel?

Prima facie, the first time Moshe heard about the Mishkan is when Hashem gave him the production plans in Parashat Teruma. This is not so. Three times Hashem tells Moshe to make something in the Mishkan “just as you were shown on the mountain.”[2] If Hashem is only now telling Moshe to build the Mishkan, how can He refer to something that Moshe has already seen? It must mean that Moshe was provided certain information about the Mishkan at some earlier time. But when did this happen?

Let’s take a step backwards: Why was there a menorah in the Mishkan? Was it required for light? If so, why not just build a few windows? Not only would windows give light, they’d let in some fresh air, too! We must always remember that the Mishkan was not built for ordinary utility because the Mishkan was no ordinary building. The Mishkan was an exercise in impossibility. It was an earthly home for Hashem’s Divine presence. It was a physical housing for the metaphysical. It was a finite residence for the infinite. Every part of the Mishkan along with every vessel existed only to support this mission. The Mishkan did not have windows because they were unimportant in meeting this mission. On the other hand, the Mishkan contained a menorah because without a menorah the Mishkan would not have been able to accomplish its mission. For the same reason, the menorah – its lights along with the rest of its bells and whistles – had to be made of one piece of gold. If it were not, then the Mishkan would be unable to perform its mission. This was not a matter of importance – it was a matter of basic necessity.

Moshe knew this, because he was shown this when he spent forty days and forty nights at the top of Mount Sinai being taught the Torah. Not that Moshe was explicitly shown the Mishkan and its vessels. This did not happen until Parashat Teruma. But there, at the top of the mountain, he understood things that were impossible to comprehend from earth. He understood – he saw – the mission of the Mishkan. He understood – he saw – what would be required in order to fulfill this mission. When Hashem [Shemot 31:3] “filled [Betzalel] with the spirit of G-d, with wisdom, with insight, with knowledge, and with [talent for] all manner of craftsmanship”, Betzalel, too, understood.

What’s a basic necessity? Over the past few months, two close relatives have taken ill and their names have been added at the bottom of these shiurim. This week a classmate of mine from High School died of complications from stomach cancer at the age of 51, Uri Orbach, a beloved author, commentator, and Minister, died at the age of 54, and Adelle Biton died two years after being hit in the head by a boulder thrown at her car. She was four years old. May Hashem bless us with good health. Everything else is gravy.

As for why it was a basic necessity that the menorah be built out of one piece of gold, we’ll address this question IY”H in our shiur for Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei.

Ari Sacher, Moreshet, 5775

Please daven for a Refu’a Shelema for Nechemiah Uriel ben Tzippora Hadara and Moshe Dov ben Malka

[1] See our shiur of Teruma 5761

[2] See Shemot [25:40], Shemot [26:30], and Shemot [27:8].