The True T'rumah
By Rabbi Pinchas Winston
Speak to the Children of Israel and take to Me a t'rumah . . . (Shemos 25:2)
TAKE TO ME: The letters are "mem" and "Torah" because the Torah
which was given in forty days is for those who eat t'rumah. When it
says that Torah was only given to those who eat manna it should be
changed to those who eat t'rumah. This is what it means when it says
"Take to Me - for My sake," for anyone who learns Torah is like one
who has taken Me because The Holy One, Blessed is He, only has the
four amos of halachah in this world. Therefore, this section about
taking a t'rumah follows the section about Torah. (Ba'al HaTurim)
The word t'rumah, spelled tav-raish-vav-mem-heh, means
"elevated-offering." We are about to begin the section dealing with
the construction of the Mishkan, and the Jewish people are being
asked at the beginning of this week's parshah to make voluntary
contributions of all types of materials to be used in making the
implements to be used in the Mishkan in the daily service.
However, as the Ba'al HaTurim is teaching, this is about more than a
simple fund raising drive for a holy cause. The word "t'rumah" is
comprised of two parts, the letter "mem" whose numerical value is
forty, and the remaining letters, tav-raish-vav-heh, which
conveniently spell the word Torah when rearranged.
Thus, on a Pshat-level we are talking about bringing voluntary gifts
for the construction of the Mishkan. However, on the level of Remez,
there is a hint in the word t'rumah to a different level of
understanding and undertaking, namely the need to learn Torah. Drush
teaches us that when one does this he is said to be "taking G-d,"
that is, developing the ultimate relationship with Him.
What about Sod and the Kabbalistic explanation of the verse? Perhaps
this is one such explanation of what is being hinted to by the word
The tikun of Ruach of Yetzirah comes from learning Torah
altruistically, specifically the Oral Law such as Mishnah and Talmud,
etc. The tikun to the Neshamah results from the knowledge of
Kabbalistic ideas and secrets of Torah from the Zohar. (Shaar
HaGilgulim, Page 41)
Sounds simple enough, no? Perhaps if we define some terms we will be
able to understand the profundity of this simple but very deep
statement, and how it relates to this week's parshah.
Last week we compared life to an onion. This week we will compare
life to a ladder, one that stretches between us and Ain Sof, the name
we give to G-d's light at a very high level. This would make the
purpose of life to climb the ladder and come close to G-d, and if
this sounds vaguely familiar to the ladder that Ya'akov dreamed of in
Parashas Vayaitzai it is because it is the same thing.
There are only five rungs on this ladder and their names are Nefesh,
Ruach, Neshamah, Chiyah, and Yechidah - the five levels of soul.
They have other names as well: Asiyah, Yetzirah, Beriyah, Atzilus,
and Adam Kadmon and thus, to "climb" from Nefesh to Ruach is to climb
from Asiyah to Yetzirah; to climb from Ruach to Neshamah is to climb
from Yetzirah to Beriyah, and so forth.
It sounds simple enough. After all, how long can it take to climb a
ladder that only has five rungs? Well, that will depend upon how
tall you are, or in this case how spiritually tall one is. If the
rung above you is out of your reach then you will need another
smaller ladder to climb up and reach the next rung and perhaps, a
ladder within that ladder to get you to its next rung in order to get
to the second ladder's next rung on your way to the next rung of the
first ladder. There may be more smaller ladders, but I think the
point is clear.
When the Arizal speaks about a rectification to the Ruach of
Yetzirah, he is talking about a spiritual means to climb this
spiritual ladder. For, when one climbs this ladder it is not an
issue of physical movement, but one of spiritual movement, as we will
. . . Each person according to the generosity of his heart . . . (Shemos 25:2)
Different mitzvos, by their very natures, affect the one performing
them and the world in general, differently. To begin with, they may
use different parts of the body. For example, the mitzvah to visit
the sick entails physically going to the infirmed person, whereas the
mitzvah to wear Tefillin doesn't require much movement at all. On
the other hand, it does directly "touch" the body of the one putting
on the Tefillin, whereas visiting the sick does not.
Some mitzvos, such as praying only involves speech and should also
involve the mind. Since different parts of the body have their own
level of importance from a spiritual point of view as well as from a
physical point of view, they affect the person and the world on
Likewise, the five rungs on the spiritual ladder also correspond to
areas of Torah learning, at least the four bottom "rungs" do. They
are: Mikrah, Mishnah, Talmud, and Kabbalah. Mikrah refers to the
learning of the Written Law on its most obvious level, whereas
Mishnah already represents a discussion of the idea on a deeper, less
obvious level. Talmud is the elaboration of the Mishnah which is
usually quite terse, and Kabbalah represents the deepest and most
profound explanation of the idea.
Hence, when a person graduates from learning Torah on the simplest
level and begins to study Mishnah, he is entering a whole new world.
According to the Arizal:
"The tikun of Ruach of Yetzirah comes from learning Torah
altruistically, specifically the Oral Law such as Mishnah and Talmud,
To begin with, there is the nature of the Oral Law itself, which is
said to contain the Hidden Light of creation. However, the fact that
the Oral Law is meant to be learned out loud, means that it involves
speech in the process that is a function of a higher level of soul.
As well, the Oral Law is very instructive and engaging, particularly
the Talmud and so much so that one must first learn how to learn it
before being able to even turn a page.
There is really nothing in the world like the Talmud, and when one
learns it consistently and thoroughly, one can feel a change of
being. The Talmud tends to cause those who learn it to spiritually
develop in ways, and at rate that no other work can seem to match, at
least in terms of revealed Torah. This is because, as the Arizal
explains, one is actually acquiring a whole new higher level of his
own soul, and the more spiritually whole one becomes, the more
complete he is going to feel and act.
However, it is the words of the Arizal that explains the power of
Kabbalah, and what is commonly referred to as Sod:
"The tikun to the Neshamah results from the knowledge of Kabbalistic
ideas and secrets of Torah from the Zohar."
If you asked someone who is already familiar with these ideas if it
is imperative to learn Kabbalah, they might answer no. However, if
you asked that person if it is crucial to "acquire" one's own
Neshamah, without a doubt they would answer in the affirmative. A
contradiction? It is more like a misunderstanding where the person
does not know about the connection between learning Kabbalah and the
acquisition of the one's soul, or the Neshamah part of it.
What is that connection? The following explains the connection,
though it too will need some explanation.
. . . This is the main rectification of learning Kabbalah more than
any other section of Torah. For, the rest of Torah is clothed in
matters of this world as opposed to Kabbalah - and specifically the
words of the Arizal which are built upon the Aderos and Safra
d'Tzniusa (sections of the Zohar), and the depths of the secrets of
the Holy Zohar - which only deals with matters of Atzilus and the
worlds of the light of Ain Sof. Therefore, the wisdom of Kabbalah is
called "nistar" (hidden) because it deals with matters of the Upper
Worlds which no creature can achieve or grasp; they are hidden from
everyone. (Drushei Olam HaTohu, Chelek 1, Drush 5, Siman 7, Letter 8)
In other words, Kabbalah deals with the upper "rungs" of the
spiritual ladder, which correspond to the upper levels of one's soul.
Or, to bring it more down to earth, Kabbalah is the "program" that
runs the entire system whereas the other areas of Torah are the
"results" of that program; Kabbalah is the cause that God - the FIRST
Cause - created, and the rest of Torah is the effect.
Likewise, the higher the level of soul the more it is the "cause" for
the lower levels of soul under it. This is why the second highest
level of soul is called "Chiyah," which means "living," because it is
said to give life to all the levels of soul under it: Neshamah,
Ruach, and Nefesh. With each subsequent level of soul the light
becomes filtered, weaker, and less independent.
Simply put, the higher the level of Torah one learns, the higher the
level of soul one rectifies, and the greater the level of perfection
one attains. This is what brings a person to higher levels of
spiritual sincerity, to a greater level of desire to give to G-d
until one reaches the level described by one of the greatest lovers
of G-d ever to live, Dovid HaMelech:
One thing I asked of G-d, that I shall seek -- that I dwell in the
House of G-d all the days of my life, to see the sweetness of G-d . .
. (Tehillim 27:4)
This is the ultimate t'rumah, as we shall now explain, G-d willing.
. . . Take for Me My t'rumah. (Shemos 25:2)
These are the final words of the posuk. The t'rumah of the first
part of the posuk has somehow become "My t'rumah" - G-d's personal
t'rumah - at the end of the posuk. The ultimate Elevated-Offering is
the person himself, after he has climbed the spiritual ladder and
taken advantage of his spiritual potential to come close to G-d,
something that can only be achieved through the Torah that was given
in forty days.
Thus, on a Pshat-level, this posuk is a commandment to begin
collecting the necessary elements to construct a physical edifice
within which the service of G-d can be performed on a daily basis.
However, on a deeper level it is a commandment for every Jew to begin
building himself or herself so that G-d can dwell within the actual
The greater the rectification the individual performs, the more the
Divine Presence can dwell within the person. The higher the level of
Torah learning, the greater the rectification, and people sense this
which is why they often run to learn Kabbalah even before they have
learned to "walk," let alone "run" in the world of Torah - like
people who try to put a well-tuned and expensive engine in the body
of a beaten up car.
However, at Mt. Sinai we learned that there are no short-cuts and
that trying to make some only leads to self-destruction:
G-d said to Moshe, "Go down. Warn the people in case they break
through to see G-d, and many die. Let the priests, who approach G-d,
also sanctify themselves, to avoid G-d punishing them." Moshe told
G-d, "The people cannot come up Mt. Sinai because You already warned
us to set up boundaries around the mountain and to sanctify it." G-d
answered him, "Go, go down, and come up later, you and Aharon with
you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to
approach G-d. Otherwise, I will have to punish them." (Shemos
Think of the bottom of the mountain as the bottom of the spiritual
ladder of five rungs. Think of the Divine Presence hovering over the
mountain as Level Five on that ladder. With the top of the ladder
apparently so close and tangible, would the Jewish people not thirst
to run up the mountain and grasp it - warning or no warning? Moshe
thought no; G-d said yes.
However, doing so was desirous even as it carried the death penalty
with it. Only Moshe who had properly traversed all levels as much as
was humanly possible was allowed to enter the cloud and Heaven.
Aharon and the Elders, who came close to spiritual perfection could
not enter the cloud and were denied access to Heaven, though they
were allowed up the mountain. The rest of the nation had to wait
below at the foot of the mountain and view the top from the bottom.
Nevertheless, in life, if one spends the time and energy to move from
rung to rung along the ladder of Torah, thoroughly rectifying each
level of soul before climbing higher, then he will be allowed to
enter new heights with G-d's blessing. More importantly, he becomes
"t'rumasi" - G-d's own personal Elevated-Offering - the ultimate gift
man can give to G-d, and the ultimate fulfillment of our reason for
Chanukah & The Wonderful World of Thirty-Six
Installment #11, Chapter Eight, Part One: Why Thirty-Six?
You wouldn't believe how many thirty-sixes there are in Tanach, from
the beginning to the end, and throughout various different writings,
and just where they should be. For some, it might appear as if the
idea of thirty-six is being taken too far, while for others it may be
nothing more than merely amusing.
However, understanding what the number thirty-six really represents
makes it much easier to appreciate just how powerful all the
allusions to the thirty-six really are. For within the number
thirty-six is the very purpose of our existence, and within it is the
most important clue we'll ever need to understand about what our role
To have this discussion necessitates an introduction to the
Kabbalistic concept of Sefiros, of which there are ten, what they are
and what role they play in the history of mankind. Their names are
Keser, Chochmah, Binah, Chesed, Gevurah, Tifferes, Netzach, Hod,
Yesod, and Malchus, or Crown, Wisdom, Understanding, Kindness,
Strength, Beauty, Dominance, Glory, Foundation, and Kingdom.
They sound more like character traits, which is why they are also
called "Middos," or "measurements," a word that is also used for
"character traits." After all, one's character traits are the
measure of one's spiritual greatness and their true accomplishments
They have also been defined as spiritual emanations of G-d's light,
but we can also refer to them as filters for G-d's light. As G-d
No one can see My face because no man can see Me and live! (Shemos 33:20)
Why not? Because G-d's light is far too powerful for man to behold,
at least in man's physical state. Exposure to such a high level of
light would pull the soul right out of a person's body and result in
instant death, to say the least. Levels of G-d's light far less in
intensity can also deny a person free-will if it is clearly
discernable, as in the case of an obvious miracle such as the
splitting of the Red Sea.
Creation was made so that man, through his free-will choices, could
achieve spiritual completion and earn a portion of the World-to-Come
and eternal bliss. Therefore, G-d filters His light to the point
that its presence isn't so noticeable except to those who have become
spiritually sensitized to it. The system through which G-d's light
is filtered and simultaneously veiled is called the Sefiros, of which
there are ten, as we have already mentioned.
However, creation and history are extremely detailed. Therefore,
just as in the case of a sophisticated computer there are many parts,
some exceedingly tiny but still quite precise, so too do the Sefiros
have subsections, and subsections of the subsections, until there is
a spiritual counterpart for all that spiritually and physically
Each of the ten Sefiros have ten Sefiros of their own, and those ten
have ten of their own, and so on until the general system is
duplicated and mirrored on countless specific levels and in countless
worlds to a degree that only G-d could fathom and appreciate.
However, for our discussion purposes it will be enough to deal with
only one subset of the general system of the Ten Sefiros, of the
sefiros Chesed through Yesod, specifically.
Man: G-d's Partner
Life is no picnic. It started out rather pleasant in the Garden of
Eden, but took an abrupt turn for the worst when Adam made the
fateful mistake of eating from the forbidden fruit of the Tree of
Knowledge of Good and Evil. Then there was expulsion into a world
that has been far less than a paradise, and the rest has been history.
Creation is not perfect, evident by the fact that Adam sinned and man
can do evil. In fact, doing the right thing often seems like an
uphill battle, which has made many question the presence of G-d in
history throughout the millennia.
However, a careful reading of the classic Torah texts reveals that
this is creation's perfection, inasmuch as it allows man to become a
partner with G-d in creation. G-d's work was complete and perfect as
always; any perfection He left over to be completed was purposely
given over to man to bring about. Man was made to become a partner
with G-d in bringing creation to perfection, whether we realize it or
not, or whether we like it or not.
We are not unlimited in what we can accomplish, but we can do much.
However, nothing we can do, say, or think can affect the upper three
sefiros, Keser, Chochmah, and Binah. They are said to be perfect
already, the handiwork of G-d's creating. Any perfection they might
be said to lack is only because they exist to benefit the lower
sefiros that may be denied such assistance due to our own sins.
It's like a parent who yearns to give to his or her child. Nothing
gives the parent greater pleasure than benefiting the child. Nothing
gives the parent a greater sense of self-fulfillment than to help his
or her child to the best of the parent's ability. This is the true
nature of a truly loving parent.
However, what if the child is too foolish to realize this? What if
the child is too immature to appreciate what his parent can do for
him, and why it is important to be a fitting receiver of such help?
Surely the parent will stop giving when doing so is a better giving
than the giving itself, what we call discipline for the child's sake.
The child's imperfections are not the parent's deficient.
Nevertheless, the fact that the parent cannot continue to benefit the
child when that is the parent's natural instinct, hurts the parent to
some degree. The parent denied the opportunity to do that which
fulfills his or her reason to exist, experiences a level of
It is also the case with the upper Sefiros when the lower six
Sefiros - the ones which gave rise to the six days of creation and
the six millennia of history of which we are a part - are not in a
position to receive all the light ultimately intended for the lower
sefiros. That is because mankind has yet to rectify them to the
point that they have become fitting vessels for such light, something
the Jewish people specifically are supposed to do through the
learning of Torah and the performance of mitzvos.
Being the light unto nations that we were redeemed from Egypt to be,
through the wisdom of the Torah we are supposed to elevate the
spiritual consciousness of the entire world. This results in more
light coming down from the upper sefiros that causes the lower
sefiros to "mature" and become able to handle an increased capacity
of G-d's light. All that we affect and are affected by is by way of
the Sefiros, which in a sense are the place that G-d encoded His
master plan for creation.
Obviously, there is much more to understand regarding such a holy
concept as the Ten Sefiros. Nevertheless, this is as Kabbalistic a
definition of redemption as you will find, for as long as these six
sefiros remain spiritually underdeveloped and are denied the light of
the upper three sefiros, then exile is the result. The more light
these specific six sefiros can handle and receive, the more
redemption the world can enjoy and the less evil can exist.
This is all by way of introduction, but it will help us to understand
the meaning and importance of the number thirty-six. Remember it
well. More importantly, it will help us to build an important
foundation to help us better understand our role within creation. It
may take a few sessions to do all of this, but when it will be all
said and done, it will have been worth it.
Have a great Shabbos,
This week's parshah sheet is in the merit and loving memory of Chaim
ben Yitzchak, z"l, by his son and family, whose many acts of chesed
and support of Torah causes will surely bring great honor to their
father's soul and elevation after elevation.