In the beginning of Parshas Teruma, the pasuk says, “And you shall make for Me a Sanctuary and I shall dwell in their midst.” (Shemos 25:8). Rashi comments: “And you shall make for My Name a House of Holiness.” That is the essence of the Beis HaMikdash – a House of Holiness!
Two years ago, Reb Yossi Goldstein sent me an e-mail relating the following incident:
Rav Yosef Buxbaum, who was the founder of Machon Yerushalayim (an institution in Yerushalayim which puts out wonderful seforim), was once walking in Yerushalayim, when he passed the house of the Tchebiner Rav. The Tchebiner Rav was Hagaon HaRav Dov Berish Weidenfeld (1881-1965). The terminology ‘world class scholar’ and ‘great personality’ are not sufficient to describe who he was.
Going back to my youth (circa 1960), before my Bar Mitzvah, my shul Rabbi, Rav Sholom Rivkin, z”l, told me that “the Tchebiner Rav is the Gadol HaDor!” (literally ‘greatest person in the generation’). That was a time when Rav Aharon Kotler was alive, Rav Moshe Feinstein was alive, Rav Eliezer Silver was alive, Rav Henkin was alive. Nevertheless, Rabbi Rivkin told me that the Tchebiner Rav was the Gadol HaDor! Now, at that time I did not know what the term “Gadol HaDor” meant! But it always remained in my mind that the Tchebiner Rav was the Gadol HaDor. He was a Rosh Yeshiva. He was a Posek. He was a Tzadik. I can go on and on describing who the Tchebiner Rav was.
Rav Buxbaum was once walking past the Tchebiner Rav’s house, which was at Rechov Ibn Shaprut #12 in the Shaarei Chessed neighborhood of Yerushalayim. He saw that Rav Aryeh Levin (1885-1969), the Tzadik of Yerushalayim, was standing and crying in front of the Tchebiner Rav’s house. Rav Yosef Buxbaum walked over to Rav Aryeh Levin and asked why he was crying. “Are you in pain? Why are you are standing in front of the Tchebiner Rav’s house, crying?”
Rav Aryeh told him that one of his children was sick. “If I could go to the Kosel Ma’aravi (Western Wall), I would go. (This was pre-1967, when the Jews did not have access to the Old City of Yerushalayim or the Kosel Ma’aravi) Since I cannot get to the Kosel, I need to pray in another makom kadosh (holy place). The Tchebiner Rav’s house is that makom kadosh.”
This is what Rashi means here “You shall make for me a Sanctuary” – a House of Holiness! If someone thinks of all the Torah that was learned in the house of the Tchebiner Rav and the chessed that was done there and the tzidkus that was practiced there – the Tchebiner Rav’s house was a makom kadosh. If the Kosel Ma’aravi was not available, a person could at least go to this makom kadosh to pray.
Rav Buxbaum was so impressed with what Rav Aryeh Levin told him that he went and related the conversation to the great sage Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, who also lived in the Shaarei Chessed neighborhood. Rav Shlomo Zalman reacted without astonishment “Certainly that is appropriate. I, too, whenever I pass by that holy dwelling place, lift my eyes heavenward in prayer.” Rav Shlomo Zalman also used the opportunity of being in the proximity of such a makom kadosh to petition the Almighty in prayer. Which person does not say a Tefilla when he goes to the Kosel. Religiously sensitive individuals considered the holy home of the Tchebiner Rav a similarly holy place.
This gives us practical insight into Rashi’s comment “And you shall make Me a Sanctuary” – a House of Holiness.
The Power of Torah to Transform a Person Such That His Inside Matches His Outside
The Torah says to build of the Aron from atzei shitim – two and a half amos in length, one and a half amos in width, and one and a half amos in height. “And you shall cover it (the wood) with pure gold, on the inside and on the outside, it should be overlaid…” (Shemos 25:11).
Over the years, we have commented many times that each of the keylim (vessels) of the Mishkan is symbolic. The Aron, in which the Luchos (Tablets of the Covenant) are placed, is symbolic of a talmid chochom. The Torah resides within a talmid chochom, and so too the Luchos reside within the Aron. The fact that the Torah says that the Aron needs to be covered with pure gold on both the outside and the inside is symbolic of the concept of “tocho k’baro” (a person’s inside must match his outside). In short, a talmid chochom cannot be a faker. He needs to be of sterling character – as pure on the inside as he is on the outside.
There has been much discussion, dating all the way back to the time of the Talmud, as to whether someone may teach a student who is NOT “tocho k’baro“. In Avos D’Reb Nosson, this is an argument between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel. Beis Shammai were very restrictive in who they accepted into their school. They forbade teaching a student who was not of sterling character. Beis Hillel were less discriminating. They favored an “open enrollment” policy.
The well-known Gemara in Brochos (28a) says that Rabban Gamliel, who was the Head of the Yeshiva, had a policy that any student who was not “tocho k’baro,” was not admitted into the Beis HaMedrash (Study Hall). When they changed the leadership of the Yeshiva because of an incident mentioned there, Rabbo Elazer ben Azariah became the Rosh Yeshiva. They then removed the guard from the door of the Beis HaMedrash. The Talmud notes that on that day they added 400 benches (or according to another version 700 benches) to the Beis HaMedrash in order to accommodate the influx of new students.
The Gemara relates that when Rabban Gamliel saw what transpired, he became depressed out of fear that his policy had inhibited the study of Torah in Yisroel. The Gemara says that he was shown containers full of embers in a dream. This dream appeased him, as he interpreted it to mean that the new students were like ashes, meaning that they were really not high caliber students.
The Gemara says that this was not really the case. He was merely shown this dream to appease him, but in truth the policy of Rav Elazer ben Azaria was correct and the policy of Rabban Gamliel was wrong.
Someone once told me an interpretation of this Gemara in the name of Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l. Rav Yoshe Ber asked – what is the interpretation of this Gemara? In other words, was Rav Elazar ben Azariah right or was he not right to remove the guard? Was Hashem merely fooling Rabban Gamliel by showing him this dream?
Rav Yoshe Ber explained the significance of Rabban Gamliel being shown containers of embers. When someone views embers, it appears that the fire has been extinguished. Nothing can happen from them. But within the embers may still be little flames. If someone blows on them, he may, in fact, relight the fire. This is what Rabban Gamliel was shown in his dream. They were not trying to “fake him out.” They were showing him that these new students who showed up in the Beis HaMedrash were like embers. He took it to mean – “Aghh! They are nothing!” But the real message was just the opposite. The sparks within the embers contain great potential. If they are blown on correctly, they can in fact become blazing flames.
The Zohar relates that Rabbi Abba announced “Whoever wants to become wealthy and live a long life should come to the Beis Medrash and occupy himself with Torah study.” A fellow named Yossi heard this announcement and came in front of Rabbi Abba and told him that he would like to become rich so he came to learn. Rabbi Abba took him into the Beis Medrash.
The Zohar says that this Yossi was given the nickname “Yossi the Baal Tayvah” (as if to say “Joe the Money Grubber” or Yossi, the person who wants to become rich). Yossi learned for a long time but he did not become rich. He went back to Rav Abba and complained, “You told me that if I came to learn Torah in your Yeshiva, I would become rich. I came to learn, but I did not become rich.”
Rav Abba was so disgusted with the fellow’s attitude that he wanted to throw him out of the Yeshiva, but a bas kol came out from Heaven and said not to throw the student out – to have patience with him, because one day he would become a great talmid chochom.
Time went on and a wealthy man came to the Yeshiva to visit Rabbi Abba. The man had a golden chalice with him. He told Rabbi Abba that he was a wealthy man and he would like to support a young man who is involved in Torah study by giving him this valuable golden chalice. Rabbi Abba called in the Baal Tayvah and gave him the golden chalice. He said, “Okay. Now you have it. You learned Torah and you became rich.”
The Zohar continues that years later this Yossi in fact became a very big talmid chochom. Rav Abba came into the Beis Medrash one day and saw that this Rav Yossi was crying. He said, “Why are you crying now – you got your money!” Yossi said “I am crying that I was willing to give up Torah for just a gold chalice. How could I have made such a silly mistake?”
The Zohar concludes that this Yossi became none other than the Amora Rav Yossi ben Pazi (cited in Yerushalmi Shekalim 9a). Paz means fine gold (Shir HaShirim 5:11; 5:15). Yossi was “Ben Pazi” (son of fine gold). He ultimately recognized how foolish he had been for having been willing to give up a world of eternity (Torah) for a transient world (of wealth). In the end, he realized “Better for me is the Torah of Your Mouth than thousands of pieces of gold and silver” (Tehillim 119:72).
The upshot of this Zohar and the upshot of the Gemara in Brochos is the same. Why did Rabban Gamliel become depressed when so many students came to the Yeshiva after they took away the gatekeeper? He knew that he could have had an additional 400 or 700 applicants if he waived his entrance standards! He made a decision that he wanted only students who were tochom k’barom. It was a legitimate decision. Why then was he depressed when these additional students came in?
The Chidushei HaRim says a beautiful idea. Rabban Gamliel became depressed because after those 700 students came into the Beis Medrash, he saw what the Torah did for them. He saw that the Torah had the power to flip them from being people who were NOT tochom k’barom into people who WERE tochom k’barom. Just like this Yossi the Baal Tayvah, who became Yossi ben Pazi because the power of Torah changed him, so too, the same thing happened to new students who entered the Beis Medrash when the gatekeepers were removed.
This is what upset Rabban Gamliel. He knew why he rejected these people – because he did not want students who were not tochom k’barom. But now he saw that after spending time in the Yeshiva, through the power of Torah they BECAME students who were tochom k’barom.
This is what the Medrash Eicha means when it says “If only they would have abandoned Me and kept my Torah, as a result of their preoccupation with it (i.e. — with Torah), the light within it would have returned them to the proper way.” Torah has an amazing mystical power to change a person. It happened to Yossi ben Pazi and it happened to the hundreds of students in the Beis Medrash of Rav Elazar ben Azarya. The Torah flipped them from being people who were not tochom k’barom to people who indeed possessed that quality.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Edited by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas T’rumah is provided below:
- # 044 Changing Nusach: Ashkenaz vs. Sephard
- # 087 The Microphone on Shabbos
- # 135 Living Above a Shul
- # 182 Davening Towards Mizrach
- # 228 Selling a Shul
- # 272 Chazakah B’Mitzvos: Is This Maftir Yonah Mine?
- # 318 Taking Out Two Sifrei Torah
- # 362 The Mechitza-How High?
- # 406 Shul Elections
- # 450 Bais Hakeneses & Bais Hamikdash–Differences & Similarities
- # 494 Bima In The Center Of The Shul
- # 538 Preventing the Building of a Shul
- # 582 Silk in Halacha
- # 626 The Po’roches
- # 714 The Bais Hamedrash Is Not a Chat Room
- # 758 An Atara for a Talis?
- # 802 Birthday Cakes on Shabbos
- # 846 A Pasul Sefer Torah – Where Should It Be Kept?
- # 890 Shul Windows: An Open or Closed Case?
- # 934 Kohanim Face the Nation
- # 977 Remodeling A Shul: Is There A Problem?
- #1021 Should a Yahrzeit Make His Own Minyan in Shul to Get the Amud?
- #1065 The Breakaway Minyan – Permitted or Not?
- #1108 Being From The First Ten At Davening
- #1151 Shul Shortcuts – Does Saying A Pasuk Really Help?
- #1194 Your Father’s Nussach Or Your Grandfather’s Nussach
- #1238 Pushka and Tzedaka Shailos
- #1283 I Want To Take Back The Keser Torah I Donated: Should the Shul Agree?
- #1370 They Want To Build A New Shul? N.I.M.B.Y. (Not In My Backyard)
- #1414 Shul Issues: Shortcuts, Davening Towards Mizrach and More
- #1458 Can a Man Daven in the Ezras Nashim Rather Than the Main Shul?
- #1502 Mizrach is One Direction; The Aron Kodesh Is in Another; Which Way Should You Face?
A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.