Rav Moshe Twersky On Parshas Terumah


By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman


1 Why there was no Aron Kodesh in Bayis Sheini

2 Moshe’s input into the menorah

3 Kaftor v’ferach!

4 Dimensions of the menorah

5 Why the outer mizbeiach was not used in the Beis Ha’Mikdash

6 Quote of the week

7 Featured Story



ועשו ארון   כה:י

The Mishna in Maseches Yoma says that there was no Aron Kodesh in the second Beis Ha’Mikdash.  On Yom Kippur, the pan of ketores was put directly on the Even Shesiyah, and the blood of the ox and goat was sprinkled on to the floor, on the area which would have been between the poles of the Aron Kodesh.  The Gemara learns out from “mikdash ha’kodesh” that the space where the Aron Kodesh was located has inherent kedusha.  Just like the Azarah has its kedusha status, and the Heichal has its kedusha status.  So too, does the makom of the Aron Kodesh – even if there is no Aron Kodesh there – have a particular kedusha status.

That notwithstanding, the question still begs to be asked: why didn’t they make an Aron Kodesh for Bayis Sheini?

The Chasam Sofer has an original answer.  After the pesukim describe how the Aron has to be made, it says, “v’noadeti lecha sham v’dibarti itcha mei’al ha’kapores”.  This, says the Chasam Sofer, indicates that the whole purpose of having an Aron Kodesh was in order to facilitate the communication of Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu with Moshe Rabbeinu.  As such, the commandment to make an Aron Kodesh only applies when Moshe was still alive.  Once he was no longer there, there is no obligation to make an Aron Kodesh.

All the other Rishonim, and Achronim as well, say a different answer.  They say that it is the previous pasuk, “v’el ha’aron titein es ha’eidus”, which identifies the function of the Aron Kodesh.  The whole purpose of the Aron is to contain the luchas ha’eidus.  Without luchos, which were in the original Aron Kodesh and were therefore not available during Bayis Sheini, the Aron would not be an Aron Kodesh, it would just be a box.  So, there would of course be no point in that.

(Audio recording available here)



תיעשה המנורה    כה:לא

Rashi brings the Chazal that the passive-reflexive tense of the word teiaseh shows that Moshe was having a difficult time with the execution of constructing the menorah.  So, Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu told him to put all the gold into the fire and it will come out on its own.

It’s not a kashya that Hashem commanded the construction of the menorah despite the fact that it would ultimately have to be given to us in a miraculous manner, because it is part of Torah.  What is a question that we could ask is, what is this combination between Moshe’s input and the miraculous emergence of the menorah from the fire?  What purpose was Moshe’s involvement serving?

Perhaps we could offer the following answer.  The Gemara in Sotah (9a) darshens the pasuk, “Ranenu tzaddikim ba’Hashem la’yesharim navah sehilah.”  Navah, says the Gemara, is hinting at naveh, which means an abode.  This is referring to Moshe Rabbeinu and Dovid Ha’Melech whose constructions never came under the dominion of destruction of our enemies.  The gates of the Beis Ha’Mikdash, which are credited to Dovid Ha’Melech, sank into the ground; and the Mishkan was nignaz, stored away in the tunnels under the Heichal.

The Gemara there only makes explicit mention of all the structural components of the Mishkan; it doesn’t say what happened to the keilim.  All the keilim of the Mishkan, with the exception of the outer mizbeiach, were used in the Beis Ha’Mikdash as well.  Nevuchadnetzar took those keilim to Bavel.  But what ultimately came of them – if they were stored away somewhere or were destroyed – we don’t know.

If they were stored away – meaning, that it was not possible for them to be destroyed – then that could be why Moshe’s involvement in the construction of the menorah, in some manner, was necessary.  Only because Moshe was involved did the menorah, as well, become infused with this quality that it cannot be destroyed.  That could be why his input was necessary.  However, I don’t know if this explanation is correct, since, after all, we really do not know what ever came of the keilim after they were brought to Bavel.

The Sfas Emes gives a different answer to the question of Moshe’s input into the construction of the menorah.  He says that the menorah only came out of the fire because Moshe did his maximum.  He put in whatever he was able to do by learning the subject matter to the best of his ability, and by putting forth whatever efforts he was capable of.  Once he did everything humanly possible, Hashem helped and made it happen.

This is a tremendous mussar haskeil.  If you want to produce something from the fire, you have to do the most you can.  Then Hashem helps and makes it happen.

(Audio recording available here)



כפתר ופרח      כה:לג

Whenever a really good explanation of a Gemara or a Rishon would emerge, my grandfather would exclaim, “Kaftor v’ferach!”  As a young boy, I didn’t know what he meant by that.  As I got older, though, I discovered that this was not at all an uncommon expression amongst the talmidei chachamim of the previous generation when someone would discover a good sevara.  Of course, the words kaftor v’ferach come from the description of the various adornments that were part of the design of the Menorah.  But what does that have to do with a wonderful explanation of a sugya.

The Netziv answered this question based on the Gemara (Bava Basra 25b) that says, “One who wants to become wise should (slightly) face south [while davening Shmoneh Esrei].”  The reason for this is that the Menorah was positioned on the southern side of the Mishkan and Beis Ha’Mikdash, and the Menorah is the conduit for Torah wisdom; specifically the Torah wisdom of Torah sheh’b’al peh.

When someone says a good pshat, the expression, “Kaftor v’ferach!” is as if to say, “That pshat is true Torah exposition and therefore must have come through the conduit of the Menorah!” To this very day, we derive the energy of Torah sheh’b’al peh through the conduit of the adornments of the Menorah; as Chazal say, “Ha’rotzeh sheh’yachkim yadrim.”  Even today, if you want to become wise, face slightly south which is the direction of the Menorah and is that direction which is most closely related to the influx of Torah sheh’b’al peh.

(Audio recording available here)



Dimensions of the Menorah

Why is it that all the keilim have assigned dimensions in the pesukim, but the menorah does not?  We know from Torah sheh’b’al peh that the menorah was 18 tefachim, but why wasn’t it explicitly delineated in the pesukim like all the other keilim?

Although the pesukim say that the menorah is to be made out of gold, if for whatever reason gold is unavailable, a menorah made out of other metals is valid.  The Gemara says that when the Chashmonaim first defeated the Greeks and repossessed the Beis Ha’Mikdash, they used a menorah constructed of iron poles.  It is not even clear if the poles were connected.  The Gemara in Menachos says that a menorah made out of other metals is not adorned with the geviim, kaftorim, and perachim.  That’s only for a menorah made out of gold.

Now, if you look in the Rambam (Hilchos Beis Ha’Bechira 3:10), he enumerates the eighteen-tefach height of the menorah in terms of the height of each one of the adornment components of geviim, kaftorim, and perachim, and how much space there is in between them.  The implication is that the shiur of 18 tefachim is not a din in the menorah per se, but a din in the geviim, kaftorim, and perachim.  The eighteen tefachim is a composite of the location, size, and position of the geviim, kaftorim, and perachim.  But the menorah itself has no shiur.

This is derived from the fact that the Torah does not assign a shiur to the menorah.

This is a chiddush, and there is room to research the matter to see if it is really true.  According to this approach, it emerges that when a menorah is made out of other metals – in which case there are no geviim, kaftorim, or perachim – it has no shiur.  It could be made as small or large as you want.

(Audio recording available here)



ועשית את המזבח     כז:א

By each one of the keilim, after the pesukim describe how it is to be made, the function is described.  By the shulchan it says that the lechem ha’panim is to be placed on it, the inner mizbeiach is for burning the ketores, the menorah is for lighting neiros, and so on.  The exception to this is the outer mizbeiach.  For some reason, the pesukim here in parshas Terumah do not follow up by describing what is to be done with it.

Why is that?

Perhaps we can suggest an answer based on the Ramban in his hasagos to Seifer Ha’Mitzvos.  There is a machlokes between the Rambam and the Ramban regarding why it is that each kli is not counted as a separate mitzvah in the count of taryag mitzvos.  The Rambam (shoresh 12 and mitzvas asei 20) says that the reason is because of the general rule that a mitzvah which contains numerous components to it, we only count the main, overarching mitzvah, and not each detail thereof.  Accordingly, “v’asu li mikdash” is the general category – to construct a Mikdash – and all the keilim are details thereof.  According to this explanation of the Rambam, missing a kli is not only a problem in terms of that particular item and the function it serves, but it is also a lack in the very fulfillment of having a Beis Ha’Mikdash.  The Yerushalmi (Maseches Shekalim) very much sounds like this shitah of the Rambam.  The Yerushalmi asks, how was it possible to submerge the washing basin into the stream (that passed through the azarah) every evening (in order to prevent the water thereof from becoming disqualified through being out overnight), seeing that that makes a lack in the actual Beis Ha’Mikdash?  The question clearly implies that missing a kli is missing a part of the Mikdash itself.

The Ramban, though, says differently than the Rambam.  According to the Ramban, the mitzvah of making the keilim is not subsumed under the umbrella mitzvah of building a Mikdash; rather, each kli is subsumed under the mitzvah the purpose of which that kli serves.  So, for example, the shulchan is included under the mitzvah of lechem ha’panim, the menorah is included under the mitzvah of lighting the neiros, and so on and so forth.  These mitzvos necessarily mandate having their requisite vessels that make their fulfillment possible.  So the mitzvah of making the keilim is, as the Ramban says, that Hashem “commanded us regarding the necessary prerequisites of the avodah”.

The only kli whose usage was discontinued when Shlomo built the Beis Ha’Mikdash was the outer mizbeiach.  Based on the Ramban, and the question about why the pesukim here in parshas Terumah do not delineate the function of the outer mizbeiach, we can suggest a reason why.

If a kli gets lost or destroyed, what is it that mandates constructing a new one?  According to the Ramban, it is the mitzvah for whose purpose the kli serves.  If the shulchan is lost, it is the mitzvah of lechem ha’panim that obligates the construction of a new shulchan.  If the menorah is lost, it is the mitzvah of lighting neiros that demands the construction of a new menorah.  That is how we can understand the delineation of each kli’s function following its description.  The delineation of its function is expressing that mandate which establishes its imperative for all generations.  The fact, then, that the function of the outer mizbeiach of the Mishkan is not delineated, is an indication that this mizbeiach is in fact not a mitzvah l’doros; rather it is a mitzvah l’shaah, only for that time in which it was given.  That is why it was only the outer mizbeiach whose usage was discontinued with the advent of the Beis Ha’Mikdash.

(Audio recording available here)



Quote of the Week

“Running is rarely an expression of zerizus.  More often than not, it’s an expression of, ‘I’m late!’”

(From Reb Avrohom Rudner and Reb Ephraim Weiss)



Featured Story

There was a period of time that Rav Twersky would record Rav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg’s Friday shmuessen, so that he could listen to it later. He couldn’t attend those discourses personally because he gave his regular Friday shiur in Yeshivas Toras Moshe at the same time. 

Rav Twersky would regularly go beforehand, and leave his tape-recorder on the table with a little note that said, “Please press record before the shiur starts, Thank You.”  On his way home from yeshiva, he would go to pick up the tape-recorder after the shmuess. 

One time, he came and noticed a written response wishing him much bracha and hatzlacha.  Rav Twersky was evidently moved by this and remarked to me, “There is something very special going on over there.”

(From Reb Yecheskel Lang)


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