A common feature of the Aron, the Shulchan and the Mizbei’ach HaZahav in the Mishkan was that each had what the Torah calls a “Zeir Zahav Saviv,” “a golden diadem all around.” The Gemara in Yoma (72b) cites in the name of Rav Yochanan that Aharon HaKohen was Zocheh to acquire the Mizbei’ach and David HaMelech was Zocheh to acquire the Shulchan, but the Aron is still free for the taking, and anyone who wishes can acquire it. Rashi there comments that the Shulchan represents Keter Malchut, the Mizbei’ach represents Keter Kehunah, and the Aron represents Keter Torah. (This notion of the three crowns is also expressed by Rambam at the beginning of the third Perek of Hilchot Talmud Torah, where he says that Bnei Yisrael were given these three crowns of Malchut, Kehunah, and Torah.) These designations are appropriate because of the deeper ideas behind each of the three.
The Shulchan which held the Lechem HaPanim symbolized sustenance and an abundance of food. Ramban explains that after Beriat HaOlam, nothing was created Yeish MeiAyin, “something from nothing”; rather, the world operates in accordance with the natural laws that Hashem established. Therefore, in order to receive blessing, something physical must exist on which the Berachah can rest, and the Lechem HaPanim served as an object to which the Berachah of abundance and sustenance attached itself. Similarly, it is the job of a king, the leader of a nation, to prevent starvation and to make sure that his people have enough food to eat. Therefore, the Shulchan is the Kli in the Mishkan used to signify Bnei Yisrael’s Keter Malchut.
The Mizbei’ach HaZahav was used for the Ketoret that was offered daily, and along with the lighting of the Menorah, the burning of the Ketoret was one of the only tasks performed specifically by Aharon HaKohen. Thus, the Mizbei’ach HaZahav, which had a direct connection to Kehunah, was used to symbolize the Keter Kehunah.
Finally, the Aron, which rested in the Kodesh HaKadashim, housed the Luchot and therefore embodied the Keter Torah.
In differentiating between the various Ketarim, Rabbeinu Bachya points out that regarding the construction of the Zeir Zahav for the Shulchan and Mizbei’ach HaZahav, the Torah uses the language “VeAsita Lo,” while for the Aron the Torah says “VeAsita Alav.” The Lo by the Shulchan and Mizbei’ach hints to the idea that the Zeir Zahav was made for a specific person, and indeed Malchut can only be obtained by a descendant of David Hamelech, while Kehunah can only be inherited by a descendant of Aharon HaKohen. However, the VeAsita Alav of the Aron implies that the Zeir Zahav was made for the Aron itself and for what the Aron represents – Torah. The Midrash explains that indeed the Keter Torah is on a higher level than the Ketarim of Malchut and Kehunah, and one who acquires the Keter Torah is considered to have obtained all three Ketarim, even if he is not a descendant of David or Aharon. This is what the Gemara means by saying that no one took the Aron and that it is still available for anyone who wants it; Torah is ready for anyone to attain, regardless of family background or social class, and one who does attain the Keter Torah is viewed as being above even the kings and Kohanim. Indeed, Hashem set forth for all of Am Yisrael to be a “Mamlechet Kohanim,” even those who cannot be kings or Kohanim due to lineage.
However, the Mishnah in Avot (4:12) writes that there are the three Ketarim of Torah, Kehunah, and Malchut, but the Keter Sheim Tov rises above them all. What exactly is the Keter Sheim Tov, and how does one acquire it? Additionally, if there are indeed only three crowns, then why does it seem like there is a fourth?
Rashi, in his commentary to this Mishnah, defines a person with a Sheim Tov as one who only performs positive actions. On the Pasuk from Kohelet (7:1), “Tov Sheim MiShemen Tov,” “A good name is better than good oil,” he explains that Chananiah, Mishael, and Azaryah, who were saved from the Kivshan HaEish, were better than Nadav and Avihu, who were killed by fire when they offered uncalled-for Ketoret. This is true because Chananiah, Mishael, and Azaryah performed Maasim Tovim, which supercedes Nadav’s and Avihu’s having been anointed with the Shemen HaMishchah. Rashi further explains that one who acquires all three Ketarim is given the Keter Sheim Tov, which represents the completeness of the person.
Based on the Midrash and the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot, one who obtains the Keter Torah, and thus the Keter Malchut and Keter Kehunah as well, is consequently given the Keter Sheim Tov. This is because one who truly acquires Torah allows it to permeate him and control his actions and decision-making, thereby ensuring that everything he does is good. It is quite appropriate for this ultimate crown to be named the Keter Sheim Tov, for a person who only does Maasim Tovim and patterns his life after the paradigm set forth by Torah and Halacha is praiseworthy and can be noted as truly having a Sheim Tov.
Give and Take
by Chaim Strauss
Last week’s Parsha, Mishpatim, is filled with commandments regarding man’s obligation toward his fellow man. This week’s Parsha, Terumah, focuses more on the spiritual aspect of our existence. Hashem commands Bnei Yisrael to build a Mishkan in which He will dwell. He instructs Am Yisrael to contribute gold, silver, and many other materials that will be used for building and furnishing the Mishkan. However, Hashem does not ask the Jews to give; rather, He has Moshe ask them to take, as the Pasuk indicates: “Dabeir El Bnei Yisrael Veyikchu Li Terumah,” “Speak to Bnei Yisrael and tell them to take a donation for me.” Why does Hashem use the word “take” rather than “give?”
A Mashal, parable, may help explain this issue. One day, while Reuvein and Shimon were out fishing in the middle of the sea, a fierce storm developed. The little fishing rowboat that they were in tossed and tossed until it finally flipped over into the sea, throwing Reuvein and Shimon overboard. Reuvein, who was a strong swimmer, called to Shimon, but Shimon did not even respond to him and unfortunately drowned. Reuvein swam back to shore and had to break the terrible news to Shimon’s wife. Very distraught, she asked him to tell her the entire story. He told her how the storm had caused the boat to flip, and how when the two had gone waterborne, he repeatedly yelled to Shimon, “Give me your hand!” “You fool,” exclaimed Shimon’s widow, “you said the wrong thing! You should have yelled, ‘take my hand!’ Shimon never gave anything to anybody.”
Sometimes, accepting a decision must be based on the subject’s point of view. Hashem could have used either word, “give” or “take.” However, in His infinite wisdom, He realized that being asked to “give” so much might have scared the people from giving at all. Therefore, by using “take,” which people often associate with their own benefit, He was able to ensure that there would be enough donations for all the supplies, and that they would be made with happiness, not regrets. Clearly, selecting one’s words carefully is absolutely critical, and we must choose only the finest, most Torah-appropriate to speak.
Stay Out of the Sun
by Eitan Westrich
Parshat Terumah states (26:36), “VeAsita Masach LeFetach HaOhel,” “And you shall make a curtain for the entrance of the Ohel.” This entrance to the Mishkan was on the eastern side, and the Kodesh HaKodashim was on the western side. The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim explains that the focus of the Torah is to get rid of idolatry. The fact that the most holy part of the Mishkan faces west, away from the sun, emerges from this idea.
In ancient times, the sun was idolized as a god more often than anything else. As a result, anyone who entered the Chatzar HaMishkan, courtyard of the Mishkan, faced west, emphasizing that the sun is not a god. It is also interesting to note that the Korban Tamid was offered on the northwest corner of the Mizbei’ach in the morning and on the northeast corner in the afternoon, always facing away from the sun.
The Gemara in Yoma states that Avraham Avinu chose to have the Kodesh HaKodashim built on the western side of the Beit HaMikdash. Rambam suggests that the reason for this was that during the time of Avraham, many people worshipped the sun. By suggesting that the Kodesh HaKodashim be built in the west, Avraham was openly going against the beliefs of others, turning his back to the sun.
Avraham’s decision serves as a strong message for all of us. We must take care to stay far away from any action that could give the impression that we condone any type of Avodah Zarah.
Pearls of Laziness
by Avi Wollman
In its discussion of the donations to the Mishkan, Parshat Terumah mentions the various types of donation in descending order of value, starting with gold and silver. Interestingly, however, the last two materials on the list are the Avnei Shoham and Avnei Milu’im, which are both types of precious gems. This seems to be a startling misplacement; shouldn’t the Avnei Shoham and the Avnei Milu’im be listed before the gold and silver?
The answer can be found in what actually happened when items for the Mishkan were donated. The Torah says, “[Bnei Yisrael] shall take for Me a portion, from every man whose heart will motivate him...” The Nesi’im decided to wait until the end to cover the deficit, and they ended up contributing the gems. Interestingly, the Torah writes the word Nesi’im without a Yud. The Ohr HaChaim explains that this is because Hashem was angry with them for waiting lazily until the end to contribute, making their contribution deficient. Therefore, the word Nesi’im was written was written in a deficient manner. Even though the gems were invaluable, comments the Ohr HaChaim, they were given without proper enthusiasm and excitement, and therefore the contribution of the Nesi’im was lacking spiritually. The Gemara states, “All that Hashem desires from a person is his heart.” Whenever we do any type of Mitzvah, it is important not just to do it, but to do it with energy and proper Zerizut.
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