• Naomi Oxman

Terumah: A Look at Inner Architecture

Parshat Terumah 5782

“Mishenichnas Adar”. Just welcomed adar rishon in our leap year. I am certain that the rabbis address the question regarding whether we are to fulfill this dictum in Adar rishon or wait til Adar sheini; but given the challenging time of the past couple years, I believe to feel as joyous and find meaning is well in order whether or not it is “ mandated ” . I wanted to title this dvar…Does action speak louder than words or is it the thought that counts? Quick blind survey: close eyes, show of hands, no judgement, just quick response. Which is more important: action? i.e. what one does, how she behaves? Or one’s intentions? What he believes and thinks, his motivations? Last week, we just proclaimed: “Naaseh V’nishma” we will do and we will hear…(or)come to understand”, I’ve often believed that what you do matters more than what you believe. Aren’t we a religion of deed over creed? I may have an array of great ideas and intentions, but what good are they until they are executed, until implemented into practice. On the other hand, if I look to the top 10, (ie the aseret hadibrot, the 10 commandments) several pertain to one’s belief in God…many relate to our actions, and the final commandment, an emotion, Do Not covet! Anyone who has studied Talmud and those of us have been doing daf yomi, the daily study, know that intention matters! As an example…The shulchan Aruch, code of J law in discussing the central prayer of our people, the shema, states:

י"א מצות שאין צריכות כוונה וי"א שצריכות כוונה לצאת בעשיית אותה מצוה וכן הלכה

There are those who hold that the commandments do not require intention, and there are those who hold that they do need intention in order to fulfill the doing of that commandment - and such [i.e. the latter] is the [correct] halacha. הקורא את שמע ולא כיון לבו בפסוק ראשון שהוא שמע ישראל לא יצא ידי חובתו והשאר אם לא כיון לבו אפילו היה קורא בתורה או מגיה הפרשיות האלו בעונת ק"ש יצא והוא שכיון לבו בפסוק ראשון One who


recites the Shema, but did not have the [proper] intention during the first verse, which is 'Shema Yisrael' - [in this case,] one did not fulfill one's obligation. As for the rest, if one did not have the [proper] intention, and even if one was simply reciting [the verses of the Shema] from the Torah or checking over these sections [of text - i.e. the ones used in the Shema] during the time [one is obligated in the] recitation of the Shema - in this case, one fulfilled [one's obligation], as long as one had intention during the first verse. Chazal teaches us that God’s reaction to us exemplifies his kindness. If one’s intent is good, even if doesn’t actualize, we are credited; likewise, if intent is neg, but cannot be put into action, Gd doesn’t hold it against us. I guess the PC Jewish answer would be both action and intent matter and more often than not, it depends! I read a great quote to keep in mind “we judge ourselves by our intentions, but other people by their actions” those who know me know that I often say: “don’t ascribe intention to another” as that assumes that we are mind readers and “ know” why someone acted as they did. Let’s leave the omniscience to God. Think I learned that from both my father, A”H, who was never quick to pass judgement, or arrogant enough to believe that he knew the why behind another’s behavior, as well as my savta, A”H, with whom I was very close. In complaining about someone’s behavior wanting to understand why they acted in the way they did, my savta, in her patient and understanding way would remind me; “ naomica , mi yodeya machshavot Ha-adam?” who knows the thoughts of people. You don’t know what’s in someone else’s head, you can’t feel their pain or truly know what they have experienced that causes them to behave the way they do. How does this all relate to parshat terumah? What could I pull out of this detailed architectural plan of the Tabernacle that spoke to me? First, with all due respect to my dear uncle Jack, though I can appreciate many aspects that go into the construction process and the use of space.


I’m not really into it…I guess I’m more into the inner architecture of humans. How people think and feel and What motivates their behavior. It was the first few sentences of Terumah that initially, caught my attention. I wondered, why say “ va yikchu li” and “ tikchu ” take when talking about giving. Shouldn’ t it use the verb natan. V’ natnu li. In a dvar torah from chief Rabbi Mirviss, he shared that V’natnu is the longest Hebrew palindrome in the Torah; read the same in both directions. He goes on to say that the word ‘ Terumah’ comes from the root ‘Ram’, which means ‘elevated’ When we give, we ourselves become uplifted – we elevate our lives’ He continues to say that Hashem wants us to know that when you give, you receive in turn. And, that when we give, we ourselves become uplifted –He goes on to tell story. A visitor came to the home of Reb Amschel Rothschild in Frankfurt. He walked into the study of the philanthropist, and with great chutzpah, he posed the question, “what are you worth? Rothschild went over to his desk, opened his drawer and took a ledger with the word ‘Tzedaka’ on it. He started calculating figures. The visitor said, “I don’t think you heard me correctly, I didn’t ask you what have you given, I asked you what have you got?” Rothschild replied, “I understood exactly what you were asking. You see,” he said, “like every mortal being, I won’t be able to live forever and in fact the only thing that I will be able to take with me into the world to come, will be the merit of what I have given away. Therefore, in truth, what I ‘have’, is not those things which I will leave behind, but rather all of the Tzedaka that I have given. That is what will accompany me for all time.”


So often, when we give to others, it enhances one’s own happiness. Think about what you personally “take” when you “give” . Likely, you don’t give for the sake of getting, but truly what one receives back through giving often translates into a very good feeling, of being uplifted. When a person is suffering we’ve come to recognize the healing power of stepping outside oneself and give to others. I often prescribe “volunteer work” as a therapeutic modality for individuals absorbed in depression. Message 1= In giving, you receive: giving to others enhances one’s well- being. It uplifts you…terumah. Yet is it just the act of giving that matters? Apparently not, for as we read in verse 2 : “ asher yidvenu libo” that which motivates your heart . What does that mean? Good thing we don’t solely depend on that in fundraising campaigns! In any event, this phrasing of having your heart motivate you is repeated numerous times in a few weeks when we read Parshat Vayakhel, which again details the construction of the mishkan. The implication is that the action of giving is important, but so too is ones’ intention, one’s inner motivation matters. As Terumah continues to read: give, everyone, from whose heart motivates you followed by the well-known verse #9 “ V’ asu li mikdash v’ shachanti b’ tocham” make a mikdash , a holy place, a mishkan, and I will dwell in you. So much has been written about this verse. First and foremost, Grammatically, we wonder why it doesn’t say “ btocho ” in it, but rather “ btocham” in them. The kotzker Rebbe who lived over 200 years ago stresses that each of us needs to build “a sanctuary within themselves first in order to build a dwelling space for God later. It is only when one is willing to take upon


the mission of holiness, that God’s presence will ultimately “dwell among them.” It seems antithetical to the idea of a God, not bound by time and space, that a physical structure would be needed, but our commentaries note, “the act of building was not for God, but rather a physical testament to our love and passion to serve those we love.” I love this idea and find it so relevant to my work. In working with individuals suffering with so much depression and anxiety who start a new type of treatment, we often do some preparatory work. In fact, some therapies request at the onset that the individual “ set an intention” I tell people “open your heart, shelve your skepticism, permit yourself to be vulnerable in this safe environment let yourself absorb some of the things I imagine you’ll hear and be asked to do. Suspend judgement, be present and be willing to entertain a new perspective….you might surprise yourself.” Go in with intention! So often, in stubbornly clinging to our beliefs about ourselves, others and ideas, we unintentionally, stunt further growth and miss opportunities to create new space within ourselves. Space to fill with sacred moments and experiences. We all do it. The kotzker rebbe was on to something when he was asked, “Where does God dwell?” He answered, “In every place we let him in.” This idea of setting an intention is so critical prior to engaging in an action. I think that is why in the parshiot, terumah today followed by tezaveh, Vayakhel and pekudei, all dealing with the building of the mishkan, emphasize the importance of having a “motivated heart”.


Terumah reminds us that we cannot rely merely on others or God alone, to elevate us. We must participate infusing ourselves with positive intentions that can lead to actions that potentially will spiritually move us. Message 2= set a good intention before engaging in an action. One final note re the construction of the mishkan that I’d like to highlight. In verse 11, referring to the wooden ark it states: “You shall cover it with pure gold from within and without” In essence, this comes to teach us that the inside should match the outside. This idea resonates with me. There’s a debate in the gemorah as to what constitutes a true talmid chacham, a torah scholar; whose inside is not like his outside; the question : is he really a talmid chacham? And besides, how can this be measured? How does one know what an individual is truly thinking and believing, all we see are the external behaviors. “The gemara teaches that one who is not tocho k’boro , his inside like his outside,is not a talmid chacham. But, what does tocho k’boro mean? Ben Ish Chai maintains that it describes someone who learns Torah l’shma, for its own sake, Maharsha, Berachot 28a maintains that it refers to someone who contains yirat Shamayim, a fear of God, with his Torah knowledge.6 How does either of these two possibilities imply that one’s inner self is in line with one’s outer conduct? If it is trying to give us some guidance in the evaluation of another, how can we make such an evaluation in another? It concludes: Yet, the only one for whom we could make an evaluation of tocho k’boro is ourselves.” What we learn from this is consistency. One can’t become a talmid chacham a learned individual unless their insides match their outsides.


Let us not limit this idea to a talmid chacham for it speaks to each and everyone of us. It is imperative that one think about his intentions, her values and of course, my subsequent actions,


does my inside match my outside? Am I living up to my inner values, my authentic intentions?


I believe that when this space between intention and action is diminished, we become more of who we are meant to be, suffer less and attain greater joy & inner peace.


Opening the space within oneself by reducing the gap between who you want to be and who you really are creates holy space for the experience of spiritual growth. Only then, might we be privileged to experience G-d’s dwelling wihin us.


As we enter Adar, when we say mi shenichnas adar marbim b’simcha, when adar comes we increase our joy, let us strive to practice the messages we might learn from parshat terumah as to how to elevate ourselves.


in giving we ultimately receive,

in having a ”motivated heart” & positive intentions

we can better match our “tocho K’boro” our insides with our outsides,

so as to create sacred spaces in which we can experience what it means “v’ shachanti b’tocham” that the shechina, the sacred presence of god will dwell within us;

contributing to a deeper sense of spirituality, security, joy and peace.


I close with a prayer from Rabbi Lamm, A’H


“Omniscient G-d … no fool can understand the greatness of your thoughts and your works, and no simpleton can appreciate the consistency between your intentions and your deeds. Bless us with wisdom, G-d our Father, so that we your children might also be able to transform our

good thoughts into good works.”


Shabbat shalom!

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