Terumah 5778

RABBI AVROHOM R. FEIGENBAUM

The Mishkan and Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin

דבר אל בני ישראל ויקחו לי תרומה מאת כל איש אשר ידבנו לבו תקחו את תרומתי.
וזאת התרומה… (שמות כה:ב-ג)

Speak to the children of Israel and let them take for Me a portion, from every man whose heart
motivates him you shall take My portion. This is the portion… (Shemos 25:2-3)

Rashi quotes Chazal that explain why the word תרומה is mentioned three times here, seemingly superfluously. They are meant to symbolize three different collections. One refers to the obligatory half-shekel that was collected from each individual for the אדני המשכן, the sockets for the beams. The second symbolizes the other half-shekel obligation, which was needed to cover the costs of the קרבנות ציבור, the communal Kobanos. And lastly, there was the תרומה of this Parshas Terumah, which was entirely optional, where everyone donated according to his heart’s motivation.
The Yeshivos in Europe were often in dire financial straits. At one point, when the situation became unbearable, the Jewish leaders gathered for an emergency meeting to discuss how to save the Yeshivos. They also invited a journalist with the hope that a newspaper write-up would bring attention to the cause. At the meeting, he confronted Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, one of the attending Rabbis, with a troubling question. At the time, Rav Meir Shapiro was in the midst of building a grand state-of-the-art building for his famed Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin. Rav Shapiro was quite successful in fundraising large amounts of money for the cause. “If all the Yeshivos are struggling so mightily,” asked the journalist, “why then is Rav Shapiro collecting all this money for his fancy building? Wouldn’t the logical approach be to fundraise instead to feed the starving Bochurim from the existing Yeshivos?”
Rav Sorotzkin responded by questioning the aforementioned Chazal quoted by Rashi. Why was the Mishkan constructed through optional generosity, whereas for the Korbanos Tzibur, the communal sacrifices, everyone, including poor people, was commanded to donate a half-shekel? Couldn’t Hekdesh have relied upon the philanthropy of those same wealthy individuals who donated so willingly for the Mishkan to also supply the Korbanos Tzibur? After all, it seemed to have worked out fine for the Mishkan, even without any required contributions.
The answer, Rav Sorotzkin explained, is that wealthy people are much quicker to donate towards building than they are towards supporting and supplying the actual goals and purposes of the building. Even though, if one were asked, “What is more important to Hashem, the building where the Korbanos are brought or the Korbanos themselves?”, he would surely answer that the goal and purpose are more important than the means. And the proof is that the Korbanos Tzibur were brought even on Shabbos, whereas it was prohibited to build the Beis HaMikdash on Shabbos. Yet despite this obvious logic, people are quicker to donate towards buildings. Therefore, Hashem did not obligate everyone to donate towards the building of the Mishkan, for He knew that the gold and silver would pour in anyway. But for the ultimate purpose, which was the Korbanos, Hashem knew that it would not come so fast – hence the half-shekel obligation.
The same is true with Yeshivos. Of course a building is only the means of enabling the Torah learning, which is the purpose of a Yeshiva’s existence. Yet there are plenty of dedications for buildings, rooms, doors, and windows. Some are interested in the plaque that will honor their name. But when it comes to the basic necessities for the people sitting and learning, the difficulties abound. This does not attract the interest of the wealthy as much.
“So don’t think,” said Rav Sorotskin, “that the money going toward the building of Chachmei Lublin is really potential bread for the famished that is being funneled to other causes. Those funds were only given to Tzedaka because the request was for a building. They never would have donated it to help the desperate existing Yeshivos.
“And I guarantee you,” he ended, “that once construction is completed, Rav Meir Shapiro will suffer the plight of all Roshei Yeshiva and struggle with the daily expenses of running a Yeshiva!” And unfortunately so it was.


RABBI AVROHOM MILLER

One of the merits that brought about the redemption from Mitzrayim was שלא שינו את לשונם, that the Jews did not change their language. This is not just referring to the language they spoke, but also how they spoke (Bnei Yisasschar Nissan 4,10).
Mitzryaim was a country of extreme immorality. One facet of this behavior is ניבול פה, obscene speech, which is considered ערות הפה, immorality of the mouth (see Targum, Devarim 23:5; Mesilas Yesharim 11) The Jews not only guarded themselves from any immoral conduct, they were also zealous in avoiding any immorality of speech. This purity of speech was one of the keys to their redemption.
Due to the unfortunate reality that we live in an immoral and corrupt environment, it behooves us to understand the importance of watching our speech.
The lowest level of speech is ניבול פה itself. The severity and consequences of this are enumerated in the Gemara (Shabbos 33a). Rabbeinu Yonah refers to ניבול פה as “one of the severe Aveiros that destroys the world” (Igeres Hateshuva 33).
Just listening to ניבול פה is also included in this transgression (see Shabbos 33a and Shaarei Teshuva). Chazal teach that the reason the fingers are tapered is that if one hears ניבול פה, he can place his fingers in his ears (Kesubos 5a and Baal Haturim Devarim 23:14).
The next level of speech is דבר מגונה, coarse language. To emphasize the importance of not using coarse speech, the Torah added eight letters. In Parshas Noach, instead of writing הטמאה, the Tamei, it wrote אשר איננה טהורה, that is not pure. True, the Torah usually uses the word Tamei; here, however, it changed its normal practice to teach this lesson (Pesachim 3b, Rashi).
The Gemara (ibid) relates an incident of three Kohanim describing their share of the Lechem Hapanim. One described his piece as the size of a lizard’s tail. Due to his use of a coarse expression, they investigated his lineage and found that he was not qualified to serve as a Kohen. A true Kohen would not use such language.
Even if not using coarse language, Chazal (ibid) added that one should always speak in a refined manner. Hillel praised a student for using a refined expression, and predicted that he would become a Posek, which came true within a short time. Speech testifies to the purity of the person. Hillel knew that one with such refined speech has the potential to be a leader in Klal Yisrael (Lechach Tov Noach).
When Pharoah told Moshe Rabbeinu that the people should sacrifice to their G-d in Goshen, Moshe replied with the expression of “לא נכון”, it is not proper, as opposed to a more negative term. Perhaps, Midah K’neged Midah, when Yisro wanted to point out a flaw in Moshe’s judicial system, he also used a more refined expression of “לא טוב”, it is not good, and not a more negative term (R’ Shaul Kahan).
The Chazon Ish was fastidious in regards to his refinement of speech. He once heard two men talking, and one said to the other, “That’s a lie!” Chazon Ish admonished him that his manner of speech was improper. He should have said, “What you’re saying is not true.”
Rav Elchonon Wasserman was once criticized for a strongly worded response to a group promoting anti-Torah ideology. He should have used a more refined manner of expression. Rav Wasserman answered by referring to the Baal Hamaor (beginning of Pesachim), who writes that the Torah does use the word “Tamei” when it is necessary to clearly define what must be avoided. When there are those who are trying to purify that which is impure, there is no room for tolerance, and Da’as Torah must be proclaimed in the strongest of terms.
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s expectations of refined speech extended to common expressions that he felt were inappropriate.
He once asked a family member to take care of something for him, which required considerable effort. After completion, Rav Auerbach thanked him for his efforts, to which he replied with the common phrase, אין בעד מה, it was nothing. Rav Auerbach voiced his displeasure at this response. “Why do you say it was nothing?” he asked. “You worked hard at fulfilling my request! Saying it was my pleasure to do it would have been more appropriate, but don’t say it was nothing!”
Every Jew should aim to reach such a level of refined speech, and merit the Geula Shelaima!