Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Terumah
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Adar I 3 5779
Teruma, donations – we certainly know that word! We Jews are inundated with dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of requests from every conceivable corner to donate to this cause or that. Ever since the plea went out in our Parsha to furnish the Mishkan, contributing to a communal cause has been part & parcel of Jewish life.

Yet I want to suggest that the term "Teruma" means more than "donation," & goes beyond silver & seal-skin, coins and copper. Oh, no; Teruma is a lot more than that. Consider a Pasuk in next week’s Sedra of Tetzaveh: Ahron & his sons take part in an elaborate inauguration ceremony, during which numerous offerings (sacrifices) are brought. And then the Torah says (29:28): "It shall be for Ahron & sons an eternal statute from Israel, it is a Teruma; & it shall remain a Teruma from Israel, their Teruma to G-d."

No less than three times – in the same pasuk! – the word Teruma is used, & all in the connection of sacrifice & offering. Not just a contribution – like the spare change we take out of our purse or wallet – but something apparently deeper & much more personal, more valuable than pocket money. What does this Pasuk tell us about the nature of Teruma? For a clue, let's turn to Hollywood.

The movie Casablanca is one of the all-time great films ever made. Richard Blaine, the expatriate owner of Rick’s Bar & Casino, is approached by Victor Laszlo, a Czech resistance leader opposing the Nazis. Laszlo is stranded in Morocco & desperately seeking transit visas so he might escape to the West to continue his vital work. At first, Rick is resistant & cynical, unwilling to help.

"Why do you go on fighting?" he finally asks Victor.

"Why?!" says an incredulous Laszlo. "You may as well ask why I go on breathing! If we stop breathing, we die. And if we stop fighting for what we believe in, then we let the whole world down!"

Rick - himself a former anti-Fascist activist – relents, &, well, you know the rest (or you must see the movie!). But here’s the main point: Teruma is not just about writing a check. It’s about what we stand for & what we believe in, what we, as Jews, offer to the world: A spiritual ideal & a path to G-d; & a bulwark against Amalek, be it in the form of anti-Semitism or Islamic radicalism. If there is ignorance, we Jews provide light & enlightenment. If there is evil, we are at the forefront of doing relentless battle with it, even at the risk of great personal sacrifice. That is our great national Teruma, & if we fail to offer it, if we stop fighting, then we let the whole free world down.

Here's looking at us, kid.
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