Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Terumah
To dedicate this lesson

How Wooden Beams Prove Perfect Faith

Why does the Torah refer to "the boards," as if we know which boards it is talking about? No boards have yet been mentioned! Furthermore, regarding none of the other utensils in the Mishkan is "the" mentioned; instead it says, "You shall make a menorah… a covering for the tent," etc. Why then are the boards singled out?

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Rabbi Moshe Tzuriel

Adar I 3 5782
Translated by Hillel Fendel

This week's Torah portion of Terumah recounts the commands to build the Tabernacle (Mishkan) in which G-d was to "dwell" during Israel's 40-year sojourn in the desert. Verse 15 in Chapter 25 says something intriguing: Moshe is told, "You shall make the boards for the Miskhan from upright acacia wood, each one ten cubits long…"

Why does the Torah refer to "the boards," as if we know which boards it is talking about? No boards have yet been mentioned! Furthermore, regarding none of the other utensils in the Mishkan is "the" mentioned; instead it says, "You shall make a menorah… a covering for the tent," etc. Why then are the boards singled out?

The answer is provided by Rashi, who states, "These are the same boards that were singled out and set aside in the past. Yaakov Avinu planted cedar trees back in Egypt, and when he died, he instructed his sons to bring them up with them to the Holy Land when they would leave Egypt. And he told them that G-d would instruct them to build a Mishkan in the desert from these trees, and that they should make sure that they were ready!"

The picture painted here is not only one of an absolutely amazing miracle, but also of perfect national faith and dedication. For one thing, it cannot even be entertained that Bnei Yisrael found such giant trees – each one at least five meters (16 feet) high, and 1.5 amot (well over two feet) wide – in the wasteland of the Sinai Desert. Even when they passed through or camped at an oasis in the desert, no such trees could be found to be cut down.

Amazingly enough, for the 210 years that our forefathers were in Egypt, they were able to care for these trees - but even that is nothing compared to the fact that when it suddenly came time for the Exodus, they were able to drag and carry them out! They carried some 50 giant trees out to the desert during their rushed leave-taking from their house of bondage. How did they ever get wagons of the right size? And how did they have the foresight and patience to think of the trees when they actually had to worry about what they were going to feed their children during their desert trek (see Yirmiyahu 2,2)?

The answer is: Faith in G-d! How unbelievably strong and pure was their faith in order to carry out all the above!

Similarly, we find incredible faith and trust when Miriam and the women of Israel danced and sang after the Crossing of the Red Sea. The Torah states: "Miriam took the drum in her hand, and all the women went out after her with drums and tambourines" (Sh'mot 15,20). Where could they possibly have gotten all those musical instruments in the middle of the Sinai Desert? Even if we say that when it says here that "all the women went out," it actually means "most," it still means over 300,000 women dancing with drums. And to say that the verse means only that they were all dancing accompanied by drums held by 10%, or even 1%, of the women, would mean that not all the dancers would be able to hear the drumming!

The bottom line: Where did they get all those instruments? It couldn't be that the traveling salesmen passing by just happened to have on hand thousands and thousands of drums and tambourines! To this, Rashi gives an answer similar to what he said about Yaakov Avinu and the trees: "The righteous women of the time knew and were confident that G-d would perform miracles for Israel, and so they brought their own drums with them" so that they could celebrate the Divine wonders.

From these incidents of tremendous faith, we see that when a Prophet informs us of G-d's word and plan, it will definitely happen, with no doubts and no questions, no ifs, ands or buts.

Similarly, the Rambam in his Guide to the Perplexed (3,24) asks how is it that our Patriarch Abraham went so fast and eagerly ["Avraham awoke early in the morning"] in order to offer his son as a sacrifice. Did he not have one single doubt about the vision he had seen and heard? Perhaps he made a mistake interpreting what he heard? The answer is, as the Rambam writes: "The Torah wants to tell us that everything a Prophet sees in a vision of prophecy is absolutely true, and he has no doubt about it from any standpoint; he is absolutely certain of every detail, as if he saw or heard something with his own senses."

And what about our own Redemption process taking place right now? The Abarbanel wrote that no fewer than 17 prophets informed us that it will be on its way, showing that there can be nothing as sure, strong, and stable as the upcoming Redemption.

One of the great Lovers of Zion some 150 years ago was the great Gaon Rav Akiva Yosef Shlesinger, who authored a work in 1873 that included a detailed plan for the formation of a Jewish State in our very own land. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of Hebrew Labor in our land, and was active in the struggle to reduce the need to receive moneys from abroad. He asks a question on a famous verse from Psalms: "The sound of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous" (118,15): Why does the sound of rejoicing precede that of salvation, when it should actually be the opposite! In addition, why only in the tents of the righteous? Does not the entire public need to celebrate?

The Rav answers that it's true that most people celebrate only after the salvation occurs, but the tzaddikim who trust only in God know clearly that the salvation can only come from God. This is why they can celebrate even before the salvation arrives, as a sign of thanks for what will be.

We must learn this lesson from our forefathers in Egypt. Even during the darkness of the subjugation in Egypt, they watched over their trees so that they could build a Mishkan when they returned to Eretz Yisrael. They didn't get confused or lose track of the big picture even when their baby sons were being thrown into the Nile River, or when they suffered other terrible difficulties. They held on tight, and even when they rushed to escape the persecution of the Egyptians, they took drums along with them, knowing that a great miracle awaited them.

Today as well, when we see some of the promised miracles and salvations already taking place, such as the flowering of the Land and amazing agricultural production numbers, and the Ingathering of the Exiles happening before our eyes – we can be 100% confident that the Full Redemption is on its way.

And all this can be derived from the extra word "the" – which is really only one letter heh in Hebrew – in the word "the boards," hakrashim.

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