Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Terumah

The following is a brief summary of thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

This week's parsha begins with an instruction from Hashem to Moshe that he should speak to the Jewish people and collect terumah from whomever's heart inspired him to give. The collected funds were used in the construction of the Mishkan.

R' Frand quoted the Yalkut Shimoni who states that the use of the words speak to ("Daber el") are similar to the use of the words Dabru al lev Yerushalayim which appears in the Haftorah of Shabbos Nachamu. In the context of the Haftorah, Hashem speaks to the Jews in a language of peeyus - of appeasing or mollifying.

It is difficult to comprehend why the Jews needed to be appeased in the context of this week's parsha. In the Haftorah of Nachamu, the Jews had just endured the destruction of the Beis Hamkidash, a blow from which the Jews still have not recovered to this day. It is obvious that the Jews needed some uplifting talk. But in this week's parsha, the Jews had just said na'aseh v'nishma in the end of Parshas Mishpatim. The Jews were on cloud nine and had just left Egypt, why would they need to be cajoled?

R' Frand answered by saying that the parsha is teaching a truth - it is very difficult to get people to part with their money. This is the pasuk in Mishlei that it is better to have a poor man than a wealthy man with desires (not a great paraphrase on my part). Many times a person makes plans about what he will do if he wins the lottery. R' Frand gave a personal example where he said that if won the powerball and it was $350 million he would spend some money on a jet to avoid the hassle of the TSA and maybe an apartment in the Old City of Jerusalem and give the rest of the money away. But many times after a person has the money, he no longer follows through with his plans of  giving charity and he rationalizes away giving less and less.

The Jews in the midbar had no expenses as their clothes never wore out, they had the manna so there was no need to buy food. The Jews had no rent or mortgage and had money which came to them by the cartload when they left Egypt. But still they did not want to part with their money.

R' Frand told a story about how the Chofetz Chaim received 500 rubles in cash in the mail. The Chofetz Chaim was confused - why would someone trust the post office enough to mail such a fortune in cash to the yeshiva, instead of sending a money order or check? The Chofetz Chaim instructed his assistant to track down the sender and find out why the money had been sent in cash.

After some searching, the assistant was able to track down the sender and he asked the question. The donor replied that he had made a promise to himself that if a particular business deal went through, he would give 500 rubles to the Yeshiva. The deal came together towards the end of a particular day and it was too late for the man to go to get a money order or bank check. The man felt himself beginning to rationalized that the Yeshiva really did not need the full 500 rubles and that it would be OK to send 50 rubles. The man knew that if he waited until morning, it might only be 5 rubles that he would send. To guard against this possibility, the man quickly put the cash in the envelope and mailed it to the Yeshiva.

This is the meaning of the "daber el" in this week's parsha. Because Hashem knows that when a person has money, it is often times hard to get him to part with it. Therefore, Moshe is told to appease and speak nicely to the Jews when asking for donations to the Mishkan.

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