Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Terumah 5775

Terumah 5775

New Stories Terumah 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Terumah 5775

(From the archives)

Shabbos: Light, Rest, and Change


In this week’s parashah the Torah records the instruction that HaShem gave to Moshe regarding the construction of the Mishkan. The primary vessels in the Mishkan were the Aron (ark) the Shulchan (table) and the Menorah (the candelabra). What was the significance of these vessels? It is noteworthy that in the Friday night zemiros recited in many households, we declare כִּי הִדְלַקְתִּי נֵרוֹתַי וְהִצַּעְתִּי מִטָּתִי וְהֶחֱלַפְתִּי שִׂמְלוֹתַי לִכְבוֹד יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת, I have kindled my lamps, spread my bed and changed my clothes in honor of the Shabbos day. It would appear from this declaration that there are three components to the holiness of Shabbos. One aspect of Shabbos is the lighting of candles, the second aspect is having a bed made, and the third aspect is fresh clothing. The lighting of the candles corresponds to the lighting of the Menorah in the Mishkan and in the Bais HaMikdash. The prepared bed corresponds to the Aron, the ark, as it is said (Shir HaShirim 1:13) צְרוֹר הַמֹּר דּוֹדִי לִי בֵּין שָׁדַי יָלִין, but my Beloved responded with a bundle of myrrh, the fragrant atonement of erecting a Tabernacle where His Presence would dwell between the Holy Ark’s staves. Thus, we see that the Aron reflects the idea of rest. This is also evidenced by the fact that it is said (Bamidbar 10:35) וַיִּסְעוּ מֵהַר ה דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים וַאֲרוֹן בְּרִית ה נֹסֵעַ לִפְנֵיהֶם דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים לָתוּר לָהֶם מְנוּחָה, they journeyed from the Mountain of HaShem a three-day distance, and the Ark of the covenant of HaShem journeyed before them a three-day distance to search out for them a resting place. The idea of changing ones clothes corresponds to the Shulchan, where the Lechem HaPanim, the Showbread, was placed. The Lechem HaPanim was placed on the Shulchan every Shabbos and was removed the subsequent Shabbos when new loaves replaced the old ones, and the bread was eaten by the Kohanim. Thus, the Lechem HaPanim reflected renewal and this renewal occurred on Shabbos.

The Shabbos Connection

Similarly, prior to the onset of Shabbos one should change his clothing, as this external action reflects the transformation that one undergoes internally upon the arrival of Shabbos. HaShem should allow us to sanctify our homes to be akin to the Mishkan, and we should merit the building of the Third Bais HaMikdash, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Gott fun Avraham

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, who lived from 1740-1809, recommended that this prayer be recited by men, women and children three times and that the recitation would help ensure success in the upcoming week.

אַז דִי וָואךְ אוּן דֶער חוֹדֶשׁ, אוּן דֶער יָאר זָאל אוּנְז צוּא קוּמֶען… מַאֲמִין צוּ זַיין בִּשְׁלוֹשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה עִקְרִים שֶׁלָךְ, to have faith in Your Thirteen Principles. This refers to the Thirteen Principles of faith set out by the Rambam in his introduction to the commentary on Mishnayos of the last Perek of Sanhedrin. The Mishna (Avos 3:8) states הַשּׁוֹכֵחַ דָּבָר אֶחָד מִמִּשְׁנָתוֹ, מַעֲלֶה עָלָיו הַכָּתוּב כְּאִלּוּ מִתְחַיֵּב בְּנַפְשׁוֹ, whoever forgets anything of his Torah learning, Scripture considers it as if he bears guilt for his soul. The Baal Shem Tov interpreted the word אֶחָד, one, to be referring to HaShem, Who is the Only One, and one must always remember HaShem when engaged in Torah study. We can suggest that the word אֶחָד equals in gematria 1thirteen, alluding to the Thirteen Principles of Faith. Thus, one must always be cognizant of these principles of faith so that his Torah learning will remain intact.

 Shabbos Stories

The “rings” of the “Aaron”

One day about two-hundred years ago, for reasons unknown, the son of a wealthy, Egyptian magnate disappeared from his lavish abode, leaving behind his father, mother, and two brothers. There was some speculation that he had been kidnapped, but no ransom note was ever delivered. Others were sure he had been murdered, yet his body was never found. Still others thought he felt cramped by his family’s lifestyle, and had gone to seek his own fortune, but he was never sighted by anyone anywhere. The story was popular conversation for many years, but as is often the case, eventually grew old, and was more-or-less forgotten. At least until the father died, leaving behind a substantial inheritance for his remaining sons. It was not long after his death that a youngish man appeared, claiming to be the man’s long-lost son. Of course, he felt he was entitled to his portion of the inheritance. Astonishingly, he was able to answer exceptionally detailed questions about the appearance of his childhood home, his ‘parents’ and ‘siblings’, and his upbringing. Try as they might, they were simply unable to stump him. He claimed to have been wandering for the past thirty years, which he said explained why he no longer looked even remotely similar to what everyone remembered, including his ‘brothers.’ Hearing that his parents had passed away, it was natural that he would come to claim his part of the family riches.

Despite his inexplicably intimate knowledge about the minutest details of their family life and history, the other two brothers were adamant in their protestations—this man was not their brother! They offered him a tidy sum of money just to be rid of him, but he stubbornly refused. He was their brother, he said, and he wanted no less than his portion of the inheritance. Eventually, word of their feud reached the Sultan of Egypt. Seeing as they could not reach an agreement, the Sultan himself consented to listen to both side’s claims in his private court, and render judgment. The two brothers and the claimant agreed that the Sultan’s word would be binding and final.

“Tell me something,” the Sultan asked, “where were you for thirty years that you never even sent a letter to your parents telling them of your whereabouts?” He was not ill-prepared. He claimed to have been taken captive in India. His captors did not allow him to have any communication with the outside world, and thus it was not possible for him to make contact. For many days, the Sultan tried to get to the bottom of things—to find a hole either in the claim of the brothers, or in the testimony and memories of the ‘long-lost brother.’ In the end, he threw up his arms in frustration, unable to render a ruling.

“Most exalted master,” the vice-Sultan chimed in, “far be it from me to intercede, but in the annals of our history, in such circumstances, it has been the way of your predecessors to engage the services of a Jew. The Jews are a wise nation, and have often been instrumental in helping to bring some of the most difficult cases to a satisfactory conclusion.”

The Sultan was intrigued. “Which Jew do you suggest I use?” “That’s the strange thing. Protocol says you just send out a clerk to bring the first Jew he finds on the street, no matter who it is. If precedent is to be trusted, he will somehow help the Sultan to render judgment.” “If that’s so,” ordered the Sultan, “go find me a Jew!”

Aaron Perdo was a quiet, Jewish, Egyptian goldsmith. For half-a-day he would practice his trade; the rest of his day was spent studying Torah in the local Beis HaMidrash. This morning, he had awoken remembering the strangest dream. In his dream, he found himself in the most spectacular shul, the likes of which he had never seen. It was furnished as richly and as lavishly as a king would a palace. The shul was packed with people, and the Torah was being read. Aaron was called to the Torah, and ascended the bimah. He found the sefer Torah open to parshas Terumah. The chazzan began reading: “Be-tab’os aharon yi’hiyu ha-badim, the sticks must be in the rings of the Ark,” but instead of reading ha-aron/the Ark, the chazzan read aaron, which sounds like the name Aaron. R’ Aaron (Perdo) corrected the chazzan. He read the verse again, but again he read it, Aaron. This was the end of R’ Aaron’s enigmatic dream; he had no idea what it meant. His dream gave him no rest: he thought about his dream during prayer, and was still thinking about it as he arrived at his jeweler’s shop, where an old woman sat impatiently waiting for him to open. Her tattered clothing bespoke poverty—not the type of woman that usually frequented his place. When it became clear she was eyeing the most expensive rings, R’ Aaron felt he had to ask: “The rings you are looking at are very expensive,” he said. “Are you sure you have the money to pay for them?” “I don’t today,” she confessed, “but tomorrow I will. Tomorrow I will become a wealthy woman. Right now, my dear son is in the midst of a very important court case. Tomorrow, he promised me, the case will be decided in his favor. And he said that to celebrate, I can buy myself any ring I want!”

R’ Aaron was less than enchanted with her tall tale. He was glad when she finished browsing and left. Soon after, a wealthy man came in the store and asked if R’ Aaron could bring some rings to his home for his wife to choose from. It was on the way to the rich man’s home that R’ Aaron was stopped by the court clerk, and ordered in the name of the Sultan to appear in the Sultan’s palace. As R’ Aaron ascended the polished marble stairs and got his first glimpse of the palace, it hit him: this had been the spectacular building that was the shul in his dream. It was just that in the place where the bimah had been, the Sultan sat on his magnificent throne. In measured words, the Sultan conveyed the main arguments of both sides, and why he was having an impossible time bringing the case to resolution.

“So, R’ Aaron—can you solve the mystery?” Though he trembled inside, R’ Aaron knew he could. He turned to the claimed ‘missing son.’ “Tell me—you claim to be the missing son, but isn’t your last name really such-and-such? Isn’t your mother still alive? In fact, I’ll even describe how she looks…” R’ Aaron began describing the pauper woman who had come to his store than morning. His shock at R’ Aaron’s words, and the confidence with which they were spoken, caused the man to collapse on the spot. It was obvious to the Sultan, and to everyone present, that he had just been caught at his ruse. He was dealt with accordingly, after which everyone’s attention turned to R’ Aaron and his brilliant and instantaneous resolution which caught them all so off-guard. How did he know that woman was his mother, they asked? R’ Aaron told them about the dream he had that night. “As soon as you told me about the man’s claims,” he said, “I understood the meaning of the misread verse. Be-tab’os Aaron—in Aaron’s rings, that’s me, yi’hiyu ha- badim—the badim, or liars (badim in Hebrew can mean poles but it can also mean liars) will be found. I thought about the woman who came into my store looking for a ring—a gift from her soon-to-be-rich son, and realized right away who the liar was!” “With a Torah like that,” the Sultan was heard to remark as R’ Aaron too his leave, “it’s no wonder the Jews are so smart!”

Shabbos in Halacha

Cutting Food

Until now we discussed the melacha of tochen, grinding, under which it is prohibited to cut food into very small pieces. We will now discuss other restrictions that apply to cutting food.

  1. Shaping Foods

One is allowed to cut food into a specific shape or form. As an example of this, one is permitted to cut a watermelon into squares, triangles or balls. To this end, one is allowed to use a scooper or similar utensil that creates a particular shape.

However, this rule applies only to simple shapes and forms. One would be forbidden, however, to cut food into a meaningful shape, such as a letter or number. The reason for this prohibition is because it falls into the category of כותב, writing, which is one of the Avos Melachos. Similarly, shaping food into any distinct figure, such as a person, animal, plant or flower, is deemed to be a form of writing and is prohibited.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim Terumah 5775

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New Stories Terumah 5775

Michael Jackson and My Yarmulke

I told the King of Pop that he wasn’t the King of the universe.

by Rabbi Mayer Fuchs, as told to Rochel Leah Fuchs        

It was a warm spring day in 1993, in Hollywood, California. I was 14 years old, headed to one of my favorite haunts, the Golden Apple Comic Shop on Melrose. Back then I was an avid comic book collector and I needed a fix every couple of weeks. As I walked through the door, something was different. There was a charge in the air. I looked around unsure what was going on. The place was mostly empty, except for several men in dark glasses who were positioned throughout the store. Everyone was focused on someone in the back.

I craned my neck and could not believe who I saw. I was actually in the store with Michael Jackson! I quickly glanced at the guy behind the counter who nodded his head at me to confirm. I wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip past.

I tried to play it cool. Here I was, this lanky Jewish kid in high tops and a yarmulke, standing before the king of pop. I took in his famously eccentric attire, the fedora and the bodyguards. “Are you Michael Jackson?” (I figured it was a good opener.) When he responded that he was, I went straight for the gold, asking him for his autograph. He politely obliged, scribbling his moniker on a cardboard comic book protector I had hastily grabbed off a nearby table.

“Why do you wear a yarmulke?” Michael asked.

I thought the encounter was over but then he caught me off guard. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Uh, sure,” I responded.

“Are you Jewish?”

“Yes,” I answered, wondering where this was going.

“Why do you wear a yarmulke?” Michael asked.

We shared a shy, sort of sheepish smile together at his knowledge of this insiders-only word, and I tried to think of an appropriate response. I drew on my 14 years of Jewish upbringing and education to muster up the best response I could think of. “We put a yarmulke on our heads to remind us always that there is One above us, and no matter how great we are, He is greater.”

He nodded, accepting the answer, and said it was very nice, but it was hard to tell what he really thought behind those impenetrable sunglasses. After some small talk and a handshake, I left the store, excited about my newly acquired autograph.

The next day in school, all I could talk about was meeting Michael Jackson, and my awesome new autograph got passed around among all my friends.

Years later, a friend pointed out the powerful symbolism: I advised Michael Jackson, who was one of the most famous and successful people in the world, at the height of his career, to be humble and to remember that there was One above him Who was greater than he. Without really meaning to, I told the King of Pop that he wasn’t the King of the universe.

Looking back on the story, I realize that the concept goes even deeper. The yarmulke sits on the head, above the brain. It’s there to remind us that even the things we’ve accomplished with our brains, things we should rightfully be proud of, should not cause us to be haughty because our Creator above is the One who made it all possible. Our brains are responsible for our creativity, our PhDs and Nobel Prizes, our works of art and our literary masterpieces, and yes, our musical hits. But without the Almighty’s help, none of it would be possible.

In fact, the very word “yarmulke” is a combination of the Hebrew words “Yarei Malka,” which translates to “Awe of the King.” Yes, I have a good mind and I’ve accomplished much in my life, but I must remember that it’s all a gift from Above.

Michael Jackson’s question got me thinking and all these years later it’s still on my mind. So M.J., thanks for asking. (

Never ever engage in idle chatter!

Our Gemara adjures us to refrain from speaking idle, purposeless words. “A person should never let his ears hear empty speech, because they burn first.” Our gedolei Yisroel were always exceedingly careful to refrain from speaking or listening to empty chatter. It is such a pity to waste time that could otherwise be utilized to increase one’s connection to Hashem by studying the holy Torah.

One student of Rav Elchonon Wasserman, Hy”d, recounted that for the three and a half years that he learned in Baranovitch, he never heard Rav Elchonon speak one word that was not Torah. Even when Rav Elchonon’s son returned from Mir after many months studying there, Rav Elchonon only said, “Shalom Aleichem! Vos machst du?” After his son responded that things were well, Rav Elchonon said, “Nu, mir darfen lernen!” “Time to learn!” And he went straight back to the Gemara.

Rav Elchonon’s practice of never speaking idle chatter was not only acquired after he became a Rosh Yeshiva; but even when he still learned in the Kollel Kodshim of the Chofetz Chaim zt”l in Radin, he never wasted a word. When reminiscing about the years he learned there, the Ponevizher Rav, zt”l, Rav Kahanaman, later recounted, “About those years I can give an exact accounting regarding bittul Torah for every instant that Rav Elchonon and I studied together!”

When the Steipler Gaon, zt”l, went to Rav Menachem Zeimba, Hy”d, to receive an approbation for his first published work, there was a big line. Although many of the people waiting to see the Rav were conversing, when the Steipler joined the line he opened Maseches Kesuvos and started learning. By the time he went in to see Rav Zeimba, he had learned twenty-two blatt Gemara!

Someone once asked the Chasam Sofer, zt”l, “What’s the secret to the Rav’s tremendous erudition in Torah?” The Chasam Sofer replied with a wry smile, “I became such a great talmid chacham in five minutes!” The questioner appeared completely flummoxed. The Chasam Sofer continued, “I mean during the many five minutes that people waste in the course of their lives. I used them all to learn and never wasted a second!” (








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