Parshat Terumah delves into the details of the construction of the Mizbe'ach (Altar) and the Mishkan (Tabernacle).
And these seemingly technical discussions about staves, rings, and curtains hold rich meaning inside.
House of Gratitude
And Rav Miller stress that the Beit Mikdash was really a House of Thanksgiving.
It was the best place to express one's gratitude.
Halacha forbade the Kohanim from leaving the Shulchan (Table) empty in the Beit Hamikdash. As one set of Lechem Panim (Show Bread) were removed, Kohanim immediately need to place a new set of Lechem Panim.
And with his usual humility, Rav Miller says (page 6):
What’s this all about? It’s not a bakery; it’s a Beis Hamikdash!
Now, I must tell you beforehand that the Rambam says that he doesn’t understand the idea of the Shulchan and the lechem hapanim.
He says that he has no explanation for it, and therefore I must apologize because along comes a nobody now who will give an explanation.
But what can I do? What can I do — I can’t help myself.
What to Say When You See Bread
He also points out that there are 250 miracles in every spoonful of food.
Also, don't throw bread. If you're passing challah to someone at the other end of the table, you can't throw it; you need it pass it in a basket or something.
Rav Miller advises us to train ourselves to grow excited about seeing bread on the table.
He also advises us to say (page 9),
“You, Hashem, are זָן אֶת הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ — You are feeding the whole world. And right now You’re feeding me בחְֵּן ובּחְֶסדֶ ובּרְַחמֲיִם — with favor and with kindness and with mercy.”
Finding Precious Value in the Common Things
For example, if we have a million dollars, we might feel good about that.
But if everyone else had a million dollars, then you might not think your million dollars is such a big deal.
But it is!
It's a very fortunate thing to have a million dollars, and the fact that everyone else has a million dollars should in no way detract from your joy at your good fortune.
It's the same with sunlight.
Sunlight is a tremendous gift. We are so lucky to have an abundance of sunlight (even if it feels like it's too much sometimes in some places).
Just because everyone else gets to enjoy it too doesn't make it less valuable to you personally.
Rav Miller notes that we say a very long bracha about sunlight in our morning prayers, so that means that our appreciation of sunlight is very important to Hashem.
High on Life
In Lomza, the mashgiach once saw a sad-faced yeshiva bochur.
So he went over to him and took him by both lapels and he said, “Mazel Tov! Mazel Tov! You’re a lucky fellow!” he said to him. “Everybody should envy you!” And he went on and on — “Mazel tov! You’re a lucky fellow!”
And the boy was waiting already to hear what the good news is — the bochur was looking at him — “What’s the mazel tov?”
Finally after many mazel tovs, the mashgiach said, “Mazel tov — you’re alive!” That’s the mazel tov.
“Oh! That’s all?!”
That’s what the bochur was thinking.
Try that the next time you meet somebody who is downcast, somebody who is discouraged — do what the mashgiach in Lomza did.
Give him the good news! It’s too bad that people don’t appreciate such news.
And more importantly, it’s too bad that we don’t appreciate it.
We should say “mazel tov” to ourselves. When nobody’s looking, say it: “Mazel tov, Miller! You’re so lucky to be alive.”
You know there will come a time when you won’t be alive.
Of course you plan on being here for the next ten thousand years, but sooner or later it will all come to an end — and so you might as well enjoy every second of it now.
A time will come when we’re going to look back and regret that we didn’t enjoy life.
You know when a person realizes it — when he’s approaching his last moments, he looks back and thinks, “Why was I so stupid? My mind was obsessed with so many superficialities — so many different worries and silly ideas. The mere fact that I could walk down the avenue and see the light of day — cloudy, windy, sunny, any kind of a day, it was so much fun …”
Also, Rav Miller offers very, very important advice.
And it's not the first time.
He stresses how important it is NOT to share your newfound enthusiasm with others.
Many times, other people who aren't holding where you are will cool you off with a dismissive facial expression or words.
Maybe not on purpose, but genuine spirituality sounds nutty to a lot of people — even otherwise religious people.
So talk to yourself and to Hashem about the happiness of life and how good it is to be alive.
And that's what Parshat Terumah is really all about.