Until the Kli Yakar, I had never really been able to relate to what basically appeared to me a very long list of nuts, bolts, and measurements.
Yes, I technically understood that Parshat Terumah was extremely important and contained deep spiritual significance far beyond human understanding, but I just couldn't appreciate it in the way it deserved.
That, combined with the obvious fact that the Kli Yakar is one of the longer commentaries on the Torah.....well, I wondered how I would get through it.
But I should have known that the Kli Yakar wouldn't let me down.
He shows how it is rich with inspiring poetic metaphor.
Now it is one of my favorite parshiot and I look forward to learning it with the Kli Yakar every year.
Unfortunately, I don't have the time or ability to do it justice, but it's still worth a peek....
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all interpretations and symbolism are from the Kli Yakar, whether in quotation marks or not.
The Kli Yakar quotes Bechinat Olam 13:45:
"The purpose of knowledge is for us to know that we can't know You."
The Kli Yakar also explains that true wisdom and contentment come from looking up toward people who are spiritually higher than you, enabling you to see what and how you need to still achieve, while looking down at those who have materially less than you, enabling you to appreciate what you have.
Starting with the donations necessary to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the Kli Yakar says:
"Hashem is not particular about the virtues of the donation itself, but rather about the virtue of the giver because sometimes, an important person donates a small amount of money as a sincere act of giving, while a rich miscreant or a violent man will donate valuable gems. Without any doubt, the righteous person's donation is more acceptable."
"Wherever there is a fence of humility and submission [to Hashem's Will] around those below, then there [you'll find] the hiding place of Hashem's Might, that dwells among the downtrodden and humble of spirit. However, whenever there is a hint of pride, then Hashem does not want to unite His Name there...." — as indicated by the fact that the adanim were all identical to each other, as if none were trying to stand out or be bigger or shinier than its neighbor.
And seeing as they were the foundation of the Mishkan, this also teaches us that humility is (or at least should be) the foundation of Yisrael.
He then explains that the very design of the Mishkan is a conduit for Hashem's Kavod (Glory, Honor) to "dwell within Yisrael — within their actual bodies."
The following material are associated with the following kingdoms that rule over us in each Exile:
- Babylonia - gold
- Persia-Media - silver
- Greece - copper
- Edom - red (as in blood)
The Mishkan also contains these materials, including red-dyed ram's skin to symbolize Edom.
Hashem did this to display our merit against these Exile Kingdoms.
The Kli Yakar quotes Hashem as if He says, "Even though you see four kingdoms rising up in their feeling of superiority and coming upon you, I swear by your lives that I'll sprout for you salvation from the midst of oppression."
The "Broken" Measurements
The Kli Yakar refers to measurements that use "half" (like two-and-a-half) as "broken" measurements. This symbolizes the importance of breaking our worldly desires.
He encourages us to focus on satisfying our spiritual desires since we can never truly satisfy our physical desires.
Pure Gold on the Inside/Zahav Tahor
It is impossible to be truly pure on the outside, since there is always a possibility that one's behavior is for the sake of impressing others.
But whatever one does for the approval of Hashem (i.e. his or her inner motivations and how they behave when no one is looking) is "certainly absolutely pure."
These symbolize the poor who are, in truth, supporting the wealthy.
Wealthy people remain wealthy in the merit of the charity and kindness they show toward the poor.
This symbolizes the need to cover up the secrets of the Torah.
Things not meant to be revealed should not be.
This represents the tranquility bequeathed to those who love Torah and will be "twins" in peace and friendship.
The orientation of their faces toward the Aron indicates that true tzaddikim face the Aron, i.e. Hashem's Torah, and not like "those very people who are wise in their own eyes and demand for their own sake and not for that of the Torah."
You should shut out your physical desires and "there should not be an open door to them."
Taba'ot Zahav/Gold Rings
All the successes in This World are like a revolving wheel.
There are ups and downs.
Furthermore, one should be encouraged by remembering the rewards of the the World to Come because spiritual rewards, like these circular rings, have no end.
Batim L'Badim/Receptacles for the Poles
This alludes to the importance of making your house a refuge for the poor, because a poor person feels alone and separate from others.
This indicates the importance of making a living only through honest means, without ever stealing or using stolen property.
Golden Crown/Zer Zahav
One who depends on Hashem to fulfill his needs is like a king who is nourished from the Heavenly Table, so to speak, and is "crowned with the crown of contentment."
The group participation in its building symbolizes the fact that every Jew has a portion in Torah.
"There is an aspect in every person that enables him to have a share in the Torah — even if he isn't prepared to learn."
Acacia Wood/Etz Shiitim
Wood shows how tzaddikim bear fruits for years to come, just as trees bear fruit.
Sheetim — acacia — is similar to the word shtuyot (folly) and atones for the sin of the Calf since a person cannot sin unless a "spirit of folly" enters him.
These atone for the sinner who, at the time of transgression, is like a ram who gores against Heaven.
Atones for the source of sin: the Primordial Snake (Nachash).
This atones for brazenness.
Copper Meshwork/Reshet Nachoshet
Atones for the meshwork net (reshet) that the Evil Inclination (Yetzer Hara) spreads out to entrap people.
These 10 Curtains symbolize the 10 Utterances with which Hashem created the world.
5 facing 5 symbolizes the 10 Commandments.
50 Loops/Lulaot and 50 Hooks/Kerashim
This stands for the 50 Gates of Binah, through which a person can connect to Heavenly beings...like angels, for example.
Parochet/Curtain of Holy of Holies
This is a reminder of the exalted level a person can reach if he or she tries:
the level of Yom Kippur.
The silver-white adanim/sockets of the Parochet
These symbolize forgiveness, the "whitening" of sin.
The embroidery on the Masach symbolizes the creation of Man
The 5 Pillars symbolize a person's 5 physical senses.
"If you will preserve My Light in your hands, to raise the Eternal Light on the pure Menorah, then I, too, will preserve the Light of God — the soul of a person -- in My Hands...."
Panei Hamenorah/The Face of the Menorah
This symbolizes Hashem.
These are the cups that "runneth over" from Psalm 23.
They symbolize uncontainable spiritual reward.
Just as a round knob has no end, so, too the pleasure of basking in the Divine Illumination (Ziv HaShechinah) has no limit.
These represent the righteous, who "flower" and "blossom."
Oil for the Light/Shemen L'Maor
This symbolizes Mashiach
Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim of Luntschitz (1550-1619) lived in Bohemia (which is today Poland and Czechoslovakia). He served as rabbi and dayan and wrote several books, the most well-known being his commentary on the Chumash known as the Kli Yakar.
Although I did borrow a few terms here and there from Rabbi Elihu Levine's translation, this is primarily my own translation and any errors are also mine.
For a wonderful rendering of the Kli Yakar into English, please see Rabbi Elihu Levine's translation.