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The Power of Words

By: Mr. Ze'ev Ben Shachar

Parshat Terumah focuses primarily upon the many details involved in the building of the Mishkan as well as the ritual items, such as the altar and menorah, which accompany it. As such, two Psukim (Shemot 25:2 and 25:8) stand out in particular in the Parsha, because they focus on people, rather than objects. Each of these Psukim involves an interesting choice of words, which, at first glance, seem out of place. Pasuk 2, Perek 25 reads: "Daber el Bnei Yisrael v'yikchu lee trumah…" “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering…”

If the Pasuk commands that Bnei Yisrael give an offering for the building of the Mishkan, why then is the verb “take” used? Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz explains that the Torah intentionally uses this verb to emphasize that the act of giving involves the act of receiving – that in helping others, we derive personal benefit. It is for this reason that the value of Chesed is so central to us at Midreshet Moriah – we understand, and our students’ experiences invariably show us, that when we give charity and volunteer our time, we are improving not only the lives of the greater community, but also – and perhaps even more so – our own lives.

Pasuk 8, Perek 25 reads: "V'asu lee mikdash v'shachanti b'tocham" “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”

If Hashem is asking Bnei Yisrael to build Him a sanctuary, one would expect the pasuk to read “that I may” dwell in it” rather than “that I may dwell among them”. Chazal interpret the word "b'tocham" to mean “within each and every Jew”. In other words, only after the Shechina rests on Bnei Yisrael – only then are we worthy and ready for the presence of Hashem to rest on the holy Mikdash; by the same token, when we withdraw ourselves from the spiritual life, we are no longer worthy for Hashem’s blessed presence – and the existence of a physical sanctuary cannot help us, because it bears no substantial spiritual meaning.

These two Psukim in Parshat Terumah underline the premise that each word is carefully chosen in our Torah. It is an important reminder for us to choose our words consciously and to use them responsibly to spread truth and kindness in the world.

I often highlight this principle when teaching Israel advocacy. My belief is that to be effective advocates you have to first grapple with Israel’s past, gain mastery of the facts, and then pick you words consciously and tell the truth.

For example, we should realize that referring to Hevron as being located in the “West Bank” raises different connotations as speaking of it as part of “Judea and Samaria".  While both terms refer (more or less) to the same territory, the former refers to the west bank of the Jordan River, whereas the latter represents the deeply rooted connection of Jews to the biblical Judea and Samaria. In the same way, we relate a markedly different message when we locate Kever Yosef (Joseph’s tomb) in the historic city of Shechem as opposed to locating it in the city of “Nablus” – an Arab form of the Roman city Flavia Neopolis, which was built on the ruins of Shechem.

Ultimately, We need to realize that it is not easy to constantly think of every word we utter, but that to the degree to which we are successful in this endeavor, is the degree to which we are able to relate the inspiring story of Israel, the Jewish people and Hashem’s glory.

Shabbat Shalom





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