Teruma/Purim –

Grace and a Good Name > Money
In the beginning of this week’s Torah portion of Terumah, Hashem tells Moshe, “”Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me a gift…” (Shemos 25:2). The Medrish says that this alludes to the fact that in reality everything belongs to Hashem. The Maharz”u points out that this is the message the following Medrish Rabba gives when it connects this portion to Purim.

The Medrish Rabba in the beginning of Parshas Teruma quotes a pasuk from Mishley, “’A good name is more choice than great riches and beneficent grace than silver and gold’ (Mishley 22:1). [One of the things the medrish says] this pasuk relates to is Mordechai’s name being of choice more than the wealth of Haman. Rebbe Yoshia asked, ‘What did this wicked person (Haman) do?’ He took out all his silver and gold (The Etz Yosef said it really means most of his money) and gave it to Achashveirosh. Hashem told him ‘A good name is more choice… and beneficent grace than silver and gold.’ Esther’s grace was more choice, as it says, ‘that she [Esther] won favor in his eyes’ (Esther 5:2). When the wicked one (Haman) came with his money, the king said the money is given to you. Hashem said, if you sell what’s mine with what is mine, as it says ‘For My servants are the Jewish People’ (Vayikra 25:54), it also writes, ‘Mine is the silver, Mine is the gold’ (Chaggai 2:8), therefore Hashem swore, by your life when you said the money is given to you etc. rather, ‘On that day King Achashveirosh gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman’ (Esther 8:1), (Shemos Rabba 33:5).” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Haman was extremely rich, in fact the Medrish says elsewhere in the name of Rebbe Pinchas that there were two rich people that stood out in world history, one Jewish and one non-Jewish, and their wealth was only for their bad. Korach, the Jew, found the treasure house of silver and gold that Yosef had accumulated and hidden. Haman, the gentile, found the treasure house of the kings of Yehuda. When King Achashveirosh saw his wealth and that his ten sons were ministers, he promoted Haman to a very high position (Esther Rabba 7:5). The Etz Yosef there in fact points out that Haman was a lowly advisor, known as Memuchan, who was listed last of the advisors in the first perek of megillas Esther. He was the one who gave advice to get rid of Vashti. It would seem that King Achasveirosh might have promoted Haman so that he can somehow get to Haman’s wealth, which in fact happened because the Medrish we saw in parshas Terumah says that Haman actually gave most his wealth to Achashveirosh as payment for letting him destroy the Jewish people but,as the Yefeh Toar points out, Achashveirosh gave it back to Haman as a deposit until Haman finished his job, as it says, “And the king said to Haman, “The silver is given to you,” (Esther 3:11), instead of saying “to him, it shall be given to you” which would have implied that Achashveirosh was paying Haman to kill the Jews. The Yefeh Toar concludes that with all the money Haman was willing to give to Achashveirosh to kill the Jews,  Achashveirosh still picked Esther’s grace over all that money Haman was watching for him. The Etz Yosef also points out that Mordechai’s good name, that was mentioned in Achashveirosh’s chronicles for saving his life, was considered more worthy than Haman’s wealth to the extent that he belittled Haman and disgraced him by having him lead Mordechai on the king’s horse through the streets of Shushan.

We must take this into perspective. King Achashveirosh had a tremendous lust for money as we saw from his extravagant parties in the beginning of the Purim story and he had in his grip most of Haman’s wealth still in all he risked throwing it all away and insulting Haman by forcing him to lead his archenemy through the streets of Shushan calling out Mordechai’s honor all because Mordechai saved his life.

As for Queen Esther, what was the grace that won over Achashveirosh? The Malbim relates that in fact Achashveirosh loved Esther so much that he never thought that the law which said nobody can enter the king’s courtyard without his permission applied to her and when he saw her sheepishly standing by the entrance, granted he felt he did not have to stretch out his scepter to allow her jn, but in her humility standing by the entrance to the courtyard, not barging in, that found favor (or grace) in his eyes, for he saw that this was  righteous humility in her heart, that she didn’t realize she did not have to abide by this law, therefore he stuck out his scepter as to accept her and whatever wishes she would ask for. Esther’s timid and modest character is what in fact caught Achashveirosh’s attention and made such an impact that he felt he had to grant whatever she asked for. In the end the Jews were saved, Haman was killed, and although he had such a crave for money, he gave all of Haman’s house and wealth away to Esther who in turn gave it to Mordechai. (Click here for Hebrew text.)

Besides seeing the clear picture that Hashem can orchestrate anything because He is the Almighty, we are His people and this was all His money that He can do what He wants with, however we also see that no matter how much of a draw and a desire the thirst for money is, a good name and a graceful character are more valuable.

Terumah – Cherubs: Conduits to The One On High

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We know through Chaza”l that the Keruvim (cherubs) mounted on the Aron (Holy Ark), and woven into the curtain separating the Holy from the Holy of Holies, were angel-like figures. There was a miracle that when they faced each other it was known that there was peace between us and Hashem; but when they were turned away from each other, everyone knew danger was on its way, for it was a sign that Hashem was not happy with the Jewish People. But why were the Keruvim set upon the holiest object on earth, where the Divine Presence came to rest?
Rabbeinu Bachye
in this week’s Torah portion of Teruma (25:18) answers this question: “According to the basic understanding the Keruvim in the Beis HaMikdash and Mishkan were a sign and testimony to the concept of angels. For just as we are commanded about belief that The Holy One Blessed Be He is real and this is the first principle of all the principles in the Torah as it writes [in the first mitzvah of the Ten Commandments], ‘I am the Lord your G-D,’ so to we are commanded to believe that angels are real and this is the second principle, because the angels influence the power of the mind and place words into the mouth of prophets at the command of Hashem. If not for them there would be no prophecy and without prophecy there would be no Torah. For this reason the Torah commanded to make keruvim to show that the angels are real. The reason there are two and not one is to be sure people won’t think it is an image of G-D that should be worshiped. If you are worried that people might think there are really two gods, that isn’t a problem, for their wings are spread upwards to accept the abundance of strength from On High. This is the view of the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:45) on the topic of the keruvim, in short.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
The Beis HaMikdash and Mishkan were the palaces of Hashem in this world, and the Holy of Holies, where the aron (the Holy Ark) was placed, was where His Divine Presence rested like a king on a throne. Why was it appropriate to place images of Hashem’s servants in such a holy and dignified place? Even more wondrous is that it was done at the risk of potentially causing people to transgress the second mitzvah of the Ten Commandments. “You shall not have the gods of others in My presence. You shall not make for yourself a graven image or any likeness which is in the heavens above, which is on the earth below, or which is in the water beneath the earth” (Shemos 20:3, 4). The Rambam pointed out that they went to great lengths in making two figures with wings pointing up towards Heaven, as if saying Hashem is the All Powerful and is the only source for everything in existence. But why is the Holiest place on Earth, which is essentially “the throne” in this world for the King Of All Kings, the proper place to show that angels are real, even if they are the second most important principle in Judaism?

We must say that by placing the Keruvim on the Holy Ark, it actually enhances the honor of Hashem, by showing that they are the conduit to receive Hashem’s holy influence. It would be disparaging to assume or expect that Hashem deals with us directly, even for matters as Divine as prophecy and the receiving of the Torah. Even Moshe Rabbeinu had to go through the angels to receive the Torah directly from Hashem. A king is always escorted by guards, nobleman, and servants. It is beneath the dignity of the throne to expect that the king will commune directly with his subjects at all times. This is also true for the King Of All Kings, Blessed Be He, The Almighty, who actually can do everything and does run the entire universe and beyond. There are laws and orders to everything, and the acknowledgement of the reality of angels as being a sort of guardsmen, messengers, go-betweens, between The King and His subjects, is a show of enhancement of the honor and respect to Hashem. Which is why they were represented by the Keruvim in the Beis Hamikdash and Mishkan.