Teruma – Patience with the Process

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This week’s Haftorah for the Torah portion of Teruma discusses the building of the first Beis HaMikdash just as the Torah portion discusses the building of the Mishkan . It begins, “And Hashem gave Shlomo wisdom, as He had promised him, and there was peace between Hiram and Shlomo, and they both made a peace treaty together” (Melachim Alef 5:26). The Ralbag points out that the Navi is telling us that the abundance of wisdom Shlomo possessed was the reason why there was peace between Shlomo and Hiram, for because of his wisdom Hiram loved him. (Click here for Hebrew text.)

This was a wisdom which was a gift from Hashem, which Hashem granted Shlomo in a prophetic dream – to be the wisest person in the world, after Hashem granted Shlomo  one thing, whatever he wanted. Yet with all this wisdom and, as the haftorah goes on to record, using this wisdom for the good, the betterment of mankind and to bring close the relationship between Hashem and His children through the building of the Beis HaMikdash, the palace for the Shechina, The Holy Presence of Hashem – still in all towards the end of the haftorah it writes, “And the word of Hashem came to Shlomo saying” (Melachim Alef 6:11). The Ralbag goes out of his way to emphasize at this juncture that since the Navi states after this “And Hashem appeared to Shlomo a second time as he did in Givon” we learn from there that this prophecy here did not come to Shlomo himself, but rather it came to him through some other prophet while he was building the Holy Temple. The Radak says that prophet was Achiha HaShiloni. (Click Here for Hebrew text.)
Though Shlomo was very young, taking the reigns at the ripe age of 12, he was very mature. So with all his wisdom and righteousness, why couldn’t Shlomo have a consistent line of prophesy with Hashem, especially during this important time of building the Beis HaMikdash, similar to Moshe Rabbeinu?

However, one has to realize the greatness of a prophet and what it takes to reach and stay on such a high spiritual level. It is a process of perfection which isn’t so easy to meet. This process is based on perfecting the levels set down in a gemara in Avoda Zara 20b by Rav Pinchas ben Yair. There are 11 levels before prophesy and to even start, Rebbe Pinchas ben Yair says that it begins with learning Torah. Only after perfecting those levels, the last one being the ability to resurrect the dead, is one able to reach the level of prophesy, but even the Amoraim, the rabbi in the times of the gemara, where there are stories of them resurrecting the dead, were not able to reach the level of prophesy. It is known that if one perfects his character based on the teaching of the Mesilas Yesharim, The Path of the Just, by Rav Moshe Chain Luzzato then one would reach the level of Kedusha, holiness, which is 3 levels off from prophesy. Yet Rav Yechazkel Sarna zt”l, the Rosh Yeshiva of Chevron, explains that the Ramban wrote a letter to his son, the famous Iggeres HaRamban, whose main topic is humility because he had reached the perfection of the level of humility, which is 2 levels below Kedusha. This was in the 1200s. The venerable Vilna Gaon attested about himself in 1700s that he had perfected the level of Prishus, separation, which is 3 levels lower than the level of humility. Nowadays they say that even the greatest of the generation at best can perfect the first two levels, of Zehirus, watchfulness, and Zrizus, alacrity. The reason for such a downslide throughout history is because of the concept of hiskatnus hadoros, the diminishing of the generations. In Judaism, we believe that the pinnacle of mankind was created by Hashem in the beginning with Adam. He was as close as can be to Hashem; physically, spiritually, and mentally, before the sin. The farther away from the source, the weaker we become in every way. Therefore, King Shlomo as wise as he was, a special gift given to him from Hashem, he still didn’t have the consistent level of prophesy as Moshe Rabbeinu had. That is why the Ralbag points out at this juncture that someone else came to him with a message from Hashem and he didn’t receive it himself through his own prophecy.

 It’s a process to reach such great heights, and one must realize it’s not an easy process. Chaza”l teach us “that a person was born to toil” and “according to his efforts is his reward.” There are even times when there are spurts of perfection, which go above and beyond the rule of hiskatnus hadoros, achieved through great diligence and intense discipline. Like by Matan Torah, where Chaza”l say the Jewish people reached the level of Adam before he sinned when they received the Torah.

In a similar vein, the Haftorah also writes, “And it was in the four hundred and eightieth year after the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt, in the fourth year, in the month Ziv, which (is) the second month of Solomon’s reign over Israel, that he did [begin to] build the house of Hashem” (Melachim Alef 6:1). This means it took 480 years for the Jewish people to be able to deserve starting to build the Beis HaMikdash! Can one fathom how long that is, almost five lifetimes of centennials!! A people who were at such great heights, living on miracles when they inherited The Land with Yehoshua; yet being ready to build Hashem’s Palace was a process that takes time.

Matters that are important don’t just happen overnight; the Jewish People received the Torah 2,448 years after the creation of the world. That is longer than our current exile! Chaza”l says that this current exile will end with the Final Redemption with the coming of Moshiach. May we merit to have a spurt of spiritual energy to reach this level of perfection speedily in our days. However, it is up to us to speed up the process, to pour all our energy into serving Hashem properly and deserving this illustrious time in world history, through learning Torah in-depth and mussar, books of character development, like Mesilas Yesharim, and at least trying to apply to the best of our abilities lessons from these sefarim, may we merit to have a spurt of perfection and end this long process towards the Final Redemption speedily in our days.