Parshat Teruma By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron בס”ד
Discover the Holy Presence in the Holy Land
Today we are familiar with economic systems such as capitalism, socialism, and mixed economies which vary between the two fore-mentioned systems. Does the Torah set guidelines for an economic system? On the one hand, we do see that the Torah places importance on individual property and resource as can be seen in the many halachic laws that govern individual property, profession, etc., while on the other hand there are also many halachic laws that deal with the collective and care for priests, Levites, the poor, and more. It should be noted that the word for charity in Hebrew is tzedaka, which is closely related to the word “Tzedek,” justice. In a Torah outlook charity is a necessary component of social justice. Indeed, we see that halacha mandates that the Jewish court can force an individual to give charity under certain conditions. If charity was only a lofty act of mercy and compassion on the side of the giver, forcing charity certainly seems odd if not unfair. However, once we understand the Torah’s stance that charity is a necessary component of social justice, being also tied together in the words of many prophets “charity and justice,” we understand that there is a deep Divine economic plan involved with charity and giving which may even require force in certain instances. In turn, Hashem promises us that by performing these charities He will “give blessing in everything that we do,” and our Sages add that, unlike any other mitzvah, one may even “check” Hashem to see that He gives blessing and wealth after one gives charity.
One of the most pronounced laws that illustrates the high importance of charity and the mandatory giving of money is the giving of the half-shekel, given throughout the month of Adar, which also begins with this Parsha, “Teruma,” which talks about donating towards the Mishkan. All men, “whether wealthy or poor must give the donation unto Hashem” towards the Mishkan/Beit Hamikdash. Although there is controversy in regard to the famous tithes – “maser kesafim” – whether they are Biblically, rabbinically mandated or only a custom, in regard to the half-shekel all agree that this half-shekel donation must be given on a Biblical level every year by every man, albeit when the Beit Hamikdash is standing. Even the terumot and maasrot, which are also Biblically mandated, do not necessarily have to be given by every man if they do not deal with agriculture or agricultural produce.
The fact that the half-shekel carries such a focal point in regard to the economic matters in the Torah may shed light on the entirety of economic matters in the Torah, including the agriculturally based ones. The half-shekel is directed towards the primary resting place of the Holy Presence, the Mishkan or the Beit Hamikdash. We may say that the primary blessing that comes to Israel, the Holy People, is through their connection to the Holy Presence, and therefore the most pronounced law of giving money is towards the Home of the Holy Presence, the Power which will, in turn, bestow blessing and wealth upon Israel. Indeed, in the book of Dvarim, Israel are told that the Land of Israel has no Nile to water them. Rather, they must turn to the Hashem for rainfall, and by so doing they will achieve real blessing. The Land of Israel is also the Land of the Holy Presence and this explains why there are so many agricultural laws of giving produce pertaining to this Land. Also, the kohanim and Leviim, to whom a good deal of these agricultural gifts are given, are close to the Holy Presence, for they were chosen to serve in the Beit Hamikdash. In regard to the poor, it says, “I [the Holy presence] reside with the poor and downtrodden.” Therefore, giving to the poor is also an act of connecting to the Holy Presence that resides with these poor. In turn, the Holy Presence provides all blessing to those who “support” It in all these fore-mentioned ways.
Hebron too, Beacon of the Holy Land, is a focal point of the Holy Presence. Hebron also carries the longest narrative in the Torah that pertains to economic purchase, the purchase of Maarat Hamachpela. It is here that David established his monarchy which allowed him to establish both the spiritual building blocks (according to the Arizal) and the material/economic building blocks towards the building of the Beit Hamikdash.
Miracles from the Holy Land:
A few days after the Six-Day War: A euphoric and relieved Israeli population now awaited the day when they would once again be allowed to visit the Western Wall, the Kotel, in the Old City of Jerusalem. On the holiday of Shavuot, the holy site was opened for civilians. More than 200,000 came; they cried, prayed, and thanked G-d for His incredible miracles and salvation. On the very next day, the Chabad-Lubavitch tefillin booth was established in the plaza facing the Wall. In its first year alone, one and a half million people donned tefillin at the Wall.