9Adar is February 15-21, 2021 (Adar 3-9 5781)


Colorful People by Avraham Shlomovich

For the past couple weeks and the next, we have been learning the Parashas that deal with the construction of the Tabernacle and the Divine Service therein – in Synagogues all over the world – which is in itself a wonderful sign of Jewish Unity. The following Torah essay expresses a fact of this unity.

Thirteen is an important number, especially during these weeks. This is because there are thirteen different types of items that comprise the list of materials that G-D gave us for the crafting of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.

Even without pondering the inner qualities of each of these materials, had we seen them all gathered together, we would have immediately noticed a varied color scheme. Very colorful indeed: among them – silver, gold, turquoise, a color called argamon, red, and even a spectacular multicolored item, the skin of the tachash animal, a special creature that appeared at the time for the cause. Before we relate to this aspect of this donation of the articles, we must first recall that there were two other donations that are alluded to in our opening verses.

Our Sages tell us[1] that the three times that the word “T’rumah” (donation) is mentioned in opening verses of Parashas T’rumah stand for three different donations. The third we mentioned above, and the first two were 1) the half-shekel donation which was used to form the 100 silver sockets for the planks of the Sanctuary and the Partition, and 2) the half-shekel donation for the purchasing of communal offerings. The common denominator of these first two donations is that they were given in an equal manner, that is, a half-shekel per donator. This is in contrast to the donation of thirteen items that our Parasha specifically deals with, which were given according to how each person felt motivated to donate.

In light of this common denominator, we understand that there was a clear purpose in the nature of these contributions, one that brought the Nation together and unified them in a common goal. Everyone gave the same amount for the same causes. In the same manner that the sockets were the solid foundations of the combination of planks of the Mishkan, the origin of the equality of this donation solidified the Nation, each taking an equal part in this cause. In a similar fashion, the contribution for the public sacrifices was one of unification. Just as every member of the Nation had an essential need for these offerings – they all had a need to finance them. Once again, an action whose ramifications served to unify the Nation in a common goal.

Accordingly, we may find it strange or even out of place that regarding the third donation, each gave as he desired according to the list of relevant materials, both particularly and quantity-wise. This fact would seem to distinguish people from one another in a manner that we would assume the opposite would be necessary, as in the first two contributions. Could this factor be connected with the multi-colored scheme that we mentioned at the onset of our discussion? Let’s take a look at the properties of colors.

Briefly, in the language of Kabbalah, we learn that each color emanates from its association to one of the Sefiros (Divine emanations, as we are familiar with seven of these that correspond to the seven weeks of the Sefiras Ha’omer, the Counting of the Omer). Silver and white stem from the Sefira of Chessed (Loving-kindness), gold and red from the Sefira of Gevurah (strength/judgments), and so on.

Another expression of the Sefiros relates to the personal make-up of an individual; his mindset, feelings, personality, and so on. For instance, there may be a particular individual whose personal makeup tends to be more in the category of Chessed, and this is

Bowl everyday Left face
expressed in his desire to do loving-kindness. This kindness can express itself either in good ways or the opposite. He can show wonderful kindness to his fellow Jew – or self-defeating flattery-motivated “kindness” to his enemy. He can be charitable with his assets – or he can use them for self-indulgence. On the flipside, we have the attribute of Gevurah, which connotes strength/judgments/strictness. As with the first example, we can imagine how this attribute of Gevurah can express itself for the good or otherwise in an individual whose personality tends to be close to this quality. The general Jewish obligation is for the individual to develop the awareness that will lead him to choose to use these qualities in a manner that will promote Torah and Mitzvah observation.Now then, we would assume that if we were to put the two extremities of these examples of people together in the same environment and in close contact, the results would be that of friction and conflict – to say the least – and depending on the circumstances, disagreement and discord. Indeed, if these two individuals were not pre-initiated in any manner, this would likely be the outcome. In the language of the articles for the Mishkan, we could call it a case of clashing colors. If we all reflect upon our various interpersonal relationships, we can understand the reality of these internal differences… But does this have to be this way, i.e., does there have to be the presence of this apparent incompatibility? Is the only way we can get along with someone who is different from us is to stifle our feelings and personality, even the true and good qualities found within them? The answer to this question is no, and this is due to the existence of a very important component.When Moshe Rabaynu called for the materials to be brought for the construction of the Mishkan, the results were more than simply enthusiastic (in the end there were so many donations that he had to call the giving to a halt). People gave different articles – some gold, some silver, and others multi-colored skins, and so on. Despite the great variations of these gifts they shared a very important component, towards a unifying goal:[2] “They shall make a Sanctuary for me, and I will [‘so that I may’] dwell among them.” No matter who brought what, all of the contributions were a unified expression of one goal: to fulfill G-D’s commandment to make a Sanctuary in order to become close to Him. This same focal point was later to be that of the First Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple) and the Second, and with G-D’s help the Third, speedily in our days.To be unified through the first and second equal and binding donations of the sockets and the public offerings, the Nation would be in a unified mind-set that would enable them to give such a colorful and diversified contribution without this action causing them to become diversified. They had a common goal and purpose that brought them together. Let us return to the “colors” of personalities that we mentioned above.Our conclusion will likely be an eye-opener for most of us, and may even change the way we view our fellow and may even be an invaluable tool for being successful in the common task of getting along with those whom we are in contact with. The harmony of where these two examples of people we discussed above – Mr. Chessed and Mr. Gevurah we shall call them – meets up is in the common goal of adhering to the Torah and Mitzvoth that G-D gave us as advice to come close to Him. Each one overcomes the urge to misuse his individual color-scheme of attributes in selfish self-gain and directs them to the ultimate goal of serving the Creator.

In other words – contrary to popular belief – the reason why people often do not get along is not due to conflicting personalities, however different or opposite they may be. This cannot be used for an excuse for incompatibility in any relationship. The reason why people have difficultly getting along in any given situation is because they have different goals, different intentions, or the true mission at hand is not defined, understood, or properly considered by one or both of the parties. If we find ourselves at odds with someone close to us, perhaps we need to re-examine our common goal…

As we mentioned, there were thirteen different articles that Hashem commanded to be donated for the building of the Mishkan. As with all the specifics of all the Commandments that G-D has given us, this number is far from arbitrary. In light of our discussion, we can offer an interesting observation. The number thirteen is the Gematria (Numerology) of two very important words: “Echad” – which means “one”, signifying unity, and “Ahava” – which means “love“.[3]

Moshe was not only relaying to them to bring these thirteen materials to build the Tabernacle. He was also telling them to bring love – and unity. This was achieved through the common goal of building a Sanctuary for G-D, the same Sanctuary whose reflection is in our hearts and the hearts of our fellow Jews – a unifying goal of love. No matter which of the thirteen articles we bring to the Tabernacle – no matter what color we are – we share a common purpose of bringing G-D’s Light into the sanctuary of our hearts and reflecting this Light to illuminate the world through Torah and Mitzvoth. And when we arrive at the common knowledge of this goal, then everyone can make their contribution in harmony.

May we all be blessed with the inclination and desire to make our contribution for the Redemption, speedily in our days – Amen!

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[1] Talmud Yerushalmi Shekalim 1:1; Tractate Megillah 29b

[2] Exodus, 25:8


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