Terumah 5781

If you turn away from the needs of another person, you’re turning away from the will of Hashem

If you turn away from the needs of another person, you’re turning away from the will of God. This is an important message emerging from Parshat Terumah. The Torah introduces us to the concept of the keruvim, the cherubs, angelic-styled three-dimensional figures emerging from the lid of the aron, the Holy Ark in the Sanctuary in the Wilderness. And the Torah tells us,

“Ufeneihem ish el achiv,” – “Each one was facing the other,”

It was face to face contact. However, in the temple of Solomon as is described in the second book of Chronicles, Chapter 3, the Bible tells us,

“Ufeneihem labayit,” – the cherubs, the keruvim were both facing towards the inside of the Temple. They weren’t facing each other. Why this difference?

The Gemara in Masechet Bava Batra 99a explains that within the Sanctuary in the Wilderness, it was a time when the people of Israel were mostly keeping to the will of God, and this is represented by the keruvim facing each other. However during the days of the reign of King Solomon in general the people were rebelling against the word of God, and this is represented by the keruvim not facing each other.

So what emerges for us is that it is the will of Hashem that we should turn our faces towards others: we should be filled with compassion, live altruistic existences, ask what we can do for those who are in need. In the event however that we don’t face each other, that we turn our backs to each other, that is a time when we’re rebelling against the word of Hashem.

In the yevarechecha prayer, the Priestly Blessing, our Cohanim say,

“Yisa Hashem panav eilecha,” – “May the Lord turn His face towards you. If you turn your face toward somebody, if you look that person in the eye, it means that you are relaxed in their presence, you’ve got nothing to hide, you feel comfortable with them and you are there for them in the way that you would expect them to be for you.

That is the blessing that the Cohanim give to us: that Hashem should look us in the eye, be comfortable with us, be proud of us and shower us with His blessings. Therefore, the keruvim in the wilderness represent a time when we face others, when we build our relationships with others, when we’re concerned for them and always try to do whatever we can to assist. That is a time when we are performing the will of Hashem. In the event however that we turn our backs on other people, that is a sure sign that we are going against the will of our Creator.

Shabbat shalom

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Posted in Parashah


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