• Maverick (Avigdor) Peters

Parshas Terumah 2018: Equal Opportunities for Greatness

The way we see it, life isn’t fair. We’ve all heard that before. It never was, and it never will be. There are successful people who run the world and others who just barely get by. Everyone wants to be successful, but Hashem doesn’t give everyone the same opportunity to reach greatness in his/her lifetime. Or does He?

The parshios (plural for parsha) of Terumah and Tetzaveh are somewhat infamous. It’s monotonous and tedious as each of these parshios discuss the construction of the mishkan (tabernacle), its holy articles, and priestly vestments in great length. We receive a detailed accounting of everything from the temple itself, to the very pegs in each board. The weave of every garment and the measurements of every plank are all recorded in these parshios.

Perkei Avos (Chapters of Our Fathers) mentions a concept of three figurative crowns one can wear on a spiritual plateau. 

1. “Kesser Torah” (the crown of Torah)

2. “Kesser Kehuna” (crown of the kohain)

3. “Kesser Malchus” (crown of kingship/royalty).

“Kesser Kehuna” was given to Ahron (Aaron) and his descendants, the kohanim (priests) to wear. The “Kesser Malchus” was given to Dovid HaMelech (King David) and his descendants. While the “Kesser Torah” was given to whoever wants to claim it. As the passuk says, “Torah tzivah lanu Moshe morashah kehilas Yaakov. (Deuteronomy 33:4) The implication is that a person wearing one crown cannot wear another. A kohain can only wear the crown of kehuna and not malchus. While a king cannot possess the crown of kehuna in addition to his crown. (The one who is the kohain gadol is the only one wearing that crown. The king is the only one wear his crown.) It’s a right that only one person can have at a time. Although there are many kohanim, there can be only one kohain gadol

However, the crown of Torah is different for it can worn by anybody. Whoever wants it can have it.

Rambam (Maimonides) says, one might think that the crown of the kohain and the crown of the king are greater, but not so, the crown of Torah is actually greater than both of them.

We see this very concept with the keilim (vessels) of the mishkan in our parsha.

Of the vessels, we find the shulchan (table) representing ashirus (wealth) which is paralleled to the Kesser Malchus and the mizbayach haktores (incense alter) connected to the Kesser Kehuna. Both holy utensils had a specific place in the mishkan and only they could be in their designated location.

On the other hand, Chazal teach us of a very unusual miracle that happened with the Aron (ark). The aron which contained the luchos (stone tablets) and the Torah scroll, had peculiar measurements. If you were to measure the size and diameter of the aron, then measure the area of the Kadosh HaKaddoshim (Holy of Holies) where it was housed, you’d be amazed to discover that the aron took up zero space. It was there, but no matter how many times you measured the room, then the aron, and then the room with the aron inside it, each time you will be left with measurements of a vacant room. Empty, as if to say, the aron had no designated place.

The lesson we can glean from here is slightly ambiguous.

It doesn’t matter where you live, how much money have, or what your circumstances are, Hashem provided an equal opportunity for everyone to become scholarly in Torah. Anyone who decides to apply themselves and study Torah is rewarded with the “Kesser Torah”, a crown of intense royalty and esteem. Even the kohain and king can earn this crown in addition to their own. A giant in Torah doesn’t take away the right from another to be great as well.

Hashem gave every one of us an equal opportunity to achieve greatness in Torah learning. All we must do is decide to go all in. May we all take Torah study more seriously and be granted the honor of donning the “Kesser Torah”! -Amen!

Have a wonderful Shabbos and weekend!

Maverick V. Peters

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