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February 13, 2014

Parashat Terumah
Rabbi Michael Pitkowsky

This week’s parashah begins with God saying to Moses that he should speak to the Children of Israel and to ask them to bring gifts, “Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him.” (Exodus 25:2) The formulation of God’s command to Moses in the original Hebrew is “va-yikhu li terumah.” In most of the instances in the Bible when there is a description of bringing terumah, the word “va-yikhu” is not used, rather, a different word such as “va-yarimu” is used.
This irregular use of the word “va-yikhu” stimulated the midrash to try and understand why this word was used. The answer was found in a connection between the word “va-yikhu” and the word “lekah” that has the identical root, a word that is sometimes understood to refer to Torah. The midrash below expands upon that connection and offers a profound explanation of the complimentary nature of Torah knowledge, illustrating how the ideal is for all of us to share our Torah with others, essentially crowdsourcing our knowledge of Torah.
“‘You shall have them take (“va-yikhu“) a terumah offering for me.’ (Exodus 25:2) This is as scripture states, ‘For I have given you a goodly portion (lekah)’ (Proverbs 4:2). Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: There were two merchants standing by each other; one was holding silk and the other, peppers. They said to each other, ‘Let us exchange our wares.’ So the first one took the peppers and the second one took the silk. What one has the other does not have, and vice versa. But this is not so with the Torah. One studies theseder of Zera’im [one part of the Mishnah], and another studies the seder of Mo’ed [a different part of the Mishnah]. If they exchange their learning with each other, this one has two [sedarim] and the other one has two [sedarim]. Is there any merchandise better than this? This is the meaning of, ‘For I have given you a goodly portion (lekah).'” [Metsudah Midrash Tanchuma-Shemos, vol. 2, trans. Avrohom Davis, pp. 102-103]
Rabbi Michael Pitkowsky is the Rabbinics Curriculum Coordinator at AJR.