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Home » Life Is Beautiful, Terumah

Terumah: The Crown

Submitted by on February 6, 2016 – 9:56 pmNo Comment | 535 views

For G-d

Three of the Temple’s sacred vessels had crowns around their perimeter. There was a crown around the incense altar, a crown around the show-table and a crown around the holy ark. Our sages taught, the crown around the altar was taken by Aaron, whose children were destined for the priesthood. The crown around the table was taken by David, whose lineage was destined for the kingdom. The crown around the ark, which is the Torah, is still available and anyone that wants may come and take it.[1]

This teaches us that there are three ways to serve G-d. One is to serve Him exclusively as priests do. Another is to flourish in worldly affairs, but to do so while dedicated to G-d. The third is to study Torah. Not everyone can be a priest, it’s difficult to be dedicated to G-d all day. Not everyone can tolerate the constant balancing act of being in the world, but not of the world, a task at which Jewish kings were required to excel.[2] To study Torah is the easiest way to serve G-d. Anyone can try and succeed at that.

Two Crowns

Of the three crowns, the one on the table appears to be the most difficult. To be successful in the world and yet not grow haughty, to be immersed in worldly affairs and yet remain pious, to be a leader and yet remain humble, is the most difficult task of all. Perhaps this is why the Torah speaks of two crowns around the table. For the table, one crown is not enough, two are necessary.[3]

The showbread in the temple was the funnel of Divine sustenance to the world. All blessings for livelihood were channeled into the world through the showbread; the source of wordily blessing. The crown around the vessel symbolizes G-d. It is a reminder that the beauty and purpose of the vessel is for G-d’s glory. For worldly success, one crown is not enough; It is not enough to remember only once a day that our purpose at work is to serve G-d. The second crown taught us to remind ourselves of this again and again. Otherwise, success would get to our heads, and turn us from G-d rather than to G-d.

It is sadly all too common for successful people to believe in their own destiny. They are driven and resourceful and credit themselves with their own success. They often run out of time for prayer and Torah study. Retaining their humble outlook is extremely difficult. The Torah therefore warns us that success in the street must be met with two crowns; two reminders. One is simply not enough.[4]

The Crown Around The Border

The second crown was affixed to a special border that extended around the edge of the show-table. The border is the table’s framework. We must frame our success with prayer and Torah study. When a Jew begins each day with an hour of prayer, symbolizing the altar, and ends each day with an hour of Torah study, symbolizing the ark, the business day is framed by the borders of Torah and prayer.

If the crown were grafted onto the show-able itself, meaning if we relied simply on reminding ourselves as we go through our day that our success is G-d made, we would eventually tarnish and lose the crown. For the crown to survive, we need to graft it onto the border that rings the table. When our devotion to G-d is framed by Torah and Prayer, then we know it can last.[5]

Two Columns

Every week, twelve loaves were baked for the showbread. These loaves were set upon the table’s shelves, six shelves on one column and six shelves on the other. Just like it had two crowns, the show-table had two columns of shelves, one was not enough.[6]

The two columns remind us to never take ourselves too seriously. The first column represents our efforts and success. The second column represents the context in which we operate. The people with whom we interact and the G-dly purpose that we serve.

When we think only of ourselves, we are doomed to unhappiness. No matter how successful we might be, we would find ourselves staring at the bit of success we wanted and did not achieve. If we made three big sales in a day, we would hound ourselves for dropping the fourth.

The same is true on the other side. If we get into an automobile accident and ruin our car, we act as if our entire day has been ruined. If we were traveling to another city and missed a meeting due to air traffic delays, we behave as if life has taken a major blow. We fail to stop and take a broader look at everything around us. When we focus on the one column that represents our ambitions and efforts, we forget all about the second column which represents G-d and the rest of the world.

If I made three sales and dropped the fourth, there must be a plan. Perhaps that fourth sale was set aside for another business person who also needs to feed a family. If I got into an accident and hurt my arm, thank G-d, my back is okay. Thank G-d, I still have a family. Thank G-d, I am still alive. If I missed my business meeting and failed to make a profit, there must be a good reason for this that I simply don’t know. Everything is for a reason. All is according to plan. It is a humbling, but liberating thought.

If something goes right, we don’t grow haughty, knowing that our greatest successes are all part of G-d’s larger plan. On the other hand, if something goes wrong, it is fortifying to know that it is for good reason. We work at repairing the damage, but we don’t berate ourselves for the occurrence.

A man once complained to the Lubavitcher Rebbe that he works long hours and earns little. The Rebbe made an acute observation. If you spend more time each day studying Torah, you will need to spend fewer hours at work. If you donate more money each day to charity, you will earn more money at work.

The gist of the story is to remember that we don’t live in a vacuum. Other people share our world and so does G-d. our achievements are not amazing and our failures are not the end of the world. There are two columns to every story. Not just your side. There is also another.

This reminds me of a saying by Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa. A Jew must always have two pieces of paper in his pocket. On one he should write, “the world was created for me.” On the other he should write, “I am but dust and ashes.”[7] Having these papers, said Reb Bunim, is not the trick. The trick is to know when to pull out which paper.

[1] Babylonian Talmud, Yuma 82b.

[2] Resplendent in power, he had to remember at all times to be humble and fearful of G-d. Deuteronomy 17:19.

[3] Exodus 25:24-25.

[4] Rashi says it was one crown mentioned twice. Others say it was two crowns.

[5] Drash Moshe by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein on this verse.

[6] Leviticus 24:6.

[7] Babylonian Talmud Kuiddushin 82a and Sanhedrin 37a. Genesis 18:27.

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