Photo Credit: courtesy
Rabbi Aba Wagensberg.

It has been years since Harry slept soundly through the night. Horrific dreams of torture would cause him to twist and turn. Eventually, he would scream while shooting up into a sitting position and wake up to find himself covered in beads of sweat.

It was not easy being a survivor. He had suffered unspeakable physical agony and he had been eternally scarred emotionally. His entire family had been slaughtered.

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Although he had been left all alone in a very cold world, he moved to a new country, and built a new life for himself. He did pretty well in his clothing business and bought himself a house.

Eventually, he married and fathered a girl. Unfortunately, his wife passed on when his daughter was still an infant.

It was just the two of them, Harry and his daughter. The bond they shared was special. Whether it was homework, book reports, school plays, fishing trips, or swimming, they did everything together.

Sometimes at night, when his daughter was sleeping, Harry would peek into her room to check on her. If the blankets had fallen off, he would recover her. He would stroke her cheek gently and just stare at her wondering if it could be possible to love someone more than he loved her.

Well, time does not stand still. Elementary school rolled into junior high which turned into high school. After graduating, she went on to learn in a seminary in Israel. She enjoyed Eretz Yisrael so much that she decided to do shana bet.

It was during her second year when she met the young man whom she was to marry. When they returned to the States to meet Harry, he was impressed with the young man’s sterling character. After they got engaged, the bride and groom disclosed their aspiration to live in Israel. The big smile on Harry’s face disguised the tears in his eyes. “We will have to address Israel later,” Harry thought. “Now we have to concentrate on making a wedding.”

Harry did not hold back. Nothing was too good for his baby girl. The energy at the Chuppa was electrifying. The dancing seemed to last well into the night.

After the wedding, Harry took his new son-in-law to the side and said, “Look, my daughter is my only child. I cannot bear to part with her. However, to tell you not to take her to Israel with you is equally unacceptable because she is your wife. Therefore, please do me a favor. Wherever you go, build a small room for me to live in, like a guest house, so that I can be next to my precious daughter.”

This request is analogous to God’s instruction to build a Mishkan (sanctuary) for Him. God’s only daughter is the Torah. Eventually, God gave His daughter’s hand in marriage to her groom, the Jewish people.

When the Jews wanted to move on to Eretz Yisrael, Hashem said that He cannot bear to part with the Torah. However, to tell the Jews not to take her with them is equally unacceptable, because she is their wife. Therefore, God asked them to please do Him one favor. Wherever they go, they should build a small room for Him to live in so that He can always be next to His only daughter. Such is the love that God has for the Torah.

This explains why God commanded the Jews to build the Mishkan right after they said Na’aseh V’nishmah. Once the Jews accepted to marry the Torah and intended on taking her with them, God could not tolerate to be separated from her. So, He instructed them to build a Mishkan, His home, in which He could dwell and be next to her.

This is also why we find a hint to the Torah right in the beginning of the parsha. The letters of the word “Terumah” (portion), which is the name of the parsha, can be unscrambled to spell “Torah mem” (the Torah that was given over a forty-day period. The letter mem is numerically forty). This teaches us that one of the main functions of the Mishkan was so that Hashem would have a home to reside in right next to the Torah.

Today, in the absence of the Mishkan and the Beis Hamikdash, all we have left is the Torah. How can we fulfill this Divine request to build a home for God, so to speak, in order that Hashem can be close to the Torah?

One answer to this question is to build synagogues and study halls. Even in exile, they have the holiness of the Temple, and God causes His Shechinah (Divine Presence) to reside in them.

Just as we have a room below, on Earth, within which God rests His Shechinah, so does God have a chamber Above in Heaven in which His Divine Presence rests. However, there are actually two rooms that God has in Heaven. In the outer room, God cries when His children do not heed His word. In the inner room, there is only happiness because that is the chamber in which God learns His Torah.

When there are two chambers in a building, those who enter must first pass through the outer chamber and only then can he go into the inner chamber. These two Heavenly chambers teach us that one must first develop a reverence of God (represented by the outer chamber where people cry from fear), and only then can one enter the inner chamber of Torah where happiness prevails and truly understand it in a way that will last.

I find it interesting that this teaching is being taught during the month of Adar. The word “Adar” can be broken into two, spelling “Aleph – dar.” The letter Aleph, whose numerical value is one, represents God. The word “dar” means to dwell. We are being told that in Adar, Hashem dwells with us. However, Hashem will only dwell in a place of happiness and joy. This is why we are taught to be happy when the month of Adar enters. The only true happiness is experienced by those who live a Torah based life.

Hashem loves the Torah so much that it is His first preoccupation every single day. When we study Torah, it must be done with happiness and joy. Only then do we connect with God’s inner chamber Above and only then can we merit understanding the Torah. Torah study without pleasantness and song is tantamount to laws that are deemed no good.

Although a certain measure of sadness descended on the world after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, when we enter synagogues and study halls to learn Torah, we must shed the sadness and leave it outside. Then, enter with happiness and joy to study Torah. In this way, we connect with God’s inner chamber Above and benefit true understanding of the Torah.

When Rabba asked his two young disciples, Abaye and Rava, where God is, Rava pointed to the ceiling, whereas Abaye ran outside and pointed to the sky. Rabba said that both of them were destined to become great Talmudic scholars. He was right.

One explanation of this passage is that Rabba wanted to know where the Shechinah rests. By pointing to the ceiling, Rava wanted to say that Hashem can be found right here in the Beis Midrash that we are studying in, because it is a miniature sanctuary substituting the absence of the Mishkan and the Beis Hamikdash. In here, we must be happy with the study of God’s Torah.

Abaye agrees with Rava emphatically. However, Abaye’s message was that before we celebrate Torah study with joy, we must first imbibe a reverence of God. By pointing to the Shamayim (heavens), Abaye was simply saying that we must first develop Yiras Shamayim (a reverence of God). Rava was in agreeance with him as well.

Based on this, we can understand why all the topics found in the Talmud are referred to, by the Sages, as the “Thoughts of Abaye and Rava.” No other pair of Talmudic scholars (such as Reb Yochanan and Reish Lakish) merited to have the Talmud called after their names. This is because the Sages wanted to teach us that in order to master the Torah, we must possess the two qualities stressed by Abaye and Rava when they were children, Yiras Shamayim and Simchas HaTorah.

Therefore, even though the law follows Rava in most cases, we always refer to them as “Abaye and Rava.” We never refer to them as “Rava and Abaye.” This is because we are being taught that first we must imbue what Abaye stressed, Yiras Shamayim, and only then can we move on to Simchas HaTorah, like Rava stressed.

Practically speaking, let us try to spend time learning Torah in a Shul or Beis Midrash. If this is too difficult for some, then let us try to designate some time to learn at home because a Jewish home can also be considered a Mikdash Me’at (miniature sanctuary).

Set aside a certain room or a certain place at the table to learn. This place will connect with Hashem’s inner chamber Above. But, right before learning, say, “Reishis Chochmah Yiras Hashem (the first step to Torah wisdom is the reverence we must have for God). This will remind us to cultivate an awe of God.

One quick way of imbuing this reverence of God is by thinking about the vastness of the universe. We will start to feel very small, filled with awe at the world that God created.

After feeling those awe inspired chills going up and down our spines, let’s open a sefer (book) and start learning. But, let’s sing while we learn, demonstrating the sheer joy that we have.

So, may we all be blessed to spend time in our Mikdash Me-at’s, surrounded with a reverence of God and imbued with a simcha for Torah, which will be our Terumah towards the building of the Bayis Hagadol in which Hashem will be reunited with His daughter and all of His children.

Good Shabbos

A video announcement of Rabbi Wagensberg’s new book, “A Shot of Torah”

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Rabbi Aba Wagensberg, a close Talmid of Harav HaGaon Rav Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg, ZT”L, is a sought-after lecturer in institutions in Israel and abroad. Rabbi Wagensberg is the author of "Inspiring Change" (about self growth) and "A Shot of Torah" (a collection of shorter divrei Torah on the Parsha and holidays), as well as weekly Torah articles. He has created a Torah audio and video library and can also be heard weekly on the Lakewood radio station, Kol Berama 107.9 FM.