Terumah: You Must Remember This

Terumah means more than "donation".

Rabbi S. Weiss,

Judaism לבן ריק
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Arutz 7

Terumah, "donations" - we certainly know that word. We Jews are inundated with dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of requests from every conceivable corner to donate to this cause or that. Ever since the plea went out in our parsha to furnish the Mishkan (Tabernacle), contributing to a communal cause has been part and parcel of Jewish life.

Yet, I want to suggest that the term terumah means more than "donation," and goes beyond silver and seal-skin, coins and copper. Oh, no. Terumah is a lot more than that.

Consider, if you will, a pasuk in next week's sedra of Tetzaveh. Aharon and his sons take part in an elaborate inauguration ceremony, during which numerous and varied offerings-sacrifices are brought. And then the Torah says (29:28): "It shall be for Aharon and sons an eternal statute from Israel, for it is a terumah; and it shall remain a terumah from Israel, their terumah to G-d."

Three times - in the same pasuk - the word terumah is used, and all in the connection of sacrifice and offering. Not just a contribution - like the spare change we take out of our wallet - but something apparently deeper and much
Terumah is not just writing a check. It is about what we stand for.
more personal; more valuable to us than pocket money.

What is this pasuk telling us about the nature of terumah?

So, I go to the "from all things one must learn department". The movie Casablanca is one of the all-time great films ever made. Richard Blaine, the expatriate owner of Rick's Bar and Casino, is approached by Victor Laszlo, a resistance leader opposing the Nazis. Laszlo is stranded in Morocco and desperately seeking transit visas so he might escape to the West to continue his work.

At first, Rick is resistant and cynical, unwilling to help. "Why do you go on fighting?" he finally asks Victor.

"Why?" says an incredulous Laszlo. "You may as well ask why I go on breathing! If we stop breathing, we die. And if we stop fighting for what we believe in, then we let the whole world down."

Rick - himself a former anti-Fascist activist - relents and, well... You know the rest (or you must see the movie).

But here is the point: terumah is not just writing a check. It is about what we stand for and what we believe in, what we as Jews offer to the world: a spiritual ideal and a path to G-d; and a bulwark against Amalek - be it in the form of Nazism or Islamic radicalism.

If there is ignorance, we Jews provide light and enlightenment. And if there is evil, we are at the forefront of doing relentless battle with it, even at the risk of great personal sacrifice. That is our great national terumah and if we fail to offer it, if we stop fighting, then we let the whole free world down.

'Here's looking at us, kid.'