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Parshas Terumah - My Holy Household Utensils      7 Adar 5781

02/19/2021 12:29:43 PM


Well, it is that time of year again when the spring-cleaning, aka Pesach cleaning, gets underway. If not for my wife, we would need to rent out a few fifty-foot-long storage containers to mass the collectible junk accumulated over the past three decades. I have come to realize that a hoarder looks at their ‘’stuff’ as nostalgia, while a ‘normal’ person confronts it as junk. As we pass through the different ages and stages of life, happily picking up new things, we shed the old. I do perceive this issue to be a bigger challenge nowadays than  a generation or two back.

I was thinking back to the first residence I lived in and wondered how we managed with such limited space. As I travelled back further into the recesses of my memory, I gathered we did not have an abundance of things. But I do recall certain unique items or utensils that were in vogue back then. For me, even though I no longer have those utensils, I have still retained the memories and warm feelings of these items recalled from my past. I will share a few of those unique utensils, especially the kitchen gadgets and containers along with other items as well.

We had a few items that were camouflaged as pieces of furniture. The television that sat in the living room was encased in a large piece of furniture that had mini sliding doors which closed to cover up the screen. The record player was also enclosed in a piece of furniture, encasing the motor completely within one half of its box while  the records were placed on the turntable housed on other half. When not in use, a  piece of wood was slid over the record side, displaying a rectangular piece of furniture on legs. In the kitchen were either four or six ceramic mini bowls which  my mother used to make vanilla and chocolate pudding. These were never used for anything else. I vividly remember putting the bowls, filled with hot, freshly-made pudding, on the window ledge during the winter to quickly cool down and gel  in time for us to inhale. This dessert was only served after our dairy dinner of the week, always on Thursday nights. Corn-on-the-cob was another food that had unique holders made up of two mini fork-like prongs for poking into each side of the cob. The holders  came in different designs; our happened to be in the shape of a cob of corn. Finally, we had dedicated grapefruit spoons. The specially-designed spoons had a wooden handle and at the end of the metal spoon were ridges that could dig into the grapefruit to scrape all the pith along with the pulp. This spoon came with a small matching knife to cut through the slices of a half-cut grapefruit. This knife would cut around the circumference and then cut the natural contour of the slices.

Every utensil had a specific role and function, and we would never dare use it for something else other than its intended purpose. These items were ‘holy’ and therefore were treated with special care and consideration. But it was far more than these particular utensils that defined and characterized my family. There were many other items, each of which had something special to add to the makeup of the house in which our family lived.

It goes without saying that each member  of a family – the parents and each of the children - together contribute to the environment and flavor of the house and its contents. The physical world is the abode and environment for family life; this applies to the spiritual realm as well. The physical house that represents the entire Jewish family was none other than the Mishkan/Tabernacle, the portable Temple that would eventually be exchanged for a permanent residence for God in the Beis HaMikdash.

Our ancestors went down to Egypt as a small family, but left as a nation with the Torah as our mandate; this family now required a place for the ‘King’ to reside and be close to His subjects. This week’s Parshas Teruma takes a sharp turn away from the people as a nation and its laws so as to focus on our nationhood by creating a Sanctuary for the King.

Rashi in Shmos 25:2 says, ”There were thirteen things which are mentioned in this reference (the materials to build with) and all of them were required for the work of the Tabernacle or for the vestments of the priesthood, if you will closely examine them.” Others calculate fifteen items that were necessary to build the Mishkan as a spiritual sanctuary for Hashem in this world. Rav Chaim Volozhin in his work Nefesh HaChaim (Shaar Aleph Perek Daled) explains that the Mishkan and later the Beis HaMikdash gathered and contained all the forces of the universe and the order of sanctity. All the rooms and the holy utensils were replicated from the model in heaven.  "בצלם דמות תבנית העולמות הקדושים"   “in the image of His likeness there are holy worlds”, referencing a sanctuary mirroring heaven and earth. All the materials used in the construction and the function of the finished products brought us up a rung in the ladder to heaven. These physical items, when used in a spiritual manner, will bring more holiness into the world. These same words are used in third bracha of Sheva Brachos, the seven blessings recited for a bride and groom under the chuppah and for seven days after their wedding. We shower blessings upon the newlywed couple to have what it takes to build a Jewish home known as a "בית נאמן בישראל"  “A true home in Israel”.  The third bracha is "אשר יצר את האדם בצלמו, בצלם דמות תבניתו, והתקין לו ממנו בנין עדי עד"  “Who fashioned the Man in His image, in the image of His likeness, and prepared for him – from himself – a building for eternity”. The way to create an eternal Jewish home is through having physical utensils  used in a spiritual manner.   

The message of replicating the sanctuaries of heaven and earth can be seen in our own homes. We, too, have dedicated utensils that can elevate our homes to climb the rungs of holiness. It is important to remember that the blessings of Sheva Brachos is the core connector for each newlywed couple, and the reminder to all of us as we grow through the love and commitment of bringing up and treasuring our families, how to reach and accomplish the goal of the eternal Jewish home. Keep in mind that all the cute knick-knacks and utensils are to be used in our sanctuary where we, too, have the ability to have Hashem reside within our home just as He does in His home.

Ah Gutten Shabbos,

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Tue, September 28 2021 22 Tishrei 5782