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Zera Shimshon on Parshas Terumah

דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ לִי תְּרוּמָה מֵאֵת כָּל אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ תִּקְחוּ אֶת תְּרוּמָתִ

The midrash comments on this pasuk … It is written in another pasuk (Mishlei 4:2), “ki lekach tov nasatti lachem torahsi al taazovu—That I gave you a good lesson, don’t forsake the Torah.”

Zera Shimshon asks the obvious question: What point is the midrash trying to get at? Is it just pointing out that not only is a form of the verb, “lekach” written in our pasuk, “vahyikchu li terumah,” but there is also another pasuk in Tanach that uses a form of the word, “lekach?” Or is it asking a question? If it is asking a question, then we have to understand what the question is, and what is the answer?

Zera Shimshon explains that the midrash was really bothered by two questions, one on our pasuk and one the pasuk in Mishlei, “ki lekach tov nasatti lachem” and understanding the question in our pasuk, we will understand its usage of, “lekach” in Mishlei.

What are these questions and what is the answer?

In our pasuk, the phrase “vayikchu li terumah—take for Me my donation” is problematic because “titnu li terumah—give Me My donation” is a more straightforward way of expressing the idea of giving a donation. Similarly, the wording in the pasuk, “ki lekach tov nasatti lachem torahsi al taazavu” is also difficult to understand. The word “lekach” implies something that was acquired, like the pasuk, “Ki yikach ish ishah—When a man acquires a woman, while the word “nasatti—I gave,” implies that Hashem gave the Torah as a present. It would have been more correct if it was written either, “ki matan tov nasatti lachem—a good gift I gave to you,” or “ki lekach tov macharti lachem—a good acquired object I sold to you.”

Zera Shimshon explains our pasuk, “vayikchu li terumah,”—in light of the Gemara in Nedarim and in Chulin—that at the time of the Bais Hamikdash, tzaddikim did not consecrate an animal that they wanted to sacrifice right when they decided to bring a korbon and they were still in their houses. Rather, they only chose the animal that they wanted to sacrifice and then brought it to Yerushalayim, and only there—when they were already in the Bais Hamikdash—did they halachically consecrate it.

The reason for this is that they were afraid that they might accidentally use the animal and commit the aveira of meilah (using or benefitting from hekdesh). This—explains Zera Shimshon—is what the pasuk alludes to when it wrote, “vayikchu li terumah—take for Me a contribution” and not “give me a contribution (vayitnu li).” The word “take” implies that one takes something that he already had somewhere and he takes from there.

Give, on the other hand, doesn’t presuppose anything, only that he gave it. The pasuk therefore uses the term, “vayikchu li—take for Me” to warn the people not to consecrate the materials that they bring for the building of Mishkan the right away. Rather they should designate what they want to give, bring it to Moshe and only then be makdish (make it holy) it. Like this, they would not be able to misuse something that is kodesh! Acquiring the Torah is also a two-step process.

The Gemara explains that when a person learns a portion of the Torah and understands it, it is considered as if he is the owner of that piece of Torah. However, when a person begins to learn a section in the Torah, it is still considered to be Hashem’s. Zera Shimshon explains that the reason for this is that if Hashem would give the Torah to a person right away, if he wouldn’t follow up and learn it properly, it would be as if he is misusing it and it would be a type of meilah. If this would be so, then a person who doesn’t have the capability to learn deeply, it would be as if he is misusing hekdesh!

Therefore, only after a person works to understand the Torah does Hashem give it to him and only then is there the obligation to learn it! The simple person who is not capable of learning, since he never learned the Torah properly—never acquired the Torah—and, therefore, he is not misusing the Torah, since he never had it in the first place!

Zera Shimshon continues that this two-step process which is needed to prevent misuse of the kedusha of the Torah, is alluded to in the pasuk, “ki lekach tov nasatti lachem torahsi al taazavu—That I gave you a good teaching, don’t forsake the Torah.” “Ki lekach tov—Because a hard-earned lesson,” meaning that the person acquired it through the hard work of learning, “nasatti lachem—I gave you, since you worked at it hard, I (Hashem) gave it to you.”

Concludes Zera Shimshon, this then is the meaning of the midrash; from the pasuk, “vayikchu li terumah” which alludes to the fact that tzaddikim are concerned of misusing items that are designated for the Mishkan and Bais Hamikdash and they only make it hekdesh when they are already in the Bais Hamikdash. We can understand from here that the Torah is only given to people after they work hard and learn it, so they will also not misuse the kedusha of the Torah.

In short, Zera Shimshon asked: What is the intent of the midrash that links the pasuk, “ki lekach tov nasatti lachem torahsi al taazavu—That I gave you a good lesson, don’t forsake the Torah with the pasuk, “vayikchu li terumah?” He answers that in both pesukim, the word whose root is, “lekach” is used improperly. For example, in the pasuk, “vayikchu li terumah” which means “take for Me terumah,” it would have been better if it would have been written “titnu li terumah—Give me terumah” and with the pasuk, “ki lekach tov nasatti lachem” the word “lekach” which implies “something bought,” doesn’t seem to fit it with the next word “nasatti” which implies that “it was given as a present.”

He explains that the reason why it is written, “vayikchu li terumah” instead of “titnu li terumah” is to allude to the tzaddikim who would bring sacrifices to the Bais Mikdash before they are consecrated (made hekdesh), so they would not misuse the holy object. This is also the reason why Hashem gives the Torah only after one acquires it by learning hard so the kedusha of the Torah would not be misused, and this is the reason that the midrash has linked these two pesukim together.

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