Terumah — What’s in The Name

Although there are several explanations in various midrashim for the word li in the phrase viyikchu li (“And have them take for Me”), Rashi, famously, simply comments “lishmi” – “for My sake” [literally, “for My name”].

On a basic level, Rashi is likely saying that, unlike general charity, which can be born of personal motives (e.g. “so that my son will live…” – [Pesachim 8a]), the terumah, or donation, for the Mishkan must be offered wholeheartedly lishmah, for Hashem’s sake.

But the word lishmi, as noted above, literally translates as “for My name.”  Which raises the possibility of another approach to Rashi’s comment.

Back in parshas Bishalach, after Amalek’s attack on the newly freed Jewish people, we find an abstruse pasuk: “For there is a hand on the throne [keis] of Yah, [there shall be] a war for Hashem against Amalek from generation to generation” (17:16).

Rashi there, echoing the Midrash Lekach Tov (and Midrash Tanchuma in Ki Seitzei), explains that the use of “Yah,” the first two letters of the Tetragrammaton, and the word keis for throne, missing the final aleph of the word kisei, indicates that: “[Hashem’s] name will not be complete and His throne will not be complete until the name of Amalek is completely obliterated.” 

According to the Megaleh Amukos (in his derasha for Purim), the first two letters of Hashem’s name represent His interaction in the higher realms; and the final two, in the lower realms. (The contention is alluded to in the pasuk “The heavens will be glad and the earth will rejoice” [Tehillim 96:11], where the first letters of the first phrase spell Yah and the first letters of the second one are vav and heh, the final two letters of the Tetragrammaton.) Amalek’s existence prevents Hashem’s full manifestation in the human realm.

The Gemara in Megilla (13b) recounts how Haman’s 10,000 silver ingot bribe of Achashverosh for the privilege of destroying the Jewish people was “pre-empted” –and Haman’s plan undermined – by the shekalim the Jews willfully donated to the Mishkan centuries earlier. .

Haman, of course, was an Amaleki, and sought to further the goal of his ancestors. But his plans were frustrated by the willful donation to holiness of his targets’ own ancestors. Thus, the terumah of the Jews in Moshe’s time were, quite literally, lishmi – “for My name” – for the goal of “completing” the Tetragrammaton.

May it quickly be realized.

© 2023 Rabbi Avi Shafran

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