Greetings from the holy city of Jerusalem!
The second verse of this week's parsha is:
"Take for Me a donation [to build the Sanctuary]." (Exodus 25:2)
According to the Midrash (Shmot Rabba 33:1), this clarifies the verse in Proverbs, "For I have given you a good possession, do not forsake My Torah" (Proverbs 4:2). The Midrash continues by explaining that God told the Jewish people: Do not forsake the possession that I gave you [Torah]. Sometimes, when people go to purchase precious items, a particular item will contain gold but not silver, or silver but not gold. But the possession that I gave you contains not only silver - as it says, "The words of God are pure words, like purified silver" (Psalms 12:7), but also gold - as it says, "They [words of Torah] are more desirable than gold and greater than the finest gold" (Psalms 19:11).
We might wonder how the Midrash can compare the holiness of the Torah to mere silver and gold, which, after all, are only material items. Doesn't the sanctity of Torah far exceed the value of even the most precious physical objects?
The commentator Ohr Gedaliyahu explains that Torah is all-inclusive. When an object is made up of many parts, we don't view the whole object as merely a compilation of its component details; rather, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. For example, a beam of light is made up of many different colors. These different colors can be individually distinguished when light is focused through a prism. But light is not merely a combination of different colors; it is something much greater than that. The general qualities of light cannot be understood from its component colors alone.
This example will help us to understand why the Midrash refers to the Torah as "silver AND gold" as opposed to just "silver" or "gold." We can learn from this phrasing that Torah is inclusive of every possible detail. It contains everything. Moreover, on a deeper level, the Zohar (Trumah 161b) teaches that "God looked into the Torah and from there created the world." In other words, every physical manifestation in the world stems from a spiritual source in Torah. Just as Torah contains silver AND gold, so does it contain the essence of every other attribute and object in the physical world.
GOD IS GOLD
This idea, on a concrete level, means that the silver we are familiar with in the material world is in fact a physical expression of "spiritual silver." This spiritual silver is love of God. We see a hint to this in the Torah when Lavan confronts Yaakov and says, "You have left because you yearned greatly (nichsof nichsafta) for your father's home" (Genesis 31:30). The root of both these words is kesef, which means "silver." The sense of yearning and longing for a beloved person or place is the spiritual side of silver. In essence, our desire to possess physical silver stems from a deep desire to have a loving relationship with God.
Gold, as well, has a spiritual counterpart. Spiritual gold is fear and awe of God. The verse teaches, "Gold comes from the north" (Job 37:22). "North" can refer to the uppermost part of the body: the head. Inside the head is where wisdom resides, and the verse tells us, "The beginning of wisdom is the awe of God" (Psalms 111:10). We can learn from this chain of correlations (gold comes from the north, north refers to the mind, the mind is the place of wisdom, wisdom is called awe) that gold is associated with awe of God. Again, our desire to possess physical gold stems from a deep spiritual desire to develop fear and awe of God.
The example of the beam of light that the Ohr Gedaliyahu mentioned above is a particularly appropriate description of Torah. The Baal HaTurim notes (Exodus 25:10) that the letters of the Hebrew word for Ark, aron, can be rearranged to spell the word oran, meaning "their light." This is not merely a play on words; the Ark houses the Torah, hinting to us that the Torah itself can be considered light. Furthermore, the letters of aron can also be rearranged to spell the word nora, meaning "awesome" or "overwhelming." The all-inclusiveness of Torah is awe-inspiring, and through its light, we can come to serve God in totality and completion.
613 BODY PARTS
Torah is not the only vehicle for achieving completion in Divine service. The Mishkan (Tabernacle) that this week's parsha discusses in minute detail is also greater than the sum of its parts, and can inspire us to serve God in totality. The Zohar and the Midrash Ne'elam both state that the 613 parts of the Mishkan directly correlate to the 613 parts of the human body. For example, the Menorah corresponds to the eyes; the Table that held the showbreads corresponds to the mouth; the incense Altar corresponds to the nose, and so on.
We would do well to learn the message of the Mishkan and join all 613 parts of ourselves together in order to serve God in totality. Although it is critical to pay attention to guarding our speech, or seeing only good in others, we must not get so absorbed in the details of self-growth that we lose sight of the big picture.
This is why the Midrash connects the donation to build the Mishkan and the verse in Proverbs, "Do not forsake My Torah." Both the Mishkan and the Torah are composed of many details, yet both are far more than the sum of their parts. The goal is integration. When all the disparate elements of ourselves join together and form one complete unit, we can serve God in totality.