Our Sages teach us that at Mount Sinai we attained such majestic heights that, if not for the sin of the Golden Calf, we would never have needed to build a Sanctuary. That being the case, it is rather puzzling that in this parashah we are commanded regarding the Sanctuary, although the sin of the Golden Calf had yet to occur. So why are we instructed to build the Sanctuary at this point?

Nothing in the Torah is random. The construction of the Tabernacle – which served to keep God close to His people – was commanded before the sin of the Golden Calf – which distanced Israel from God – is mentioned in the Torah. God teaches us a lesson to fortify us through all life’s tests: Before a tragedy occurs, God provides the solution.

Our mother, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, often explains this teaching through a popular parable. At one time or another, through our own foolishness, or for some inexplicable reason, we find ourselves in “hot water” and feel we cannot continue. Under such circumstances, what’s to be done? We have three choices, which can be compared to a carrot, an egg, or coffee.

If a carrot is placed into boiling water, after a while it disintegrates and becomes mush. If an egg is placed into boiling water, it becomes hard and tough, but when coffee is placed into boiling water, the boiling water becomes a delicious drink. These are the choices that we all have when we suddenly find ourselves in boiling water. We can disintegrate like carrots, fall apart, and become depressed; we can become as hard as a boiled egg, tough, cynical, angry, and bitter; or we can become like coffee, converting that water into a delicious drink.

Similarly, we can transform our difficulties, our tragedies into something positive and find our way back to our Creator. God showed us the way: The Tabernacle that would bring atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf was commanded to be built before the sin of the Golden Calf occurred. Moses ascended Mount Sinai again, and beseeched God to forgive His people. Then he ascended once again to receive the Ten Commandments anew. The day the forgiveness was complete and Moses was given the Second Tablets became a Day of Atonement for all eternity – Yom Kippur.

These then, are our choices: In the face of onerous difficulty do we become “carrots,” depressed? Do we become “hard-boiled eggs,” tough and angry? Or do we convert that boiling water into something positive and create something desirable from our adversity? Learn from that experience! Move on, become wiser and more sensitive, and fulfill the purpose for which you were created by continuing to serve our Creator.

Kosher (Honest) Money

Parashas Terumah, which focuses on the building of the Sanctuary, follows the portion of Mishpatim, which, in great measure, deals with the laws of honesty and ethics. The obvious question is, “What is the connection between these two portions?”

The Torah is teaching us an important lesson. The money that we contribute must be “honest money.” We are never to rationalize or delude ourselves into believing that it’s acceptable to be dishonest or unethical in business as long as we contribute to good and just charitable causes.

This lesson is further reinforced by the Hebrew word terumah, which means “an uplifted portion.” If the letters of the word are rearranged, they spell, “hamutar,” meaning “the permissible.” Only money that is “kosher” – “honest money” – may be donated to tzedakah. Even as our goals must be honorable and noble, so, too, the means by which we achieve them must be permissible – untainted and free of corruption.

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