[Don't forget to see the Halacha Encounters below!]Rabbi Shmuel Shapiro
Rashi quotes a midrash that says the mention of the word terumah three times at the beginning of the parshah refers to three different types of terumos, or donations.1)The one half shekel per head, which were used to make the silver sockets. 2)One terumah for the mizbayach (altar) consisting of a half shekel for the collection to buy community sacrifices, and 3)one terumah for the mishkan, where each person donated what he desired to give.
Why, asks the Maharal in his commentary on the Chumash, did the Torah need to allude to all three terumos if only the third – that of the donations of the mishkan – is explained?
To answer this, the Maharal expounds on the significance of the three terumos. Chazal teach that the building of the mishkan atoned for our involvement in the sin of the Golden Calf. Participation in this sin involved three distinct aspects of each person: his body, soul and monetary assets. By believing the calf had real substance we sinned with our minds and souls. By serving it we involved our bodies; and we used our gold and our wealth to form it.
Being as all people have equal shares of the first two, body and soul, each person was obligated to give a uniform half shekel for each. One half shekel would be for the sacrifices whose sole purpose as the torah stateses is “to atone for your souls,” Another half shekel would be melted and used for the silver sockets which supported the structure of the mishkan, just as a person’s physical body supports his intellect and spirit. These two half shekels form one unit just as body and soul are the two halves of each person. (The Maharal, in his classic way, delves even deeper. There are three partners in the creation of each person, says the gemara. They are one’s father, his mother and HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Ten physical components are given collectively by one’s parents, and ten spiritual components are bestowed by G-d. (When a person dies, Hashem takes His portion and only the portion of his father and mother remains…) That is the deeper meaning of the pasuk which says “the shekel consists of twenty gera, half of a shekel shall be terumah for Hashem.”)
The third terumah was unique. Unlike body and soul with which all humans are endowed, some people have a lot of money and others much less. The Maharal then asks an incisive question. If this terumah is to atone for the money of each individual, each should be obliged to give in proportion to his assets. How then can men of great wealth be allowed to give a lesser gift and men of lesser means give a bigger donation?
The Maharal answers that those who have a lot, and yet are stingy with their money are not considered men of wealth. An ashir is someone with a generous eye and heart; he is so overflowing with blessing that he shares it with others. (You can only be generous if you feel you have enough yourself.) One who is possessive is really lacking, regardless of what he actually owns.
We can only count as wealth the assets which satiate a person and bring him contentment with his lot. The Torah recognized this and obligated us to give in proportion to our generosity rather than our actual assets.
Rabbi Ari Friedman
Take a look around in shul and you will surely notice that a number of people have a silver adornment attached to the top end of their tallis known as an “atarah.” Most of the other taleisim, while they might not have a silver atarah have some sort of material sewn on to the top as well. The source for this custom is actually found in our parsha which seems only to deal with the complexities of building the mishkan. The pasuk says, “You shall set up the mishkan “k’mishpato” - according to its manner. The Yerushalmi says that this alludes to an extra detail which must be adhered to. When the k’rashim – planks of the mishkan were set up, they were numbered so that the planks that were on the northern side of the mishkan and merited to be near the shulchan should always be set up on the northern side. Similarly, the planks which were set up on the southern side and merited to be near the menorah should always be set up on the southern side. This rule is known as “ma’linb’kodesh v’ein moridin”- items or individuals which enjoy an elevated status may not be removed or lowered from their position but only raised to an even higher status. Based on this lesson, the Magen Avraham writes that one should put an atarah on his tallis so that the tzitzis which are worn facing the front of the body should not be worn at another time facing the back of his body. Another reason to always wear the tallis the same way is that the end of the tallis which covers the head is considered more significant and should not be turned around and worn on the lower part of the body. When one has his tallis marked with an atarah it serves as an indication as to which way the tallis should always be worn. This comparison of a tallis to the mishkan is questioned by some who claim that the rule of “ma’alim b’kodesh” may not necessarily be applied in all cases. Indeed, the Arizal did not follow this custom of wearing an atarah. Some object to the custom of wearing an atarah, claiming that beautifying the head of the tallis may give the impression that the tallis is meant primarily to cover the head when in fact an article of clothing meant to cover the head is patur from tzitzis. The Sefer Levush therefore praises those communities whose minhag it was not to wear an atarah. To address this issue some talleisim are made with an additional atarah made of silver or some other material along the middle of the tallis (which covers the body) to stress that the tallis is meant to cover the body as well.
Despite the doubts and objections of some, it has become the minhag of the majority of k’lal yisrael to adorn tallis with some sort of an atarah.
Many, especially those with Chasidic leanings have the custom to wear either a silver or more elaborate atarah on Shabbos than on weekdays. This is based on the Magen Avraham, who writes that just as we wear nicer clothing on Shabbos, one should wear a special tallis on Shabbos as well.
1 Shmos 26
3 Orech Chaim 8-6
4 See Shut Beer Moshe 5-3, 4 who writes that this second reason would only apply to a tallis gadol whereas the first reason would apply to a tallis katan as well
5 Sefer Bikurei Yaakov Hilchos Succah 630-16 and Mor Uketziah 10
6 Quoted by Magen Avraham. This is also the Minhag of Chabad.
7 10 see Eliyahu Rabba there
8 Sefer Artzus hachayim – Malbim 8, Darkei Chayim Vhashalom – Munkatch Tzitzis 36. See also Aruch hashulchan who rejects this as well.
9 Magen Avraham 262-2, Minhag Yisroel Torah – Tzitzis 8-5