This week the country woke up, for once, with a fresh breath of air. Instead of hearing more and more news of how the world is turning against us, we also learned of the successful rescue (or "release," according to Al Jazeera), of two of the hostages. It was a nice change to be able to speak positively about something in the news. In fact, my wife used it as an excuse to make a nice meal for dinner.
What made it even more interesting was the story of how, not so long ago, the daughter of one of the hostages took upon herself to light Shabbos candles every week, and the son-in-law took it upon himself to put on tefillin every day. This is the third such story which I have heard (and confirmed) where family members took upon themselves mitzvos in the merit of seeing their relatives released, and then actually seeing their relatives released. It's fascinating, to say the least.
May we continue to hear such good news and to hear even more such stories.
"Make a rim of a hand’s breadth around it and make a gold molding for its rim round about" (Shemos 25:25).
There are three utensils that reside in the Mishkan/Beis HaMikdash that have a "crown" of gold that goes around it: The Aron (which held the tablets of the Ten Commandments), the small Altar, which was used to offer different spices, and the Table, which held the bread that lasted from week to week. All of these were kept in the second-most holy places in the Beis Hamikdash. Each one of these represents the "three pillars of the world": Torah, Service, and Chesed. They also represent the three crowns mentioned in Avos (4:13): The Crown of Torah, the Crown of Kahuna (the kohanim did the service in the Beis HaMikdash), and the Crown of Kingship.
The Crown of Torah goes to those who struggle and toil in their learning and understanding of the Torah. The Crown of Service goes to those who try to be impeccable in everything they do, in order to serve Hashem properly. However, why should the Table get a crown? The Table represents livelihood, food, material things. To make things even more interesting, according to many commentators, the Table not only had a crown around the rim, but it also had one further down, near the base. So, out of the all the things to receive two crowns, why does the Table get it? Not only that, but how does the crown of Torah relate to livelihood and material needs?
Rav Pincus posits (my new big word of the day), that the upper crown represents those who have money - a lot of it. For those of us who are not in such situations, we don't understand the difficulties wealthy people have. As we see in the outside world, wealthy people crave more wealth. It's human nature. For somebody whose ultimate goal is to live a spiritual life, having a lot of money could be a big temptation. It's harder to give it away, even to worthy causes. One never knows who their real friends are. And, as noted, the temptation to spend more and more time to acquire more and more is a great temptation. Another issue is using money in a legal manner, both according to Jewish and secular law. So many people fail in this. So, this upper crown is reserved for those wealthy people who use their wealth properly, and who remain focused on what their true mission is in this world.
The lower crown, represents … well … us! We might not be the more financially affluent people around (and if you are, feel free to donate via PayPal 😊), so we don't have the same temptations as the wealthy do. However, we also have what to work on with our physical lives. For example, my Rosh Yeshiva once commented that the most dangerous animal in the world is a hungry man. Woe to the woman whose husband comes home hungry and dinner is not ready! That's why he always advised newly married men to always eat a small package of crackers before returning home in the evening. At least with something in his stomach, he will have more control over himself, even if dinner is not yet ready. And what do we do when we are hungry and food is served? We quickly mumble a "bracha," eat like an animal, and mumble our way through Birkat Hamazon where we supposedly thank Hashem for giving us the food. By controlling ourselves in such situations, for example, we rectify three things: One, we are making a proper bracha before eating. Two, we eat like a mentch and not like a dog. Three, we do the (Torah ordained) mitzvah of Birkat Hamazon, as fit for a servant of Hashem. This idea is applicable in all aspects of livelihood and material needs.
When a wealthy person controls and conducts himself as a Torah Jew, despite whatever temptation he has; and when a not-so-wealthy person controls and conducts himself as a Torah Jew, they both receive the crown of Kingship. He brings honor to himself, his family, and to his nation, and therefore is worthy of the crown of Torah.
Have a wonderful and quiet Shabbos.