Hello Everybody,

It was on the first morning of my snowboarding trip, at about 8:30 AM that I realized I need some more stretching in my life. I was sitting on the floor with Kenny, a ski/ snowboard instructor, preparing for my first day out in Beaver Creek, Colorado. He was showing me all the various stretches that would prepare my body for the torture of steep, fast mountains, and hard long wipeouts (falls). While he calmly grabbed his toes with his elbows, I couldn’t even straighten my knees in most positions. I was as limber as a flagpole, so I contented myself with touching my knees with my fingers, (oooh, yeah, I feel that stretching, that’s past my limit, I don’t want to hurt myself)! I contented myself with the famous saying, “If G-d wanted me to touch my toes, He would have put them on my knees.”

Then I suited up in my new gear, and headed out. The sun was shining, the birds chirping, the sky was a deep blue, and the snow stretched out before me like white ribbons of bliss, just waiting for me to carve them up. The sound of my board slicing through the hard packed snow, was more beautiful than the first movement of Sonata in C by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, (which is what I am listening to as I write, and is quite spectacular)! The hours ran by faster than steroid filled baseball players, and before you know it we stopped for lunch.

I had my traditional snowboard food, a sandwich of marshmallow fluff and peanut butter smushed out of shape by sitting in the cargo pocket of my snowboarding pants all morning and three bottles of Powerade. As we sat eating lunch, looking out at the mountain dotted with skiers, I remembered my first day of snowboarding. 

I had been an expert skier, but decided to change to snowboarding when I was eighteen, because it seemed much “cooler,” which at eighteen was pretty important to be. In order to ensure that I would stick to snowboarding I went out and bought all the gear, without ever having tried it before (cost: somewhere north of $800). The first day I rode was in mid-November, and the only thing open in the whole East Coast was an intermediate trail in Killington, VT, with almost no snow cover, lots of mud, gravel, and other unidentified terrain. In my first three hours, I broke a pair of glasses, cut open my face, and spent most of my time lying on the floor looking at inferior skiers zooming by, and thinking “if I only had a pair of skis, I could outski you back to the Stone Age!”

Finally I succumbed to getting a lesson, as hopefully that would preserve whatever was left of my face, glasses, and pride. The most important lesson I learnt from my instructor was that you always should look exactly where you want to go. Somehow, when you look to a certain point, your body follows and makes the right moves to get you there. So when I turn heelside (left), I need to look at an exact spot further down the mountain to my left, and if I do, I usually will make it there. When I go toeside (right) it’s the same thing. Look at where you want to go and you will get there. One of the biggest mistakes budding snowboarders make is that when they panic, they look down and true to the rule they follow where they are looking, and then they go down fast and hard. 

This lesson has helped me carve up mountains from Vermont to Canada, Montana to Alaska, Colorado to the Swiss Alps. The terrain changes, but the rule remains the same; know where you are going, look to your destination and your body and board will follow through. 

The same rule happens to apply to learning how to drive on the highway. If you try to look down to the road immediately ahead of you, you will start drifting out of your lane, but if you look off into the distance to the place you want to go, you will follow through and stay the course. 

The lesson we learn from this is pretty self evident, and it is that this rule extends to driving down the highway of life as well. In life, if we want to grow, to change a habit, to change a part of our personality, to go from point A to point B, we need to keep our eyes and mind focused on the destination. Often, we will hear a little voice trying to convince us to look down, to get frightened by the speed we’ve accumulated, to look for places to stop and sit down for a while. Sure enough, we look down, we get frightened, and we fall. Other times the little voice simply tries to convince us to look at anything but the path we are trying to blaze. But then our drive and energy get sidetracked, because we lost our focus. The little voice tries anything to get us to look away from where we truly want to go, to keep us with the status quo, to keep our change quotient down to a minimum. But our job is to ignore it, to constantly keep sight of the destinations we have set for ourselves, and to watch as our body and soul follow the direction of our focus to the place we want to go.

So let’s remember that Golden Rule in life and snowboarding; know where you want to go, look toward where you want to go, and you’ll get to where you want to go, whether it be a euphoric life, or a swift exhilarating line down a steep mountain face!

Parsha Dvar Torah

In this week’s Torah portion, Terumah, we read about the construction of the Tabernacle and most of the vessels that were in it. We find an interesting phrase regarding the instructions for the menorah. When describing the making of the menorah the Torah tells us, “You shall make a Menorah of pure gold, hammered out shall the menorah be made” (Exodus 25:31). The commentators ask why it says “shall the Menorah be made” instead of saying, “shall you make the Menorah” which indicates that it was not made by Moshe?

The Medrash tells us that Moshe had a difficult time understanding how to make the Menorah which was extremely complex and had all sorts of decorative cups, knobs, and flowers. So G-d showed him an image of it in fire, and he still couldn’t figure out how to copy it. Finally G-d told Moshe to simply throw the gold ingot into the fire, and miraculously the Menorah emerged fully formed. Hence, the menorah was made, although not by Moshe. But this leaves us with a question. Once G-d saw that Moshe could not make the Menorah unaided, why did he make him work on it again with a fiery image without success, and only after that allow him to throw it into the fire? Why didn’t G-d save Moshe the bother and the failure, and simply make it miraculously first? 

The Sfas Emes, the second Rebbe in the Gerrer dynasty (1847-1905, Poland) answers this question with a fundamental lesson. Many times we are faced with a challenge that is simply too difficult. We struggle and struggle and then suddenly we have a Eureka! moment and it all works out. That is G-d giving us a hand from above, pushing us across the finish line. However that only happens if we force ourselves to the limit of our capacity. If we quit early, we will miss that final push from above, and we may never make it through the finish line.

That is what happened with Moshe and the Menorah. First he tried, and it didn’t work. G-d gave him another angle, and he had to work at it. Finally after Moshe tried his hardest every which way, he was given the big push that got the job done with ease.

It is empowering to know that this is the way G-d operates with us. Sometimes we work really hard on a project, on fixing a character flaw, on bettering a relationship etc. and we hit a point that we’re ready to give up. But now we know that if we just push a bit harder, and really max out our effort in this area, we may just get that big push from above that will push us across the finish line!

Parsha Summary

In this week’s portion G-d asks the Jewish people to build a physical dwelling place for the Divine Presence. The Sages tell us that the real goal is that we each build a Tabernacle inside ourselves, but that the building is the physical expression of that idea, and one we can relate to much more easily. The Jews were asked to donate the many different materials with which the Mishkan (the Tabernacle), its vessels, and the holy vestments for the Kohanim would be made. 

The items the Jews were asked to bring were: gold, silver and copper, turquoise, purple, and crimson wool, fine linen, goat’s hair, red-dyed ram’s skins, tachash skins, acacia wood, oil, spices, and precious stones. G-d tells Moshe that He will show him a model of the Tabernacle and that the real one should be built exactly like the prototype. 

After that, the Torah begins to detail the design of many of the vessels. The ark was made of three boxes, the outside and inside ones of gold, and the middle one of wood. On top of the box was a special lid that had two childlike forms with wings engraved onto it. There were four rings in which poles to carry the aron were placed and, specifically regarding the ark, the Torah stipulates that the poles were never to be removed.

The Table was a vessel used to hold twelve loaves of showbread that were placed there for a week at a time, from Shabbos to Shabbos. The table was made of gold-plated wood and had a small crown-like ornament rimming it. It had a special system of poles and supports so that the showbreads could be held up properly.

The Menorah had to be carved out of one block of gold. It was about 70 inches tall and had one central mast with three branches leading off to each side. It was heavily adorned with sculpted flowers, knobs, and decorative cups.

The building itself was made of dozens of wood planks covered in gold and held in place by silver sockets. There were also gold plated wooden bars that held them together. There were two heavy tapestries covering these planks. The inner one was made of twisted linen woven with turquoise, purple, and scarlet wool and was held together with golden hooks. The outer one was made of a more simple material, woven goat’s hair, and was held together with copper hooks. The Sages tell us that this teaches us that a person’s home should always be more beautiful on the inside than on the outside. (Please note: There are so many lessons taught from everything in the Tabernacle, but space doesn’t permit me to list all of them. However, please discover these gems for yourselves!)

The altar was a hollow rectangular cuboid (the width and length were the same, the height was not) made of wood and covered with copper. It was filled with dirt. It had protrusions at each of the top corners that were exact cubes, netting surrounding it like a belt, and a protrusion in the middle that was large enough to walk on. Leading up to it was a long ramp, as no steps were allowed on the altar (see the end of Parshas Yisro). 

Finally, the courtyard was swathed in a white linen sheet which was held in place by wooden pillars with copper sockets. The pillars had bands of silver going around them, and they held up the material with silver hooks. If it sounds like a beautiful place, that’s because it was one. May we all merit to see the rebuilding of the Temple, and may we once again have a place on earth where G-d’s Presence can reside in all of its Glory!!!

Quote of the Week: Other people’s eggs have two yolks. – Samuel Fremont

Random Fact of the Week: Signs such as those that state “Not Responsible for Your Car or Its Contents” carry no weight in court; they are posted simply to discourage people from pursuing any legal action.

Funny Line of the Week: I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it…

Have a Swell Shabbos,

R’ Leiby Burnham

Print this article

Leave a Reply