1.         What verse opens the parsha –what is so not unique about it, that it thereby special as a result?  What does the verse mean?

A:   “And Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying”
This is by far the most common verse in the Chumash.
Rashi explains that the extra ‘saying’ at the end is not redundant, rather it means that the following material which Hashem to spoke Moshe, He then commanded him to say over to the nation.  Rabbi Hirsch and the Maharal and others explain the difference between the two forms of speech – speak {D-B-R)  and saying (A-M-R). The first refers to a concise, detailed, intense speech, while the second indicates a softer, more elaborated, more general and pleasant speech.

2.         What is the title of the parsha?  What does it mean? Is it used in other contexts?

3.         How does this explain what is bothering Rashi here? And is there a common meaning?
TRUMAH  – It means a portion set aside. Usually it refers to the portion given to the Cohen  (from produce, e.g. challa is a type of trumah).  The literal meaning of the word is to raise.  Here the raising is not physical, but spiritual, in that one must raise their heart in order to generate the magnanimity to donate generously.  This is indicated by the verse which says ‘from each man whose heart will propel him’.
The Jewish people are also called Trumah  – “The premier of Hashem’s crops”  – as Rashi quotes on the first word  in the Torah Bereishis.
4.         Where did all the stuff in the parsha come from?  More particularly, where did they acquire it all?  E.g. cedar trees. – not so common in a desert.

Much was given to them by the Egyptians when they pressured them to leave Egypt.  Others were collected at the sea from the booty of the Egyptians Hashem tossed into the sea.
The sink and pedestal were made from the mirrors of the women, which they used to try to encourage their husbands to continue with normal marital life when the Egyptians decrees had become so harsh on the people and on their babies. The Egyptians took their children from them and if they knew they were expecting they would do their best to watch them and snatch the Jewish babies. This would in turn make the husbands uncertain if they should have more children and in the end continue their marital life.
We have a tradition that the trees began from Yaakov, who prophesied that his children would build a Mishkan upon their redemption, and thus brought Cedars down to Egypt and commanded his descendants to guard them until their redemption.

5.         What is the etymology of the term Mishkan – and how does this reveal its purpose and essence?

SH-CH-N –  Which means to dwell, and the same word as neighbour and neighbourhood, is also the same root as Shechinah – or the manifestation of Hashem’s presence in this world.
Of course since the Hebrew language is not a product of colloquial usage, but rather an a priori creation used as the building blocks to synthesize the rest of creation, this connection obviously reveals a fundamental relation.
You have probably figured out now that the Mishkan is not just another distinguished palace, or the Jewish TajMahal, or comparable to any other extraordinary edifice for that matter.  Perhaps the Garden of Eden would be the best comparison, for like the Mishkan, it is a place designed as a physical forum for man to inhabit, in which Hashem’s presence would be constantly and palpably revealed, more than any other place on this earth. In other words, it served as a touc hpoint between Heaven and Earth, and served to perpetuate peace and Shalom Bayis between the two poles, and gave us all, while still in our corporeal states, an opportunity to draw very close to our Tattie up above, and to experience the awesomeness of the Creator with a capital C.
The fact that we find it quite strained to cry on Tisha B’Av, goes to show us how little we appreciate what we have lost, and how much we have accepted our underdog/scapegoat role in the world today.

6.         Did Hashem ‘speak’, so to say, in the Mishkan?  From where?

Yes.  A voice came down from Heaven, and sublimated into an audible form on top of the ark, from between the Cherubs inside the Holy of Holies, and from there emanated outward through the rest of the Mishkan, but stopped there (like a physical entity simply stops), and was not heard at all in the courtyard beyond.

7.         Which and how many strands were in the threads for the Mishkan covering?
One strand of Flax, and three (turquoise, purple, and scarlet) of wool, were each spun together sixfold and then twisted together, making a georgeous 24 strand weave.


8.         How makes the best nut-nest cookies?  Bubby-Mom    Are they a patchka? YOU BET!   Are they worth it?  YOU BET!!!  (well, at least they are for the lucky eaters)

9.         How many coverings did the Mishkan have – what were they?  Are there any which cannot be replicated today?

4-layers. : First the woven one we just discussed (before the cookie break)
Second   – goats hair above that.
Third:    Dyed-red ram skin cover
And the fourth which cannot be replicated today, because it was made from the hide of an animal called Techash – which are brilliantly colorful, but only existed then.
In truth, there is a dispute in the midrash, whether the 3rd and 4th were separate, or composed a single layer.

10.       How was the Aron (Ark) constructed?  What can we learn from the way its composition was made to appear?

Three open rectangular chests, all inserted into each other like a babushka doll.  The outside and inside were gold, and totally concealed in the middle was the wooden layer.  One idea that there needed to be a wooden box, even though it was never seen, is because Torah is compared to a tree, which is alive and which gives life.  Secondly, that a Torah scholar should be beautiful and honourable on the outside, yet humble inside, and not heavy or burdensome on the laity.

11.       What was in the Aron?

Both the intact and broken sets of tablets (of the Ten “statements”)  as well as a Torah scroll.

12.       What was on the Aron? Where was the Aron placed?

A golden lid out of which was also constructed the two angel-children-cherubs, with their wings coming upwards.    The Aron was the only item which inhabited the Holy of Holies, demonstrating the unparalleled sanctity and unfathomableness of the Holy Torah.

13.       What was unique about the Menorah, and therefore so difficult that Hashem had to help make it?

It was to be made out of one piece of gold, with no soldering or welding. There are many explanations as to why this was so perplexing even for Moshe – so everybody go and find your treasure.

14.       Which vessels had ‘crowns’? why?

The Aron, the Shulchan (Table – where the bread offerings lay), and the Altar.
The Crown of the Aron represents Torah and Jewish wisdom.
The Crown of the Shulchan represents royalty and the Davidic Dynasty.
The Crown of the Altar represents the priesthood (Cohen)
The Mishna teaches that  there is another crown which exceeds all three, and that is the crown of a good name – which is represented by the magnificent Menorah.

15.       How many holy days do we have this week? Which and when?

Rosh Chodesh (each begin the evening before, of course.  Jewish women have traditionally taken this on a significant holy day, and many are accustomed to refrain from doing such labors as laundry  (which takes good planning ahead when it is a double Rosh Chodesh, and the family is big)- But it is not like Shabbos or Yomtov at all, whose prohibitions are absolute, and originate from the Torah.
The third is the premier day of holiness and closeness to Hashem we experience (especially now that a mosque sits in the place our Holy Temple) – and because it comes so often we often forget its preciousness (sort of like family, or your health)  SHABBOS

16.       Is there anything we should be developing, or focusing on at this time?

Adar is a time for simcha, and what was originally an ominous time for the Jewish people, was revolutionized into a time of triumph and exaltation for our people by virtue of our faith and restrengthening our commitments in the Purim event.  Also to build up to the true, internalized and actualized simcha we hope to reach on Purim (as opposed to a foolish drunkenness), we need to start now  – as the Rambam says to serve Hashem with joy is one of the greatest tasks of a Jew, and many say even more challenging than serving with love or with fear.