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D'var Torah by Dr. Kalman Stein, Head of School

Dr. Kalman Stein, Head of School

Dear Hebrew Academy Community:

The following is a Dvar Torah that my son, Rabbi Noam Stein, wrote for his school several years ago.

Many people, certainly many adolescent students, experience an internal conflict between the need to conform to outside standards and the desire for independent self-expression. For religious people who recognize the binding nature of Halacha, this conflict can be even more pronounced. 

Our society deeply values individual expression; Halacha demands conformity of action from us in almost every area of life. At the same time, of course, Halacha does allow some room for individual expression. 

The Terumot—donations-- to the building of the Mishkan, described at the beginning of this week’s Parasha are models for balancing these needs. In two Pesukim at the beginning of the Parasha, the word Terumah is mentioned three times. Rashi comments that each refers to a different type of donation. The first is a set donation: Each person is required to donate the same weight of silver which is designated to be used for the construction of the Adanim that form the base of the Mishkan. The second is also a set donation: Everyone was to contribute a set amount to the fund for the purchase of the animals for the daily sacrifices. For the third Terumah, however, people were to donate “whatever their heart is motivated to donate.”

The basis of our religious life must be conformity to the Halachic guidelines that direct us to proper service of God. Our daily routines must be centered around conformity to the will of God. However, beyond that, there is room for each of us to find the religious expression that motivates his/her heart and to connect to God using the inclinations that make him/her unique. In this way, each of us can use the mitzvot and halacha as a basis on which to build our individual connection to God. 

Shabbat Shalom.

Dr. Kalman Stein
Head of School

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