In This Issue:
Rabbi Josh Kahn
Willie Roth, Editor-in-Chief, 2004-2005
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
by Rabbi Josh Kahn After an exciting trip or a special event we often like to buy a souvenir, like a T-shirt from Florida or a Mezuzah from Israel, to help remind us of the special experience. Yet, after the grandeur that surrounded Matan Torah, what "souvenir" is left for Bnei Yisrael with which to commemorate this event?
The Ramban establishes a strong link between Har Sinai and the Mishkan, claiming that the purpose of the construction of the Mishkan was to reenact Matan Torah. By building the Mishkan, Bnei Yisrael were provided with a permanent physical commemoration of the incredible experience of Matan Torah, the "souvenir" of Maamad Har Sinai. What led the Ramban to draw this conclusion? In what ways is the Mishkan similar to Matan Torah?
After the Torah tells us to collect all of the necessary goods in order to build the Mishkan, the first component of the Mishkan described is the Aron HaKodesh, the most important article of the Mishkan. The Aron's Kedushah emanated from the Luchot which were placed inside it, as well as from the Shechinah which spoke to Moshe from between the Keruvim molded at the top of the Aron. Similarly, Matan Torah centered on the Torah, along with an incredible revelation of the Divine Presence. The great concentration of the Shechinah both at Har Sinai and in the Mishkan necessitated very strict guidelines as to who could enter the holy area as well as where and when they could enter. Furthermore, there were different levels of holiness at Har Sinai, and different levels in the Mishkan. Such striking similarities inherent in the Mishkan allowed Bnei Yisrael to hold onto the experience of Har Sinai.
Based on this approach of the Ramban, it is understandable that the Mishkan and subsequently the Beit HaMikdash were great reminders of Matan Torah. But what is the present day souvenir so that we, too, can remember Matan Torah and the Mishkan?
The Gemara in Berachot (55a) quotes the following statement of Rabi Yochanan and Rabi Elazar: "When the Temple was standing the altar would atone for the sins of the Jewish people. Now, a person's table atones for his sins." Our homes, and more specifically our tables, serve as miniature altars, enabling us to achieve forgiveness for our sins. In what way do our tables atone for our sins?
Eating around our tables provides a great opportunity for our interpersonal relations to shine. This is where we host and show respect to our guests, demonstrate our care and concern for the other members of our family, and sing Shabbat Zemirot together. It is the perfect chance to showcase our Middot Bein Adam LeChaveiro, thereby bringing the Shechinah to our tables.
Hopefully, our tables also include another component of Matan Torah and the Mishkan, the Torah itself. If the Torah was the centerpiece of Maamad Har Sinai and the Mishkan, it must be prominently featured at our mini-Mishkan, our tables. The Gemara (Kiddushin 30a) quotes a statement of Rabi Yehoshua ben Levi: "When anyone teaches his grandson Torah, it is as if he himself received it from Har Sinai." The transmission of Torah from generation to generation is a reenactment of the original transmission of the Torah from Hashem to Moshe, and therefore must be an important component of our lives.
By creating a table filled with warm hospitality and Torah learning, we are also fulfilling the imperative for each person to build a personal Mishkan to help us serve Hashem on an even deeper level.
When HaKadosh Baruch Hu instructed Moshe that the Aron was to be coated with gold on the inside and the outside (Shemot 25:11), He also conveyed other important messages that we must take to heart.
Rava (Yoma 72b) extracts from this Pasuk that any Talmid Chacham whose inside is not like his outside (i.e. he is insincere) is not truly a Talmid Chacham. Ula, commenting on Rava's statement, states that such a person is not only not a Talmid Chacham, but is even considered a loathsome person! Rabban Gamliel, feeling the same way, did not allow anybody who was insincere to enter his Beit Midrash (Berachot 28a).
The Admor MiSedigorah asks a very obvious question. How could Rabban Gamliel know if somebody was insincere? Did he ask a thousand questions to find the prospective student's true self? The Admor answers that it must have been that Rabban Gamliel closed the doors for everybody. Only a person who expressed such will that he did anything to enter, and was therefore evidently sincere, was granted passage.
An authentic Talmid Chacham is one who invests tremendous amounts of time improving himself. The Beit HaLevi derives from this same Pasuk that just like we coat the Aron inside and out with gold, so too we must coat our Talmidei Chachamim from the inside and the outside. A Talmid Chacham should have what to eat (the inside), should look nice, live in a comfortable home, and have nice clothing (the outside).
We see from here how important it is not only to ensure that our leaders look presentable, but also to treat all Mitzvot with a special dignity. For example, regarding the object used to perform a Mitzvah, like an Etrog, we cannot use the item for anything besides the Mitzvah (Huktzah LeMitzvatah). Tt would disgrace the item to use it for any other purpose. Another similar and important application of this principle is giving Tzedakah. The Beit HaLevi teaches us that we should always treat poor people in a dignified manner. We have to treat the Mitzvah item, in this case the impoverished, in a dignified manner.
The Alter (elder) of Slabodka was very much bothertroubled by the Beit HaLevi's application. The reason why we must treat an indigent person with dignity is because he is a human being, endowed with a Tzelem Elokim (G-odly image), not because he is a Mitzvah object! Just as we have to respect HaKadosh Baruch Hu Himself, we also must respect our fellow impoverished brother.
The Alter uses his new premise to understand a very difficult expression of Chazal. Chazal state (Bava Batra 9a) that one who gives a Perutah (a minimum amount of money) to an Ani is blessed with six blessings, while one who merely encourages an Ani merits eleven blessings. One would think that the person who actually helps out the Ani by giving him money would be blessed more, while one who "just" encourages him receives less reward.
The explanation lies in the fact that Chazal understand the nature of the pauper. Although, the destitute person does not have any money, he is not only in need of financial help. He is demoralized and also needs people to boost his spirits to assist him with his internal problems. Chazal elsewhere (Ketubot 111b) teach us for the same reason that it is better to show the white of one's teeth (to smile) then to actually give somebody milk to drink.
As Jews, we pride ourselves in looking out for each other. Whether it is making a Talmid Chacham feel comfortable or helping a fellow Jew financially or emotionally, we always have to do everything sincerely and with a smile. Let's all strive to be like the Aron which houses the Luchot, the core Mitzvot, and be plated with gold and purity all around.
Even a great Torah scholar can fall into the trap of insincerity. Not only does the Torah demand that we be fluent in its laws, but it also requires that we be good people, sincerely caring about others. We also must have respect for those who teach and lead us, and we therefore have to demonstrate Hakarat HaTov, recognition of good bestowed upon us. Additionally, we have to support the destitute financially as well as emotionally. May we all merit to be like the Aron to be pure and gold-like on the outside, but most importantly, on the inside.
by Doniel Sherman This week's Parasha discusses the Keruvim, the figurines formed atop the Ark. The Pesukim (Shemot 25:18-20) are very particular about the construction and positioning of these Keruvim. There are several significant points contained within these Pesukim. First of all, they go to great length to show that there are two Keruvim. The first Pasuk seems to describe two Keruvim at either end of the cover, which suggests a total of four Keruvim. Therefore, the next Pasuk is needed to clarify that there is only one Keruv on each side of the cover, for a total of only two Keruvim. Clearly, it is significant that there is a pair of Keruvim.
The next important point is that the Keruvim are made from the cover of the Ark. Rashi explains that this means that the Keruvim were made out of the same piece of gold as the cover, and not formed separately and attached. Finally, the positioning of the Keruvim is important. Their wings are outstretched upward towards heaven, but they face each other and the cover of the Aron. The Kli Yakar notes these points and presents a fabulous insight into what it means to be pure of heart. He begins by defining what the Keruvim were. The word "Keruv" generally refers to an angel's countenance, but here, the Keruvim have the appearance of children. Both an angel and a young child symbolize being free of sin. The Kli Yakar continues his explanation of what one could accomplish by being clean of sin. One would be able to outstretch his arms to heaven and truly connect with Hashem. Furthermore, two individuals would also be able to face each other,
person-to-person, and stare each other in the eye, knowing that neither is hiding dark secrets and that they are both clean of heart. The Keruvim are also looking downwards at the cover of the Ark, showing that their goal is to appreciate the Torah that is contained within it.
But why specifically must there be two Keruvim? What can we learn from the pair of Keruvim that we could not have learned from just one?
There seems to be a duality which surrounds Hashem and the Torah. Beginning with creation, Hashem created pairs: a pair of genders (male and female), a pair of waters (sky and sea), and a pair of humans (Adam and Chavah). Later in Bereishit, Noach takes pairs of animals into the Ark. When Hashem commands Avraham to perform Brit Milah, the Mitzvah is geared specifically towards him and Yishmael. Two of Yaakov's sons, Yissachar and Zevulun, form a pair; one learns Torah while the other supports both of them. When the Jews are in Mitzrayim, Moshe and Aharon approach Paroh together. There must be some reason that there are often pairs of people involved in Torah and Judaism. In fact, the lesson one learns is that it takes two people, working together, to approach and understand God's Torah. One Keruv can spread its wings upward to God, but it takes both of them to face each other while facing the cover of the Ark for them to appreciate the Torah
that is contained within. This explains why we frequently learn BeChavruta, in a pair. Although one can learn alone, he will gain a lot more if he learns with someone else. Each will bring different ideas and learning capabilities to help understand the meaning of the Torah that they learn together. Therefore, it takes two individuals of pure heart, working together, to understand the Torah. Once the people learn together, they can more effectively look down into Torah while raising their arms to Hashem and develop into genuine Bnei Torah. This is the lesson of the Keruvim.
The first Keli (vessel) that Hashem commands Moshe to build is the Aron. A cursory analysis of the construction of the Aron would lead one to conclude that because of the Aron's importance in that it held the Luchot, and possibly the Seifer Torah that Moshe wrote, it was built first. Such a conclusion is definitely correct, but there is something much deeper to the essence of the Aron. The Ramban points out that in reference to the Aron the Torah uses the word, "VeAsu," "And you shall construct," in the plural, as opposed to the other Keilim and even the Badim (the poles with which the Aron was held) and the Zeir Zahav (the golden crown surrounding the Aron) which the Torah describes using the words "VeYatzakta," "VeTzipita," and "VeAsita," respectively, all in the singular. He explains that this distinction and specific emphasis on the pluralistic construction of the Aron alludes to the Mitzvah for every member of Klal Yisrael to participate
in the building of the Aron. An individual who either donated gold for the sake of the Aron or helped Betzalel in its construction would merit the Torah. Apparently, there is a specific relationship that should exist between the individual and the Aron which will result in the acquisition of the Torah. How does that work? How does building the Aron help someone acquire the Torah?
The Torah requires that the Aron and Kaporet (the cover for the Aron) be made out of Zahav Tahor, pure gold, while the Badim and Zeir Zahav require only "ordinary" gold. The Meshech Chochmah explains that this is because the Aron and Kaporet are analogous to the Klaf of Tefillin, while the Badim and Zeir Zahav are similar to the Retzuot (straps) and Batim (compartments) of Tefilin. Just like the parchment must be tanned and treated "Lishmah" (with proper intent) and if they are not the Tefillin are Pasul, so too the Aron and Kaporet need to be made out of Zahav Tahor, pure gold, for the sake of the Aron. Conversely, the Badim and the Zeir Zahav require only regular gold just like the Retzuot and Batim which Bedieved (ex post facto) are not required to be made Lishmah. There is also a clear comparison between the Klaf, which is the Keli for the letters of the Torah, and the Aron, which is the Keli for the Luchot.
Expressing a similar idea, the Ramban (Hasagot LeSeifer HaMitzvot 33) writes that there is only a Mitzvah to have an Aron if there are Luchot which need to be stored. Thus, even if the Aron were to break, Klal Yisrael would be required to build another Aron exactly like the previous one. However, if there are no Luchot, such as during Bayit Sheini when the Luchot were hidden, there would no longer be a need for the Aron. The Maharal in the Gur Aryeh explains that this is because the nature of the Aron is a "Beit Kibul," a receptacle, for the Eidut, namely, the Luchot. Thus, if there is no Eidut, there is no need for an Aron.
However, the Aron was not only the physical Keli for the Torah; its physical structure represented the nature of Torah. Rashi explains that the Aron was made out of three separate boxes: an Aron of gold on the outside, an Aron of wood inside of that, and another Aron of gold which fit inside the wooden Aron. Why couldn't Betzalel build one Aron of wood and attach golden slabs to each side of the Aron? Why did there have to be three separate levels? The Maharal first explains that because the Aron had to be made out of wood with specific dimensions (2.5 Amah length by 1.5 Amah width by 1.5 Amah height), if Betzalel were to attach gold to each side he would violate the Issur of Bal Tosif (adding on to a command of the Torah) as the length, width, and height would be greater than those mandated by the Torah. However, he then proceeds to explain that the Aron was made out of wood based on the Pasuk, "Eitz Chaim Hee LaMachazikim Bah," "It is a
tree of life to those who grasp it" (Mishlei 3:18). A tree constantly grows, just like Torah which is Klal Yisrael's constantly growing connection with Hashem. However, Shelomo HaMelech also describes Torah as "Orech Yamim BiYminah UViSmolah Osher VeChavod," "Long life in its right and in its left wealth and honor" (ibid. 16). Torah has a dual nature; on the one hand it is Orech Yamim while on the other hand it is Osher VeChavod. The Maharal explains that Orech Yamim, or Olam HaBa, is hidden while Osher VeChavod, honor and glory in this world, are revealed. And indeed the Aron expresses this idea. Just like Olam HaBa is concealed, so too the wooden Aron which represents the Torah/Olam HaBa is on the inside. However, just like Osher VeChavod, wealth and honor, can be seen, so too the golden compartments were on the outside and covered the wood on both sides.
Therefore, in order for Klal Yisrael to acquire the Torah, immediately after receiving the entire Torah the first task needed to be the building of a Keli to guard the Torah. However, because the Torah was not given just to Klal Yisrael in general but also to the individual in specific, each member of Klal Yisrael has a Mitzvah to participate in the building of the Aron, that is, a Keli for Torah. And because such a Mitzvah applies as long as there is a Torah that is needed to be stored, the Mitzvah should apply today as well. In order to acquire Torah one must make himself into a Keli that represents the nature of Torah. Parallel to the Aron, one must make himself into Zahav Tahor on the outside and Atzei Shitim on the inside. On the outside he must place himself in an environment that represents the Osher VeChavod of Torah. However, on the inside he must create a Keli that is constantly growing in Avodat Hashem and connection to Him, just
like a tree constantly grows. Once he has fulfilled his obligation to make himself into a proper Keli worthy of guarding the Torah, he can truly acquire the Torah.
Staff at time of publication:
Editor-in-Chief Emeritus: Josh Markovic
Editor-in-Chief: Gilad Barach, Jesse Nowlin
Executive Editor: Avi Levinson
Executive Managers: Shmuel Reece, Dov Rossman
Publication Managers: Ilan Griboff, Yitzchak Richmond
Publishing Managers: Chaim Strassman, David Bodner
Business Manager: Doniel Sherman
Webmaster: Michael Rosenthal
Staff: Tzvi Atkin, Shlomo Klapper, Josh Rubin, Dani Yaros, Tzvi Zuckier
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Chaim Jachter