In this week’s Parashah, the Torah describes the building of the various objects that are housed within the Mishkan. Of course, the highlight of this Parashah is the building of the Aron, the heart of the Mishkan and receptacle for Hashem’s Shechinah. When describing the construction of the Aron, the Torah states, “VeTzipita Oto Zahav Tahor MiBayit UMiChutz Tetzapenu VeAsita Alav Zeir Zahav Saviv,”“You shall cover it with pure gold, from inside and outside you shall overlay it and you shall make a gold rim around it” (Shemot 25:11). The Torah commands us to cover both the inside and outside of the Aron with gold. Would it not have been more succinct to merely state to cover the Aron with gold, from which we would infer that both the inside and the outside should be gold-plated? This point is especially interesting, because the Torah stresses brevity, and thus, any extra words within it must have meaning. On a related note, why does Hashem not command Moshe to construct the entire Aron out of gold? With both the inside and outside covered in gold, nobody would be able to see the wood hidden within.
I believe that this question can be answered if we view the Aron as a lesson as to how we should live our lives. As most of us know, gold is considered a symbol of that which is good and precious. For the Jewish people, nothing is more precious than the Torah. David HaMelech writes that the words of the Torah are, “HaNechemadim MiZahav UMiPaz Rav, UMetukim MiDevash VeNofet Tzufim,” “More desirable than gold and a lot of precious gold, and sweeter than honey and the honeycomb” (Tehillim 19:11). Therefore, the gold on the Aron symbolizes the beauty of the Torah contained within it.
Although we all know the true beauty of the Torah, it is often difficult to live a life in which we are appreciative of our daily commandments. There are many Jews who lead a pious life in public in order to impress their fellow Jews, yet are less admirable in their private dealings, convinced that they are unobserved. These people are sadly forgetting the fact that, “Shiviti Hashem LeNegdi Tamid,” “I have set Hashem always before me” (Tehillim 16:8), regardless of whether other human beings are with them. On the other hand, there are those who cannot find the courage to do what is right in public, succumbing to peer pressure and following the crowd. It is only when they are alone that they can find the strength needed to do what they know to be right. The Aron informs us that this cannot be the case. Our actions must be the same, both in public and in private. When a Jew is in his own privacy, he must remember that Hashem is watching him, aware of all that he does. When in public, a man must remember that Hashem will watch out for him, providing he follows in Hashem’s ways.
While this may explain the reason for the gold on the inside and outside of the Aron, it does not explain the need for a wooden interior. What does the wood in the center of the Aron represent? Perhaps the wood in the inside of the Aron teaches us the importance of humility. A Jew might behave properly both in public and in private, but he should never consider himself to be as glorious as gold. Just as the Aron has a humble center, so too, a Jew must remain humble, for if he does, it is a sure sign that he is covered in gold.