Seeing in the Appropriate by Hillel Hochsztein


My grandfather, Professor Isaac Chavel, pointed me to a very intriguing Meshech Chochmah regarding the creation of the Aron, the Ark of the Covenant. The Pasuk states, “VaYa’as Betzaleil Et HaAron,” “And Betzaleil made the Ark” (Shemot 37:1). Though a seemingly ordinary statement, the Meshech Chochmah, Rav Me'ir Simchah HaKohein of D’vinsk, claims that the syntax of the aforementioned Pasuk is different from the description of any other vessel made for the Mishkan. Betzaleil is listed as the sole creator regarding only the Aron. The Meshech Chochmah explains that Betzaleil is mentioned as the only creator because no one else in history would create an Aron. Not only would the Aron be hidden after the destruction of the First Temple, but another set of Luchot would never exist and thus would never require an Aron.

It is understandable to suggest that no one else would ever need to make a second Aron. However, why would Betzaleil not receive any assistance in making the Aron? The answer, as the Meshech Chochmah explains, can be best described through a story. When the enemies entered the Kodesh HaKodashim after desecrating the Beit HaMikdash, they saw the Keruvim embracing each other intimately. Aghast, they assumed that “the holy Jews” had taken part in such inappropriate affairs, and they immediately disregarded the Keruvim. In reality, the Keruvim are supposed to represent Hashem’s relationship with Bnei Yisrael. However, the Nochri enemies were unable to get past the fact that the Keruvim’s embracing each other was intimate and seemingly inappropriate.

Thus, we can see how Betzaleil is chosen as the one and only artisan for the task of creating the Aron. While many of the other Jews, who have just sinned with the golden calf, are be unable to look past the inappropriate appearance, he is able to see beyond appearances and other foreign thoughts into the true intentions of the Keruvim. The Meshech Chochmah derived this from a Derash regarding the episode of the Cheit HaEigel. The Torah first states that Aharon and Chur try to sway the Jews from sinning. But, when the Torah states that they give in to the peoples’ demands, the only documented response is Aharon’s consent. Therefore, the assumption is that Chur is killed as a result of not agreeing. Thus, it makes sense that Hashem chooses only Betzaleil to create the Aron; Betzaleil was of a lineage that strongly opposed any Machshavah Zarah, foreign thoughts, as Chur, Betzaleil’s grandfather, vehemently condemned the construction of the Eigel. For this reason, Betzaleil alone is appointed to build the Aron.

To add to the Meshech Chochmah, it is important to explain another expression of the Torah. The Pasuk states (Shemot 36:1), “VeAsah Betzaleil VeAhaliav VeChol Ish Chacham Leiv Asher Natan Hashem Chochmah UTevunah BaHeimah Lada’at La’asot Et Kol Melechet Avodat HaKodesh Asher Tzivah Hashem,” “Betzaleil, Ahaliav, and all of the men who are intelligent and know the ways of the Avodah which Hashem has commanded the nation, will be the artisans that make the Keilim for the Mishkan.” If so, why is it that only Betzaleil is appointed to make the Aron if these men, described as extremely intelligent, are smart enough to understand that the Keruvim are not to be interpreted as they appear?

Perhaps the answer lies in the Meshech Chochmah’s wording. The Meshech Chochmah uses the words “Machshavah Zarah,” “foreign thoughts,” as his way of describing the qualities that would make someone misinterpret the Keruvim. The word “Zarah” teaches that this misconception is a threat to our Jewish principles, just like Avodah Zarah. One must be able not only to see past simple appearances to understand the Keruvim, but he must also overcome his Yeitzer HaRa to see the Keruvim in an inappropriate light. This challenge still lives on, and it is our job as Jews to learn to defeat the Yeitzer HaRa and see aspects of our life and the world in a suitable, positive manner.

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