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, saytates 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 real Talmid Chacham is someone who spendinvests tremendous amounts of time workimproving on himself. The Beit HaLevi learnderives 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 disgracinge 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 minuteimum amount of money) to an Ani is blessed with six blessings, while one who merely encourages an Ani meritss 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 innerternal 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[ACL1] .
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 fuall 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.
-Adapted from Peninim MiShulchan Gavoha and Itturei Torah