In this week’s Parsha, the Torah shows us the importance of the Aron, as it is the first and most prominent holy article in the Mishkan. More Pesukim are devoted to the Aron than to any other holy article. The Midrash expounds on this and shows that just like the Torah came before everything else, so too in the building of the Mishkan, the Aron came before all of the other holy articles. The Aron’s prestige is clearly seen as we examine the Pesukim that describe it.
The Parsha concerning the Aron starts with the Pasuk, “And they shall make an Ark of שטים wood; 2½ cubits shall be its length, 1½ cubits its breadth, and 1½ cubits its height” (25:10). Many Meforshim ask the following question: Why use the words, ועשו ארון, “and they shall make an ark,” instead of, עשה ארון, “make an ark.” The Torah uses the third-person plural version instead of the second-person singular version of the verb “make.” Why write this command in plural when the rest of the instructions, starting in the next Pasuk, "And you shall overlay it (וצפית) with pure gold” (25:11), are written in singular?
The Midrash quotes Rabbi Yehuda in the name of Rabbi Shalom who says that when the Torah writes ועשו in plural, it is coming to teach that all of Bnai Yisrael were instructed to occupy themselves with the Aron to qualify for receiving the Torah. Ramban infers from Rabbi Yehuda’s statement that all of Bnai Yisrael should participate in the building of the Mishkan because of its sacred role in housing the broken Luchot. However, if one was unable to directly help build the Mishkan, one should donate money to the Mishkan, help Betzalel, or think about the construction of the Mishkan.
The Ohr Hachaim gives a more elaborate explanation of every Jew’s involvement with the Mishkan. He mentions the concept of labor division in all that was necessary to fulfill the Torah’s words. Each person has a part to play. “The change of the wording from third person plural to second person singular illustrates that the essence of the Torah can only be fulfilled by Bnai Yisrael as a whole. No single individual can perform all of the laws of the Torah. For instance, the Kohen does not perform a Pidyon Haben, a Yisrael or a Levi cannot bring Korbanot, etc. As a whole, however, Bnai Yisrael can keep the entire gamut of Jewish observances. For this reason, the Torah states ‘They shall make an Ark.’”
The Ibn Ezra gives a much simpler interpretation. He says that the Torah was simply continuing the wording used earlier: ועשו לי מקדש, “They shall make Me a sanctuary” (25:8). Another explanation, given by the Baal Haturim, is that since the Luchot are housed in the Aron, one must build an ark for them. The physical Aron, into which the Luchot are placed, is symbolic of the internalization of Torah within each member of Bnai Yisrael. Why was the Aron the first item that we were commanded to construct? To teach us that a person should begin each day by learning Torah before he proceeds to his work.
One can see the importance of the Aron and its relevance to every Jew’s life. We were commanded to construct the Aron before we were instructed to construct anything else to teach us the very valuable lesson that we should begin the day by learning Torah. This is very important, as everyone should make a set time to partake in the study of Torah every day.