Friday, March 3, 2017

Dvar Torah for Parshas Terumah

       After receiving the Torah, the Bnei Yisrael obtained the ability to connect to Hashem on a much deeper level. Through the study of the Torah and keeping its laws, they could come closer to Hashem and build a relationship with Him. And with all that, they were now given the opportunity to build the Mishkan, which would house the Shechinah of Hashem in their midst. This was the central location that the whole nation would turn to as a place of worship and experiencing the Presence of Hashem in their lives.
       Beginning with this week’s parsha, Parshas Terumah, the next several parshiyos detail the construction of the Mishkan, including its structure, utensils, and everything else that went with it. This week, I would like to discuss the Aron, the Golden Ark. While we have discussed it in previous years, there is a specific idea I’d like to focus on which shows us the depth behind every detail of the Mishkan’s construction.
       “בְּטַבְּעֹת֙ הָֽאָרֹ֔ן יִֽהְי֖וּ הַבַּדִּ֑ים לֹ֥א יָסֻ֖רוּ מִמֶּֽנּוּ“The staves shall remain in the rings of the Ark; they may not be removed from it” (Shemos 25:15). Like each of the major utensils of the Mishkan, the Aron had poles placed on its sides so it could be easily carried through the desert. However, unlike the other utensils, the pasuk tells us the poles of the Aron were never to be removed; Rashi says forever. This shows us that they were not simply for travel convenience. What was the true purpose behind these poles?
       There are several explanations in the commentaries which I will bring in chronological order. The first comes from the Da’as Zekeinim. The Aron was the holiest of all the utensils used in the service of Hashem. No one was allowed to look at it because of its extreme holiness. It was kept in a room called the Kodesh Hakedoshim, the Holy of Holies, in which no one was allowed to enter except for the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur; the holiest man on the holiest day of the year, and only after much preparation. When the nation traveled, it was kept under a covering before any of the movers went in to carry it out. It follows that Hashem didn’t want anyone needlessly touching or jostling the Aron; and the people probably were afraid to do much around it anyway! Therefore, the poles were to remain in place so that people didn’t have to physically handle the Aron more than necessary. They would pick it up when they left and put it down when they arrived with no extra actions needed.
       The second explanation comes from Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsh. He first mentions that as no one ever entered the Kodesh Hakedoshim, it was hard for the presence of the Ark to impact the nation since it was never seen! The poles helped solve this. Both in the Mishkan and later in the Beis Hamikdash, the poles would press against the curtain separating the Kodesh Hakedoshim from the adjoining room. Anyone who was outside the room could see the impression of the poles and remember that the Aron was inside the next room.
       He goes on to say another explanation. The Aron, Menorah, and Shulchan each symbolized a different idea benefiting the Jewish People. The Aron represented Torah. Rav Hirsh explains that the poles were kept in the Aron to show that the Torah can be transported to wherever the Jewish People go. While the Shulchan and Menorah represent material sustenance and intellectual clarity, those brachos are only complete when the nation resides in Eretz Yisrael. The bracha of Torah, however, is not bound to Eretz Yisrael and can be studied and used as a source of spirituality even when the nation resides in exile.
       (Chazal teach us that there is no comparison to the Torah of Eretz Yisrael, and I don’t believe Rav Hirsh is arguing on this point. There is a unique kedushah to Eretz Yisrael that allows Torah to be studied on an incredible level, unmatched anywhere else in the world. However, the connection to Torah is a personal one, unrelated to locale. This is unlike material and spiritual life which is only complete when living in Eretz Yisrael.)
       Finally, Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky explains based on a gemarah in Pesachim (53b) that whoever supports Torah learning will sit together with those who learn it in the World to Come. By telling us to never remove the poles, the supports of the Aron, Hashem is showing us that this is indeed true. The supports are one with the Aron itself and therefore remain connected to it forever.

Shabbat Shalom!  

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