Volume 5 Issue 19
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
The Aron Kodesh in the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, contained the most precious
spiritual gift that was transmitted by Omnipotent to mortal - the two
Luchos - the Tablets handed from Hashem to Moshe at Sinai. The receptacle
had to be worthy of the insert. It therefore had to be intricately
constructed with it symbolism as meticulously configured as its beautiful
design. The Aron consisted of three contiguous boxes of gold, wood, and
gold, each inserted in the other. It contained a golden crown bordering
it's edge and a golden cover adorned with cherubim. These angelic figures
faced each other, their wings spread, as they represented the profound love
of a nation and their Creator.
But a seemingly insignificant item which was connected with the Aron holds
perhaps the most symbolic of all the many peripheral adornments. The Torah
tells us that the Aron was to be fitted with gold plated wooden staves.
Then Moshe is told, "You shall insert the staves in the rings on the ark,
with which to carry the ark" (Exodus 25:13). The Torah goes on to state:
"The staves shall remain in the ark; they shall not be removed" (Exodus
25:14). The sages explain that the Torah is thus meting a prohibition for
anyone to remove the staves that were used to carry the ark from place to
place in the Jewish sojourn in the desert and beyond. What needs
examination, however, is the phraseology of the command. When referring
to the staves, instead of commanding, "You shall not remove them," the
Torah is seemingly prophesizing, "they shall not be removed." Why didn't
the Torah just command, "the staves shall remain in the ark; you shall not
remove them"? By stating, "they shall not be removed" it seems that
instead of talking to us - the Torah is talking to history. Can it be that
the Torah is foreshadowing the relationship between the Holy Ark itself and
the staves that carry it? What important symbolism do the staves bear that
intrinsically connects them with the Holy Ark they are meant to support?
Can insignificant staves actually become part and parcel of the arks very
During World War II many young Jewish children were harbored by a myriad of
monasteries throughout Europe. At the end of the war, the Vaad Hatzalah
sent representatives to the monasteries to try and reclaim the orphaned
children to their heritage. Many of the children who found refuge did so
at a young age and they had but a few recollections of their birthright.
When Rabbi Eliezer Silver, who was the Rabbi of Cincinnati, Ohio and a very
influential member of the Vaad, came to a particular hermitage in the
Alsace-Lorraine region of France, he was met with hostility. "You can be
sure, Rabbi, if we had Jews here we would surely hand them back to you
immediately!" exclaimed the monk in charge. "However, unfortunately for
you, we have no Jewish children here."
Rabbi Silver was given a list of refugees and was told that they were all
Germans. The monk continued, "the Schwartzs are German Schwartzs, the
Schindlers are German Schindlers and the Schwimmers are German Schwimmers."
Rabbi Silver had been told that there were definitely close to ten Jewish
children in that hermitage and was not convinced. He asked if he could say
a few words to the children as they went to sleep. The monk agreed. Rabbi
Silver returned later that evening with two aides, and as the children were
lying in their beds about to go to sleep, they entered the large dorm room.
He walked into the room and in the sing-song that is so familiar to
hundreds of thousands of Jewish children across the globe he began to sing
"Shema Yisrael Ado..." unexpectedly -- in mid sentence -- he stopped.
Suddenly from six beds in the room the ending to that most powerful verse
resounded almost in unison. "Hashem Echad!"
He turned to the priest. "These are our children. We will take them now!"
The children were redeemed, placed in Jewish homes, and raised as leaders
of our community.
Perhaps the Torah is make a powerful prophecy in addition to a powerful
regulation. The Torah talks about the peripherals that help bear the
burden of the Torah in a unique way. "In the rings of the ark the staves
shall remain - they shall never leave!" Perhaps it is a prediction in
addition to a charge.
The wooden staves that are adapted to carry the message of Torah, the
tunes, the customs, and the small nuances, are much more than gold-plated
sticks. They may not be as holy as the ark, but they will never leave its
sides. They will be remembered long after the Aron has been captured. They
will be cherished long after the golden ark has been buried. And it may
very well be that when the cherished handles of those staves, jutting ever
so slightly from the ground, are pulled from the mire, the entire Torah is
eventually raised with them.
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
Dedicated in memory of our grandmother, Chai bat Samuel Libkind This
dedication is in conjuction with her Yartzeit, by her loving children and
grandchildren, Vladimir, Zhanna, Alex & Miriam Libkind, and Sveta & Victor
Copyright © 1999 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
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The author is the Associate Dean of the
Yeshiva of South Shore.
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