Volume XVIII, No. 19
6 Adar 5764
February 28, 2004
Rochelle Dimont and family,
in memory of father-in-law and grandfather,
Rabbi Shmuel Elchanan Dimont a"h
Elie, Rachel and Daniel Rutstein
in honor of the birthday of wife and mother, Galit
Bobbi and Jules Meisler
in memory of mother Anne Meisler a"h
The Katz family, on the yahrzeits of uncle, Avraham Abba ben Avigdor Moshe
Hakohen a"h, aunt, Ettel (Etush) bat Avigdor Moshe Hakohen a"h, Yitzchak
Zvi ben Chaim Hakohen a"h, Yitzchak Isaac ben Yehuda a"h, Czirel bat
Shlomo a"h, and Sheindel Rivka bat Shmuel Eliezer a"h
This week's parashah is the first of several that are devoted to the
construction of the Mishkan / Tabernacle and its Keilim / utensils.
Rabbeinu Chananel z"l (see page 4) observes that the dimensions and
other attributes of the Mishkan and Keilim allude to various character
traits that a person should cultivate. For example:
The Aron Hakodesh / Ark, which housed the Tablets and (according to
some) a Torah scroll, was made of wood, but was covered with gold both
inside and out. This hints that a Torah scholar should be `tocho
ke'varo' / equal inside and out. In other words, his public and
private behavior and his innermost thoughts should all be consistent
with each other.
The base of the Aron covered an area of slightly less than four
square amot / cubits (i.e., 1.5 x 2.5). This suggests that a Torah
scholar should deprive himself somewhat of physical things. [Ed. note:
Rabbeinu Chananel refers to the commonly held view in pre-modern times
that creation was based on four fundamental elements: fire, water, air
The combined area of the four walls of the Aron was 12 square amot
[i.e., (2 x 1.5 x 1.5) + (2 x 1.5 x 2.5)]. This alludes to the fact
that a Torah scholar should have the 12 characteristics described in
Tehilim, chapter 15, which opens: "Who may sojourn in Your tent? Who
may dwell on Your holy mountain?" (In other words, this psalm
describes the traits required to sojourn in Hashem's tent and dwell on
His holy mountain.) [R' C.D. Chavel z"l (see page 4) suggests that R'
Chananel would break the psalm into 12 traits as follows: "(1) One who
walks in perfect innocence, and (2) does what is right, and (3) speaks
the truth (4) [even] in his heart; (5) who has no slander on his
tongue, (6) who has done his fellow no evil, (7) nor cast disgrace on
his close one; (8) in whose eyes a contemptible person is repulsive,
but (9) who honors those who fear Hashem; (10) who can swear to his
detriment without retracting; (11) who lends not his money with
interest; and (12) takes not a bribe against the innocent."]
(Peirushei Rabbeinu Chananel Al Ha'Torah)
"The poles shall remain in the rings of the Aron/Ark, they may not be
removed from it." (25:15)
R' Yaakov Kamenetsky z"l writes: The Aron represents those who study
Torah, and the poles represent their financial backers. The
prohibition to remove the poles from the Aron alludes to the teaching
of the Gemara (Pesachim 53b) that those who support Torah study will
be seated in Heaven right next to the scholars they supported.
But how can this be? R' Kamenetsky asks. In Heaven, souls "sit"
and "discuss" Torah topics. And, since Torah knowledge can be
acquired only with much toil, how will a person who spent his whole
life toiling in business (and not in Torah) take part in the
discussion with the great scholars that he sits amongst?
He explains: When a baby is in the womb, it is taught the entire
Torah. Then, just before birth, it forgets what it learned. Why?
Because, in the words of the prophet (Iyov 5:7), "Man was born to
toil." Man must toil in this world to reclaim the Torah knowledge
which he forgot at birth.
A person who toils in business during his lifetime so that he can
support Torah scholars has also toiled, R' Kamenetsky observes.
Because he has toiled for the sake of Torah study just as the Torah
scholar has, he, too, is able to reclaim his lost Torah knowledge.
(Emet Le'Yaakov: Shmot 25:15 & Devarim 33:18)
R' Pinchas Halevi Ish Horowitz z"l (18th century rabbi of Frankfurt,
Germany; author of several widely used Talmud commentaries) writes
that the entire construction of the Aron alludes to the founding
fathers and leaders of the Jewish people:
The two keruvim allude to Avraham and Yitzchak. Two times the
gematria of "keruv" equals 456, the gemtria of "Avraham" and
The Aron itself alludes to Yaakov, who said (Bereishit 28:17): "How
`nora' / awesome is this place." The letters of "nora" are the same
letters that spell "Aron." [Ed. note: In addition, Yaakov is the
Patriarch most associated with Torah study, and the Aron housed the
The four walls of the Aron allude to the twelve tribes, which
traveled in a four-sided formation. [Ed. note: In addition, as noted
on page 1, the combined area of the four walls of the Aron was 12
The two poles for carrying the Aron allude to the two leaders --
Moshe and Aharon.
Finally, the Luchot Ha'berit / Tablets of the Covenant inside the
Aron allude to Yosef because a person who guards his morality, as
Yosef did in the face of Mrs. Potiphar's seductions, is traditionally
referred to as a "Guardian of the Berit."
"You shall make two keruvim / cherubs of gold . . . (25:18)
". . . with their faces toward one another." (25:20)
The Gemara (Sukkah 5b) states that the word "keruvim" is related to
the Aramaic word for "baby," teaching that the keruvim were baby-
Regarding the second verse quoted above, the Ba'al Ha'turim explains
that the keruvim faced each other "like two friends discussing a Torah
R' Meir Rubman z"l (Israel; 20th century) asks: Aren't these mixed
metaphors? Babies don't discuss Torah topics with each other!
He explains: Every person has hidden powers far in excess of his
everyday abilities. These powers manifest themselves, for example,
when a person is in danger. A person's powers are like a
storekeeper's merchandise; a small amount is on display, and the rest
is in the back room.
Most people use only their "visible" powers, but a great person
strives to use his hidden powers. This is because the typical person
feels no need to strive for greatness, while a select few do. Indeed,
this is one way to differentiate between a "regular" person and a
The lesson of the baby-faced keruvim who face each other like
friends engaged in a Torah discussion is that every person, even if
his powers are hidden like a baby's, can bring out his full potential
and achieve greatness, just as a person who is engaged in a Torah
discussion with his friend uses all of his intellectual powers to
prove his point.
R' Shimon Sofer z"l (19th century rabbi of Krakow, Poland) offers
another reason why the keruvim were baby-faced. The appearance of the
keruvim teach us that one should approach the Torah as a baby relates
to his father, not with preconceived notions and faith in our own
knowledge, but as completely blank slates and with trust in the
Malbim (19th century) writes: The two keruvim were on the cover of
the Aron, which held the two luchot. Thus, one of the keruvim covered
one of the Tablets, and the other covered the second.
On one of the luchot were engraved five obligations of man to G-d;
on the other were engraved five obligations of man to his fellow man.
One of the keruvim represents the kohen gadol, whose role is to
inspire man to perform his obligations toward G-d. The other keruv
represents the king, whose role is to enforce man's obligations to his
The two keruvim faced each other, to teach that Israel's political
and religious authorities should work together.
(Quoted in Sha'ar Bat Rabim)
R' Chananel ben Chushiel z"l
Rabbeinu Chananel was among the earliest of the Rishonim, the Torah
scholars of the era when Babylonia lost its special status as the
preeminent center of Torah study and halachic decision-making.
R' Chananel's father, R' Chushiel, had been one of the "Four Captives"
-- Italian Torah scholars who were kidnapped by pirates and ransomed
by Jewish communities around the Mediterranean Sea. After his ransom,
R' Chushiel settled in Kairouan, Tunisia, where he died in about the
R' Chananel studied under his father, and succeeded him as dean of
the academy in Kairouan. R' Chananel is best known to us for his
Talmud commentary, which abridges the Talmudic text and interweaves
the comments of prior generations. Many later commentaries, including
the Tosfot, quote from R' Chananel's work. (It appears, however, that
Rashi did not have access to this commentary.) On many tractates, R'
Chananel's commentary is printed in the margins of the Gemara itself
alongside Rashi and Tosfot.
Although we do not possess a complete Torah commentary by
R' Chananel, his interpretations of verses are frequently quoted by
other commentaries, notably, Ramban, Rabbeinu Bachya and R' Yehoshua
ibn Shuib. In the 20th century, R' Chaim Dov Chavel z"l gathered
these fragments into a work that he called Perushei Rabbeinu Chananel
R' Chananel had no sons, but was survived by nine daughters
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