By Rabbi Aron Tendler
In this week's Parsha, Moshe instructed the Bnai Yisroel in the design and
construction of the Mishkan. The building of the Mishkan was in direct
response to the sin of the Golden Calf. So long as the Jews had not sinned,
G-d's constant caring and direction was open and overt. However, once the
Jews lost faith in G-d's and worshipped the Golden Calf, G-d secreted His
control over the universe within the laws of nature.
Before the sin of the Golden Calf G-d's reality was self-evident and obvious,
similar to the way it was in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Chava sinned.
After the sin of the Golden Calf the nation had to work and sacrifice in
order to reveal G-d's presence, similar to the way it was after Adam and
Chava sinned. After the Jews repented for the sin of the Golden Calf, G-d
consented to partially reveal Himself within the midst of the people.
However, the manner of His revelation would be limited to within the
structure and service of the Mishkan. "…Make Me a sanctuary so that I can
dwell in their midst." (25:8)
Many of the commentaries explain that the Mishkan's stated purpose, "So that
I can dwell in their midst," really means, "in their hearts." As it says,
"In my heart I will build a Mishkan, for the sake of the glory of His honor."
G-d originally intended that there not be a Mishkan or a Bais Hamikdash.
G-d wanted that every person's actions would radiate the awareness of His
presence in all instances, without the need of a Mishakan. (Sforno) Once the
Jews lost their capacity to personally reflect G-d's presence, the Mishkan
replaced what we should have each been. Therefore, our capacity to recognize
and display G-dliness must be symbolically represented through the various
components of the Mishkan described in Terumah and Tizaveh.
In this week's Parsha, the basic structure of the Mishkan, as well as the
Aron (Ark), the Shulchan (Table), the Menorah, and the Mizbeach (Alter) are
described. These constituted the primary vessels needed for the daily
functioning of the Mishkan. These were the primary tools needed to reveal
G-dliness in the universe. Each of these vessels is related to ourselves and
our lives, and provides direction for integrating and evincing G-d within the
family and society. Let us explore some of the Aron's symbolism.
The "box" containing the Luchos and the Broken Luchos were kept, was
constructed of three concentric boxes. The outer and inner boxes were made
from pure gold, and the inner middle box was made from acacia wood. The
assembled boxes were covered with a single pure gold cover, the Kapores, upon
which the two Cherubim stood. Around the perimeter of the outer gold box was
a rim that acted as a raised border to contain the Kapores. The Torah
describes this rim as a "crown." The Cherubim were winged figures, one
adorned with the face of a boy and the other with the face of a girl.
Permanently attached to the sides of the outer golden box were two Badim -
carrying poles. (see page 447, note 17-22, Stone Edition)
Occupying the holiest place in the Mishkan, the Aron was the focal point of
the Mishkan. "I will commune with you there speaking to you… from between
the two Cherubim…" (25:22) The key function of the Aron appears to be how G-d
communicated with us and how we were to communicate with Him. Note that on
the one hand all prophecy emanated from between the Cherubim. (Rashi 25:22)
On the other hand, all of our prayers are directed toward the Holy of Holies
and the space between the Cherubim.
The Aron symbolized our most prized human characteristic, our intellectual
capacity to understand G-d, and our ability to communicate that understanding
to others. As humans, we are the only creatures endowed with the ability to
willfully communicate with G-d. All other creatures have an intrinsic
awareness of G-d, but they are incapable of willfully expressing that
awareness. With our capacity to understand and communicate, we are able to
willfully acknowledge G-d's constancy and dominion. This is consistent with
our place and purpose in nature. Nature as a whole manifests G-d's hidden
presence. Our job is to reveal G-d's presence. Therefore, all other
creations silently reflect G-d's presence through the manner of their
existence. We, on the other hand, must actively reveal G-d's presence by
communicating our understanding through our words and our actions.
The most effective way for recognizing G-d's hidden presence is to develop an
ongoing relationship with G-d. The more intimate our relationship, the
greater will be our awareness and understanding. Note: The Torah uses the
word "to know" to describe the most intimate relationship between a husband
and wife. As is true with all relationships, there must be communication
between G-d and us. The more intimate the relationship, the greater the need
for communication. Likewise, the more we communicate with G-d, the more
intimate our relationship with Him will be.
It is extremely significant that G-d chose to "speak" to us from between the
two Cherubim who were molded with the faces of a boy and a girl. There are
few experiences as revealing of G-d's profound interaction in the laws of
nature as having and raising children. First of all, the actual process of
childbirth is miraculous. During childbirth a mother is at the complete
mercy of the laws of nature and G-d. A woman is completely dependent upon
G-d's participation in the miracle of birth. Regardless of the significant
advances in medicine, the birth of child reveals G-d's presence in the world.
As the famous expression goes, "There is no atheist in the delivery room."
However, our real participation in the miracle of birth, is after the child
is born. Cell division and DNA are G-d's domain; child rearing and education
are our domain.
This week's Parsha clearly tells us that the greatest potential for revealing
G-d in the world is through our children. By raising children in an
environment that is filled with devotion to G-d and His Torah, we guarantee
society's continued awareness and understanding of G-d. It is through our
children and future generations that G-d communicates with society.
Likewise, it is through the manner in which we raise our children and future
generations that we communicate with G-d. If we value our relationship with
G-d we will do everything possible to share Him with our children.
Sharing G-d with our children involves two basic approaches. 1. The
teaching of Torah. 2. The teaching of Halacha - Jewish law. It isn't
enough to simply learn Torah. Torah must be experienced, and the experience
of Torah can only be explored through the limits of Halacha. Torah study
without imposed limitations, demands, or expectations is nothing more than an
intellectual exercise in the theoretical existence of the Divine. Torah
study alone will not create an intimacy with G-d that transcends place and
time. If we are to share G-d with our children, we must share our
relationship with G-d. Therefore, we must do everything possible to teach
them Torah through the experience and limitations of Halacha that constitutes
our relationship with G-d.
A few years ago, Rabbi Matis Sklar Shlita explained that the "crown" around
the top of the Kapores represents the limits that the Torah imposes on our
lives through Halacha. Likewise, my Father Shlita explained that the family
unit is the syringe that G-d created in order to inject proper values
(revealing His presence) into humanity. The Aron represents the Torah. The
Cherubim represent our children and the family unit. The "crown" represents
the limitations of Halacha. Our responsibility is to communicate our
awareness of G-d to our children by the way we integrate the limitations of
His law in our life. In so doing we create generations of teachers who will
fulfill G-d's promise to Avraham, "And through you and your children will be
blessed all the nations of the earth."
Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi Aron Tendler
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation,
Valley Village, CA.