And you shall make an ark cover of pure gold, two and a half cubits its length and a cubit and a half its width. And you shall make two golden cherubim; you shall make them of hammered work, from the two ends of the ark cover. And make one cherub from the one end and the other cherub from the other end; from the ark cover you shall make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall have their wings spread upwards, shielding the ark cover with their wings, with their faces toward one another; [turned] toward the ark cover shall be the faces of the cherubim… and I will speak with you from atop the ark cover from between the two cherubim that are upon the Ark of the Testimony, all that I will command you unto the children of Israel. (Shemos 25:17-22)
It’s really quite surprising and even alarming on some level. Inside the Kodesh Kedoshim, the Holy of Holies, the Heart of the Heart of the Mishkan were to be found two golden cherubic, childlike figures. Through them prophecy would be transmitted! What’s that all about?!
I once heard from Rabbi Nota Schiller, the Dean of Ohr Somayach in Israel, that there is a huge distinction to be made between being “childlike” and “childish”. He said that Gedolim are often childlike, because they are filled with golden goodness, and they project purity and innocence. They are naturally happy, endlessly curious, filled with wonder, and refreshingly transparent. Gedolim are not just great in Torah knowledge but they are like a vigorous tree, healthy to and from the core, approachable and surprisingly normal.
What’s “childish”? Somebody once said that if a child does not break dishes when they are young then they will break dishes when they are older. If this identity crisis is not eventually cured then it will lead to a prolonged adolescence and after that it just may morph into a case of terminal midlife crisis. Childishness is born from a quest for a happy inner child that often leads to person on an endless search and thirst for outer validation and attention.
There’s a condition that I call “The Citizen Kane Syndrome”. It’s based on the story line of a 1941 movie. The play begins with an old time movie reel, a sort of post mortem biography of a successful and wealthy man, Citizen Kane.
After giving an overview of the magnitude of his estate and the reach of his power, the camera zooms in on the last moments of his life. There he lay breathing his last and as he expires he utters, “Rosebud” and then a crystal filled with fake snowflakes falls from his hand and shatters.
The next part begins with a few curious reporters who are determined to find out who was this mysterious woman in his life named Rosebud. The film then flashes retrospectively to a young boy and his mom living in a little shanty of a home. The poverty of their existence and the struggle of this single mom to provide basics is abundantly clear.
In one critical scene the boy is out on his sled enjoying the thick snow, when two men show up and quietly explain something to the mother. She reluctantly grants them permission to something.
Then the two men approach the boy and in the struggle for control they take his sled and throw it forcefully to the ground. Apparently his rich uncle had died leaving him the sole heir and controller of a huge industry. The mother could not resist the temptation to send him, even against his will, to have the opportunity for a “better life”.
Narrative follows him through the vicissitudes of his business and personal life. As time goes on his financial success and influence expand beyond imagination, while his private life is a series of broken relationships and failures. In the end he dies a lonely man with a snowy glass ball clutched tightly in his hand and “Rosebud” on his lips. In the final scene these two fatigued reporters standing there in the mansion, after having thoroughly reviewed all his life, express their frustration and despair at ever finding out about Rosebud.
The camera is now trained on group of workers who are busy throwing items of little value from the estate into a large bon fire. As the reporter had just finished stating, “Well, I guess we’ll never know who that woman Rosebud really was!” a sled is tossed into the inferno and there painted is bright red letters is the word “Rosebud”. As the sled burns the letters curdle and the credits roll!
That’s childishness, while childlike is the essence of the essence of the Holy of Holies.