And when it [the Aron] rested he would say, return, Hashem of the many thousands of Israel” (Bamidbar 10, 36)
“Relating that the Shechina does not rest in Israel on less than twenty-two thousand individuals.” (Rashi, ad. loc.)
What is the significance of twenty-two thousand?
The Maharal explains: “For the beginning of all is the Torah, the Torah was created first, and the beginning of the Torah is the twenty-two letters of the Aleph Bais. It is known that Hashem Yisborach joins together primarily to the beginning. When Israel is twenty-two thousand, corresponding to the twenty-two letters that are the beginning of the Torah, Hashem unites with them, and the Shechinah rests in Israel.” (Chidushei Aggados, Babba Kama 83a)
G-d is the origin of all life, and two other elements are consistent reflections of the Divinity at the heart of creation; the holy alphabet that is the source of G-d’s word, and the B’nai Yisrael that are the worldly basis of His presence.
The journey of the Aron HaKodesh is the vehicle by which this sanctity is revealed to the world.
Let us explain.
Following the lead of Moshe Rabbeinu, we refer daily to certain G-dly traits – HaGadol, HaGibor, V’HaNora.
Our Sages describe a time when we refrained from citing these terms.
“Came Yirmiah who said: Gentiles are crowing in his sanctuary, where is His Nora? He didn’t say Nora. Came Daniel who said: Gentiles are enslaving His sons, where is His Gevura? He didn’t say Gibor. Came the Anshei K’Nesses HaGedolah who said: On the contrary, this is His Nora, were it not for the Nora of Hashem how else can one nation survive among the nations? (Yoma 69b)
The purpose of creation is the revelation of G-d’s unity. The Bais HaMikdash, the Divine sanctuary, lit up the world, illuminating all existence with the presence of Hashem. After the destruction of the Temple, the prophets sensed the gaping void, and ceased referring to a G-dly characteristic that had been removed from the world.
But the Sages of Torah SheBa’al Peh see the world in a different light, sensitive to the hidden nature of Divine providence. They understand that Israel themselves are the vehicle by which G-d’s presence is revealed.
G-d’s presence is clear at the origin of creation – ‘B’reishis’. This Reishis is manifest in two separate ways. The Torah refers to two elements as Reishis – the Torah and Israel. These two are parallel. As the Torah makes known the word of G-d, Israel’s existence likewise expresses the Torah in life itself, either by their faithful deeds, or by the Divine response provoked when they stray.
All that Hashem wishes to reveal is explicit throughout Jewish history, and no place else. For this reason, Klal Yisrael is designated as G-d’s twin (see Shir HaShirim 5, 2 and associated Midrash). In a sense, G-d and Israel are the same age, the Divinity revealed in life completely encapsuled by the life of His nation.
The Aron relates to this particular characteristic of Nora, the trait hidden with the destruction of the Temple. These two words are actually the same, but in reverse order. The Midah of Hashem, from Heaven down to us, takes the form of Nora. When this Kedusha is channeled by us and sent back to Heaven its manifestation is the Aron HaKodesh.
The proper placing of VaYehi B’Nesoa HaAron, the travels of the holy ark with the camp of Israel, would seem to be earlier, together with the moving of the Machaneh.
The Talmud explains that this dislocation is deliberate, a barrier separating two misfortunes, two sins of Klal Yisrael in the desert.
VaYehi B’Nesoa is a book unto itself, revealing the unique function of the Aron HaKodesh.
The Bnai Yisrael are headed for eternity, a place of their own in the promised land. They are forced to take a detour, forty years in the Midbar, and two thousand years in Midbar HaAmim, the dry and arid exile among the nations of the world.
They are far from Har Sinai, but they are not alone.
The Aron travels with them.
Though the Aron was a physical entity of size and space, it miraculously took up no space in the Kodesh HaKodashim. Though part of this world, it alludes to a higher dimension, beyond all physical boundaries.
In the Temple, the Aron was placed directly over the Even HaShesiyah, the primal stone of creation, and foundry of all life.
It is here that Klal Yisrael discovers its rightful place. Not as part of the family of nations, but rather, maintained by a force beyond physical measure.
The non-Jewish world is right. They have always sensed our difference, branding us as permanent outcasts. While their lives revolve around the material forces that structure their world, our very existence is predicated upon a fulcrum of a different sort, the Rock of Ages that remains unseen.
The Aron takes no space because it is not part of this world.
It is more.
It is the basis and foundation of everything we know.
For this reason, Ya’akov Avinu rests his head on that very spot. As this place supports his body, so too, it sustains his descendants for all time. When he awakes from his prophetic vision, he recognizes the enormity of what he has seen, proclaiming with awe: “Mah NORA HaMakom HaZeh..”
He has seen the ladder that connects him to the Heavenly throne. His children, the people of Israel inherit the ARON that covers the same ground, and Klal Yisrael remains rooted to a spot beyond place, the One G-d at the origin of creation.
Were it not for this revelation, the Jewish people would have no place at all. Different from the rest, it is only the Hand of G-d that maintains their presence in a hostile world. This is the NORA that the Anshei Knesses HaGedola reveal, the continued existence of Klal Yisrael, a Temple of their own. As the Torah of twenty-two letters, the Aron, as well, rests upon twenty-two thousand in Israel, reflecting the beginning of all existence.
“In the verse ‘VaYehi B’Nesoa HaAron…’ there are twelve words, as in the verse ‘U’LeChol HaYad HaChazakah’ which is the end of the Torah. In the verse ‘U’VeNucho…’ there are seven words, as in the verse ‘B’reishis…’ which is the beginning of the Torah. Meaning to say that this is considered a Sefer Torah on its own….” (Ba’al HaTurim, ad. loc.)
The two verses comprising the Parsha of the Aron encompass all of the Torah. The Aron therefore equates with all the Torah, it serves as its own book. It is a G-dly message of a different sort, precise parallel of the Torah given at Sinai.
Why is the order reversed, with the first verse ‘VaYehi B’Nesoa…’ alluding to the end of Sefer Devarim, while the second verse U’VeNucho…’ hints at ‘B’reishis’?
Ever since the sins in the desert, the destiny of the B’nai Yisrael has been littered with the pain and suffering of a harsh and bitter world, one where G-d’s outstretched Hand remains hidden.
Though the Torah that reveals His word has yet to be actualized, the unity of His existence is still evident, albeit in different form.
Am Yisrael Chai.
The trials and tribulations we endure, and the long years of exile, are the word of G-d transformed. The shifting events of history write a book of their own, and G-d’s hidden Hand is revealed as origin and basis of a nation that dwells alone.
“….How else can one nation survive among the nations?”
The Hand of G-d at the origin of creation is revealed through a second Reishis, the Jewish people who reflect and actualize the goal and purpose of all existence.
Though we have traveled far from our origins, losing sight of the first B’reishis of creation, the Aron is slowly directing us back home, from the outside in. Or, in other words, from the first verse of Devarim, when it appears to be the end, we rediscover our beginning, the One G-d who is the source of all life.
“Kuma Hashem V’YaFutzu Oyvecha V’Yanusu Misanecha MiPanecha”
JerusalemViews, Copyright (c) 1999 by Rabbi Heshy Grossman and Project Genesis, Inc.