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Silver and Gold

By: Rav Chaim Kanterovitz

ואת הקרשים תצפה זהב ואת טבעתיהם תעשה זהב בתים לבריחם וצפית את הבריחם זהב"

“You shall cover the planks with gold, and its rings shall you make of gold as housing for the bars, and you shall cover the bars with gold” (Shemot 26:29)

In the details of the construction of the Mishkan the Torah instructs to cover the Krashim, the planks, with gold. These planks were wooden beams which were to be overlaid with gold. The image that is set out for us is one of golden plated boards or beams coming out of sockets which we are taught were made of silver.

In general, this seems to be a theme in the construction of the Mishkan which appears in other instances too. The base is of a lower value than the item that emerges from it. In our case the sockets are of silver yet the planks that emerge are overlaid with gold.

A further example of this would be the pillars in the courtyard. These were made of wood but the sockets were of copper and these were, it is implied, decorated with silver.

The question I want to ask is this: What is the symbolism of the base being of a lower value to the item it held. Specifically, the silver sockets in relation to the gold beams, and what does it teach us?

In Chassidic writings and in our case by way of example in the commentary of R’ Tzadok Hakohen of Lublin known as Pri Tzadik (Terumah :6) every component of the Mishkan was set out to instruct us in Avodat Hashem, our individual personal service of Hashem. If so beyond the functionality of the items deeper meaning is sought.

In this case based on the teaching of the holy Zohar (Terumah 129:b) and the kabbalists silver is representative of the love of Hashem whilst gold is symbolic of the fear of Hashem.

This is because the word “Kesef” is used in the Torah in terms of yearning. Thus when Yaakov responds to the accusations of his father-in-law Lavan for having taken his idols Lavan tells him - I understand why you left for you yearn for your father’s home. In this context the words “נכסף נכספתה" are used from the word כסף. Yearning for something is the fundamental underlying intention of the word for in modern terms kesef means money which is the medium through which that which you yearn for is acquired.

Rambam (Yesodei HaTorah 2: 1-2) Sets out that there are two separate positive Mitzvot in the Torah which stand on their own. The first is to love Hashem, the second to fear Him. The Rambam goes on to explain that the way of achieving this love of Hashem is through “hitbonenut”, Intellectually contemplating the greatness of Hashem’s works.

Yet he goes on in the same Halachah to describe that is also the avenue to achieve fear of Hashem via the very same medium, Hitbonenut, by realizing the omnipotence of Hashem and where one stands in relation to it all.

Fundamentally there is a relationship between the two but each of these stands on their own independently. It is often thought that one may lead to the other, according to the Rambam however this is not the case, rather each of these emerge from Hitbonenut as we described rather than each other. 

There is however a Talmudic text which teaches otherwise. The Talmud (Sota 31:a) quotes a teaching from R’ Meir that notes that in Tanach the term ‘Fearer of Hashem’ - ירא אלקים  -appears regarding two people. The first is Avraham Avinu whilst the second is Iyov. R’ Meir teaches that this is a teaching called a Gzeira Shava, a comparison of texts, and that just like Avraham Avinu’s fear of Hashem was rooted in his love of Hashem the same was true for Iyov. Where do we see the fear of Hashem rooted in the love of Hashem? The Talmud responds that the answer is presented via a verse in Isaiah where the Jewish people are called the seed of Avraham my beloved.

This text would contradict the position of Rambam that these two Mitzvot or attributes, modes and forms of Avodat Hashem are independent from one another. Rather it would seem one emerges from the other, or at the very least is impacted or influenced by the other.

Maharal explains how it could be that fear of Hashem is rooted in the love of Hashem and what this could mean (Netivot Olam 2 Netiv Yiraat Hashem 1- heard from RVM Rav Amital Tz”l).

The essence of fear of Hashem comes from the love of Hashem because by way of human example. If a person loves someone, one will endeavor to do what that person wants to the extent of one’s ability so as not to dissolve the love you have for that person. If one goes against their loved one’s will, there is a chance the love towards them or their love towards you will dissolve or diminish and this one will try to avoid at all costs.

Hence whilst Rambam claims the two are independent, Maharal learns that the one can be the root of the other but in his model this is one-way traffic only. That is when the love of Hashem is the root and foundation, from it can emerge fear of Hashem of the type described but not vice versa.

R’ Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin is teaching that the type of relationship symbolized and instructed through the base being less valuable than the item it holds is really teaching us that if the root, the יסוד, is silver, כסף representing the love of Hashem, then the golden beams that emerge from them are the type of יראה fear of Hashem that the Maharal understood. Namely fear of Hashem rooted in the love of Hashem. A love that is so powerful and abundant that one fears to do anything to undermine it.


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