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Terumah 5770

By: Rav Michael Susman

In this week's Parsha we learn of the command to build the Mishkan and the various utensils that will be housed inside its walls. Following the command to build the actual sanctuary, the Torah then proceeds to describe in great detail instructions for creating the utensils. The first set of instructions to be given pertains to the Aron HaKodesh. It is not entirely clear why the Aron should be the first item described. In his introduction to the Parsha, Ramban explains the order in which the command to build the various keilim was given. He maintains that the Aron is in fact the focal point of the Mishkan. The purpose of the Mishkan is to provide a place where Hashem can dwell within the nation, thus creating an ongoing experience of Divine revelation, even as Bnei Yisrael moves away from Har Sinai. The Aron is the place from which Hashem intends to continue to communicate with Am Yisrael. As a result it is only appropriate that the construction of the Aron should be the first commanded in building the Mishkan. It is instructive to point out that it is not at all clear that the order of the various klei hamikdash given here in Parshat Truma is in fact the order that Hashem commanded when instructing Moshe to build the Mishkan. In Parshat Pekudei (38:22) Rashi comments on the Torah's choice of words when describing the actual construction of the Mishkan. We are told that when building the Mishkan, Bezalel did all that Hashem had commanded Moshe. As the command was given to Bezalel through Moshe Rabbenu, Rashi wonders if it would it not have been more accurate to state that Bezalel built the Mishkan as Moshe had commanded him? Rashi goes on to explain that Bezalel wished to build the actual structure of the Mishkan first and only then did he plan to construct the kelim. This, he explained to Moshe, was the logical way to proceed ("minhag olam la'asot techila bayit, vachar kach meisim keilim b'tocho"- it is the way of the world to build a house first, and only then to furnish it). Moshe Rabbenu, says Rashi, admits that Bezalel's course of action is not only logical, but in fact reflects Hashem's original command. It is for that reason that the passuk ascribes the command to both Moshe and Hashem, even though Bezalel only heard it from Moshe Rabbenu. Left unasked is how Moshe could have deviated from the original command. Based on Ramban, however, we can easily resolve the problem. Having internalized the purpose of the Mishkan, Moshe's focus clearly moves from the outer walls of the building to the keilim in general and to the Aron in particular. This is the true heart of the Mishkan and its ultimate purpose. Bezalel, who might not even be privy to this reasoning, instinctively understands that something is wrong. Once it is pointed out to him, Moshe realizes that he has put the "cart"- Hashem's intention, before the "horse"- the actual command. Having established the centrality of the Aron to the entire Mishkan, we may now turn to a second point which is also unique to the Aron HaKodesh. Similar to other kelim (such as the Menorah and the Shulchan) which must be carried by hand rather than be loaded on a cart when transported, the Aron had poles (badim) which were attached to rings on the corners of the Aron in order to allow it to be easily carried. Unlike any of the other kelim, however, these poles were not to be removed from the Aron once attached. The language of the passuk (25:15) Lo yasuru memenu and they (the poles) will not be separated from it (the Aron) is not understood as a statement of fact but rather as a negative command. This interpretation, first suggested in the gemara in Yuma (72A), is codified by Rambam (Hilchot Klei HaMikdash 2:13) and care must be taken (to ensure) that the poles will not separate from the rings, as anyone who removes a pole from its rings receives lashes. There is, however, no parallel prohibition of removing the poles from other kelim. The question as to why the Aron differs from the other kelim in this regard is a famous one, and the answers that are quoted are equally well known. Let us quickly review some of them. (For a fuller treatment of these approaches, see Nechama Liebowitz, Iyunim Chadashim BSefer Shemot, pp 357-360, Hebrew edition) Amongst the Rishonim, the technical approach championed by the Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 96) holds sway. The Chinuch suggests that since Bnei Yisrael could never be certain when they might have to move the Aron short notice, keeping the poles attached at all times was simply good policy. Were the poles to be removed, it was possible that in the sudden rush to move the Aron that the Kohanim would fail to reattach the poles properly, causing the Aron to fall. Thus the prudent thing to do would be to keep the poles attached all times, thereby avoiding even the small possibility of causing dishonor to the Aron. While others suggest other possibilities, they too tend to be technical in nature. While the Chinuch does not explain why there might be a difference between the other kelim and the Aron in this regard we can suggest two possible answers. One is that the Midrash in Shemot Rabba suggests that the command to build the Aron immediately follows the command to build the Mishkan because just as the Torah was the first thing (created) in the world, so to the Aron is the first thing created in the Mishkan. This identity between the Torah and the Aron is what grants the Aron its preferred status. Thus, notwithstanding the honor due a Menorah or Shulchan, the honor accorded the Aron, and therefore the care taken to protect that honor, is far greater. A second possible answer is based on the higher level of kedusha inherent in the Aron. The Aron must be carried and even if it were to begin to fall to catch it is prohibited, as demonstrated in the story of David HaMelech bring the Aron to Yerushalayim and Uza grabbing it to prevent it from falling (Shmuel Bet Perek 6). Much to Davids consternation Uza is immediately struck down. This is despite the fact that his intention was to prevent the Aron from falling. As a result of this increased level of kedusha the Chinuch would tell us that the Torah requires a higher level of care be exercised when transporting the Aron. As we noted at the onset, the answer offered by the Chinuch is purely technical in nature. On the other end of the spectrum, we find that the Achronim look for more philosophical answers. One prominent example is that of Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, who suggests that the badim on the Aron represent the portability of Torah to every place and every generation. While the Menorah and the Shulchan symbolize Jewish development (both physical and spiritual) in Eretz Yisrael, the Aron, which is identified with the Torah, is universal in its message. The badim being eternally attached to the Aron remind us that the Torah remains with us wherever we go. When looking for other explanations to answer this question I found an interesting approach suggested by Ralbag. Ralbag notes that the Torah which the Aron contains is in and of itself complete, and it is therefore only appropriate that the vessel which holds it should be complete. If the badim were to be removed then the Aron would be imperfect until they were returned to their proper place. Thus, we are commanded to keep the poles in position at all times. Ralbag seems to bridge the gap between the philosophical approach espoused by R. Hirsch (and other achronim) and the technical approach of the Chinuch. The philosophical approach, while deeply satisfying on one level, seems to disregard the Aron as an actual, as opposed to philosophical klei. The technical approach, on the hand seems fails to ascribe any deeper meaning to the Aron in the context of the Mishkan. Ralbag never loses sight of the fact that the Aron as an actual klei- it represents the Torah in the Mikdash. Precisely because of that status it must be perfect at all times. Shabbat Shalom Rav Susman


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