A few weeks ago in Parshat Terumah we learned of G‑d’s instruction to Moshe to make the MishkanTabernacle — and all its vessels. Moshe was also told the various materials that would be necessary for the construction. This week, in Parshat Vayakhel, Moshe has a meeting with K’lal Yisrael and charges them with the privilege of building the Mishkan according to the instruction he has received.

The uniqueness of the Jewish people is its Torah. G‑d selected us from among all the nations of the world and gave the Torah to us exclusively. The Aron — Ark — which housed the Tablet on which were the Decalogue, was the central and most prominent feature.

Quoting the Sages in the Gemara (Yoma 72b), Rashi explains that when the Torah states that the Aron should be made of acacia wood and covered with pure gold from within and without, it means the following: Three receptacles were made. The primary one was of acacia wood. A second, larger box was made of gold into which the wooden box was placed. Then a third, smaller one was made of gold, which was put inside the wooden one. Thus, the middle wooden box was covered with gold inside and out.

Considering that the Aron contained the Jewish people’s most sacred treasure, it is therefore most fitting that gold, the most precious metal then and highly valued even today, should be used to construct the Ark. Since gold represents the highest concept of value, it is associated with everything we hold most precious, and we can well understand the making of two golden aronot to house the Tablets. But why the use of wood in the construction of the Ark? Wood is of no particular value. Is wood a fitting tribute to our most valued and cherished Torah?

An understanding of the nature of these substances will explain this seeming enigma. Each of these materials has a particular unique quality and these two qualities combined are relevant to Torah. Gold is durable and strong. Time affects most substances. Metals corrode, tarnish and rust with the passage of time. Fabrics fray, tear, and fade.

Gold is a rare exception to this phenomenon. It is durable and strong, and resists time and decay. It was, therefore, proper that the Ark which housed the Torah of Hashem should be made of gold to symbolize the enduring worth of Torah and the eternal values it conveys to us. Torah, like gold, is something that time or prevailing conditions cannot ever change.

Therefore, King David in Psalms (19:11), when talking of Torah, compares its teachings to gold and says “They are more desirable than gold, than even much fine gold.”

Gold, however, has one chisaron — one drawback. It is lifeless. Wood has the ma’aleh — the advantage — that it comes from a living thing: it grows, has roots, and produces foliage and fruits. The Torah, therefore, is compared not only to gold but also to a tree: “It is a tree of life to those who grasp it” (Proverbs 3:18). What gold lacks is provided by wood, and what wood lacks is provided by gold. The durability of gold and the vibrancy and life of wood were merged in fashioning the Ark. Eternity and life were forever to be the symbols of the Torah.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, you are setting out to build your miniature Sanctuary. It will indeed be one in which the Ark and the Torah are preeminent. But you must always remember the message of the golden and wooden Arks.

The Ark and the Torah within it are our most precious possessions, symbols of eternal values. But eternity alone is not enough. Every generation must contribute its share to imbue new life to the Torah, to make our traditions grow and expand, and each individual must personally go from strength to strength in his Torah study and observance of mitzvot. We cannot rest on the laurels of the past. The Torah is eternity — zahav — but it must also be eitz chayim, an eternity which lives.

Torah is a tree of life to those who hold on to its eternality and grow spiritually with it and through it. May you reach these heights and be a happy and fortunate Torah-minded couple.

"שלשה נזדווגו להם זווגיהם מן הבאר, יצחק יעקב ומשה"
“The marriage of three — Yitzchak, Yaakov and Moshe — all involved a meeting at a well.” (Midrash Rabbah, Shemot 1:32)

QUESTION: What lesson can one derive from a well for mate seeking?

ANSWER: A well is not above ground. One usually digs for water in an area where he knows there are water sources covered by the earth.

Many people make their decision as to whom to marry based on superficial and external matters, things like beauty, money and yichus — pedigree. These are not true qualities, but rather external and temporal.

Though yichus may have its virtues, a wise man said “yichus is a zero; it is of no value unless there is a ‘one’ in front of it.”

The message of the well is as follows: “Don’t be misled by your eye. Not all that glitters is gold. Dig deep. If after due diligence you find beautiful qualities and values within your prospective bride, she is the one who excels over all and you should praise Hashem for helping you find her.”