1.

Beginning with Parshat Terumah and until the end of Chumash Shemot we have five Biblical portions which deal primarily with the commandment to make a MishkanTabernacle — for Hashem’s glorious presence to dwell amongst the Jewish people.

Parshat Terumah records the items and materials needed for the making vessels and bigdei kehunah — priestly garments. The Torah also goes into length about the particular vessels and the details of their construction.

The central feature of the Mishkan was the Aron — Ark — which housed the Luchot — Ten Commandments (and a Torah see Bava Batra 14a). The Aron itself was rather simple. It consisted of three boxes. The primary one was of acacia wood. There was a second, larger box of gold into which the wooden one was inserted, and a third smaller, golden one, which was put inside the wooden one. Thus, the main box was covered with gold, inside and out.

On top was the “kaporet” — “cover” — a flat sheet of solid gold, and upon it were the keruvim—cherubim — which were hammered out from the same ingot of gold. The keruvim had the faces of a male and female child and the wings of birds. The wings stretched upwards and the faces were directed downward toward the Aron and also to each other.

Many commentaries discuss at length the symbolism of the various components of the Mishkan. Many lessons have been learned also from the minutest details. Permit me to share with you some lessons to be learned from the specifications in the making of the kaporet.

The Torah says, “Min hakaporet ta’asu et hakeruvin al shnei k’tzosav” — “From the Ark cover you shall make the keruvim on its two sides” (25:19). Rashi explains that this means that they were not to be made separately and then attached, rather the keruvim were to be hammered out from the same piece of gold that the cover was made from.

The obvious question is why the command to do it in such a difficult way, when the same result could be achieved with ease? To make the keruvim images separately and attach them to the cover afterward would be a much simpler task!

The keruvim had the faces of small children (Rashi). They were placed on the cover, gazing down at the Ark indicating that from early youth Jewish children should be exposed to and directed to the teachings of the Torah.

A story is told of a father and mother of a two-year-old child who argued about when they should begin the Torah education of their child. The father contended that when the child reached school age, they would send him to Yeshivah. The mother argued that they should wait until he was more mature. Unable to resolve their argument, they agreed to consult a Rabbi. After listening to them, the Rabbi inquired, “How old is your child?” They responded, “Two years old.” The Rabbi looked at them and said, “I regret to tell you that you are already two years late.”

The Torah is teaching us that as soon as the child is born, there should be no delay, and his Torah education should immediately begin so that he is raised in a Torah-true environment. Do not wait to “attach” him at some later date.

As mentioned, the faces of the keruvim were directed downward toward the Aron, showing the importance of exposure to Torah and acquiring Torah knowledge. Additionally, “peneihem ish el achiv” — “their faces were toward one another.” This feature emphasizes the concept of ahavat Yisrael — brotherly love and interaction with a fellow Jew.

It could also be said that the pose facing downward to the aron represents the relationship of bein adam laMakom —between man and G‑d, while pose facing one another alludes to matters of “bein adam lachaveiro” — interhuman relationships.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, you have been fortunate to grow up with your wonderful parents, who have attached you to Torah immediately from birth (and even before that). You were privileged to witness that “peneihem ish el achiv” — “their faces were toward one another” which symbolizes the ahavat Yisrael — love for a fellow Jew — that prevailed in your parent’s home. Not only did you see your parent’s involvement in acts of kindness, but they also trained you to practice ahavat Yisrael. You should be grateful to Hashem for granting you such parents and the wonderful home they afforded you.

Before I conclude, there is yet another lesson of the keruvim I wish to expound: The Torah says that they were “porsei kenafayim l’ma’alah” — “with wings spread upward.” This teaches that man must continuously aspire to raise himself upward and go meichayil el choyil — from strength to strength in one’s learning and in his attachment to Torah, as well as in his ahavat Yisrael to a fellow Jew.

My berachah to you is that, just as the Aron was the most prominent vessel in the Mishkan, may you, too, grow to be a very prominent member of Klal Yisrael.


2.

The first of the vessels enumerated in Parshat Terumah is the Aron — Holy Ark — which contained the luchot — the Ten Commandments. Alongside it were rings which housed the badim — poles. The purpose of these poles was that the Levi’im would use them to carry the Aron when it needed to be moved from one location to another.

Now the Aron was not the only item that had poles inserted in rings. Also the Shulchan — table — and the Mizbei’ach — Altar — had poles through which they were carried. However, there was a major difference. Only regarding the poles of the Aron does the Torah dictate “The poles shall remain in the rings of the Ark; “lo yosuru mimeno” — “they shall not be removed from it” (25:15). They were to be there permanently and one who removed them was in violation of a positive and negative commandment.

The Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah 96) explains the prohibition of removing the poles from the Aron — Holy Ark — as a means of ensuring that the Aron is always ready for travel. “If they are made with no intention of ever being removed, they will be firmly fastened in place,” the Sefer Hachinuch explains. Otherwise, “in the event that we’ll need to urgently transport the Aron, and in the hurry of the moment we might not verify that the poles are properly secured, the Aron might, G‑d forbid, slip from our hold.” However, if they are made with no intention to ever be removed, they will be firmly fastened in place.

The Rebbe explains that the Torah’s concern for the Aron to be readily mobile, as per the Sefer Hachinuch’s explanation, teaches us an important lesson. (See Likkutei Sichot vol. 16, pp. 334-335.)

The Aron contained the Luchot, inscribed in which were the Ten Commandments. Our Sages explain that essentially all six hundred and thirteen mitzvot of the Torah are contained within the Ten Commandments (Azharot of Rav Saadia Gaon 882-942). Thus, the Aron, which housed the Luchot, is a metaphor for Torah study, through which ones mind and heart becomes a home for the Torah’s wisdom.

The Aron was stored in the seclusion of the Kodesh Hakadashim — the holiest chamber in the Mishkan — which was off-limits to everyone but the Kohen GadolHigh Priest — and even he could enter only once a year.

Similarly, to succeed in the study of Torah requires intense concentration, removing one’s self entirely from outside distractions.

Nevertheless, the poles of the Aron teach us that even the Talmid Chacham — Torah scholar — while wholly engrossed in Torah study, must always be readily mobile. Our immersion in Torah study must be pervaded by a readiness and willingness to embark at any time, to do whatever it takes to bring the Torah to a place where it is lacking and another Jew wherever he may be.

According to Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, the illustrious leader of Torah observing German Jewry (1808-1888), the eternal presence of the poles symbolized the concept that the Torah is not tied to any one place; wherever Jews goes, willingly or otherwise, their Torah goes with them, for the means of its transport are always attached to it.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, you are currently analogous to the Aron, and your primary involvement in coming years will be Torah study. Please remember the two abovementioned lofty lessons that we learn from the Aron and its poles. Like the Aron, you, too, will be a holy and most valuable asset of Klal Yisrael.