The Ark, which held the Tablets on which the Ten Commandments were chiseled, was a magical piece of furniture. Though it had definite dimensions, "two and a half cubits its length; and a cubit and a half its width," its presence did not in any way take up any square footage of the room that housed it.

Inside the Ark there were two sets of Tablets: 1) The original Tablets, which Moses shattered when he discovered the Jewish people worshiping the golden calf. 2) And the second set of Tablets, which G‑d granted the Jewish people upon their repentance.

An Ark that is both spacious and spaceless. Whole and shattered Tablets positioned side by side. What lesson can we glean from this?

The study of G‑d’s Torah is a delicate art, requiring a balance of ability and humility.

On the one hand, Torah study requires a degree of personal presence. Unlike the performance of G‑d’s commandments, which are largely about “doing it,” with Torah study, “getting it” is an important requisite. The student must attempt to measure any idea put forward by the Torah against his or her own lifetime of impressions and experience. Only when the idea has successfully taken hold in the student’s imagination is the lesson truly complete.

On the other hand, Torah study requires a degree of personal absence. Torah represents the infinite wisdom of an infinite G‑d. The best way to bridge the gap between our finite nature and G‑d’s infinite wisdom is not by attempting to rise to the occasion, but by humbling ourselves before it. “Let my soul be as dust to all,” we pray three times a day, in the hope of achieving the conclusion of the sentence, “open my heart to your Torah.”

When the Jewish people first received the Tablets, they were more present than absent. Having just been “chosen” by G‑d, who proceeded to “elevate” them above all other nations, they were not exactly in the humblest of moods. As a result, the first Tablets were somewhat basic in form, arriving without accompanying commentary. But when Moses descended Mount Sinai, found the Jewish people worshipping the golden calf, and threw the Tablets to the ground, the Jewish national spirit took a drastic tumble. No longer at the top of their game, the nation experienced the absence and openness required to truly receive the Torah. As a result, the new Tablets arrived fully loaded, complete with extensive explanation and interpretation.

Thus the symbolism of whole and shattered Tablets stored side by side within an Ark that defies space. What is the key to Torah study?

To be and not to be.