Parshas Terumah: The Crown of Torah
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Terumah, we are commanded regarding the construction of the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary that would serve as the resting place for the Shechina, keviyachol.
After the people left Egypt and received the Torah, they were to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle): וְעָשׂוּ לִי, מִקְדָּשׁ; וְשָׁכַנְתִּי, בְּתוֹכָם – And you shall make for Me a Mikdash, that I may dwell amongst them (Shemos 25:8).
For the construction of the Mishkan, gold, silver and copper; turquoise, purple and scarlet wools; linen and goats’ hairs; ram skins and techashim (a colorful animal that existed only at that time) skins; shittim wood, oils and spices; and precious stones, were donated by the people (25:2-7).
The keilim (implements) to be constructed were the golden mizbayach (altar) for the daily ketores (incense) offering, golden menorah, golden shulchan (table) for the lechem ha’panim (bread of surfaces), copper mizbayach for animal offerings, and the copper kiyor (laver) for hand washing.
In the kodesh ha’kodashim (the holy of holies) was the most important kli (vessel): the aron kodesh, the holy ark where the luchos ha’aidus (tablets of testimony) rested within, and the Shechina rested above the lid of the aron, between the two keruvim.
The aron was made of three boxes – an inner box of gold, a middle box of wood, and an outer box of gold. There were two wood-covered-with-gold staves, placed into four rings, on each side of the aron, that were never to be removed. There was also a zer zahav, a golden diadem or crown, that ran around the top perimeter of the aron. The lid of the aron, the kapores, was hammered out of a piece of solid gold, and there were two keruvim hammered out of the gold, resting atop the aron. From between the two keruvim atop the lid, Hashem would speak to Moshe, all that I shall command you pertaining to the Children of Israel (25:22).
In regard to the zer zahav Rashi teaches: וְהוּא סִימָן לְכֶתֶר תּוֹרָה – the golden diadem was a symbol for the crown of Torah (25:11).
The aron, which housed the luchos, symbolized the crown of Torah, which every Jew must strive his whole life to acquire.
The Rebbe of Strikov, R’ Avraham Landau (1916-2001) was a close talmid of the Brisker Rav. One time, R’ Landau needed the advice of R’ Aharon Leib Shteinman zt’l in regard to a personal matter. He made an appointment to come see him one day before Shachris. When he arrived at Rechov Chazon Ish 5 before neitz, a lively shiur was still in session. The Rebbe was most impressed as the participants learned with intensity.
“I can’t think of anyone else over 80 years old who is still coming up with new chiddushei Torah daily, as R’ Aharon Leib is doing,” he later said. “I don’t know any ‘regular’ people who are still writing their own chiddushim (novel Torah insights), let alone someone like R’ Aharon Leib who has the burden of the tzibbur (public) on his shoulders!” (Reb Aharon Leib, Artscroll, p.178).
Yet, while we must each strive to acquire the crown of Torah with courage, faith and perseverance, represented in the golden diadem of the aron, there is a different message learned from the two keruvim, which sat atop the aron. The faces of the keruvim were faces of children, atop the holiest implement in the Mishkan.
R’ Zelig Pliskin writes, “The ark symbolized Torah study. The reason two cherubs were placed on top of the ark was to teach us that we should always consider ourselves as young children when it comes to studying Torah. No matter how much you know, compared to what there is to still learn, you are (like a child,) as if you have just begun. For this reason a Torah scholar is always called a talmid chacham, a student of a wise man. The greater wisdom one has, the more one realizes that one is lacking wisdom” (Growth Through Torah, p.206).
The aron kodesh, therefore, symbolized two traits necessary to acquire Torah. On the one hand, the golden diadem represented the crown of Torah, which is worn proudly by the greatest amongst us, and which should be the goal of all. To toil over – and to acquire – Torah, as we plumb its breadth and depth, to make Torah and mitzvos a part of our every day lives, to strive to reveal and uncover the countless secrets and life lessons hidden within. It is this crown of Torah that allows mortal man to rise to the greatest heights.
And on the other hand, the faces of the keruvim, faces of children, reminds us of our true standing vis-à-vis the wisdom of Torah. We are but infants, children just starting, essentially like the young child who knows so little, when we contemplate the boundless vastness and brilliance of the Toras chaim (living Torah).
A grandson once overheard R’ Aharon Leib zt’l talking agitatedly to himself. “Oy, oy! The embarrassment I will face after I pass from this world and see my father! I will be so ashamed that I didn’t live up to his expectations of me!
“After seeing my illustrious parents, who were murdered by the Nazis while sanctifying Hashem’s Name, I will ask to see some of the gedolei ha’dor from whose sefarim I merited to learn, such as the Chafetz Chaim and R’ Akiva Eiger! Although I will be excited to see them and discuss some of their chiddushei Torah which I studied when I was alive, can you imaged the embarrassment I will feel over how little I accomplished during my sojourn in this world? When they will begin learning Talmud Yerushalmi, I will also be very ashamed. Although I did learn it for many years during bein hazmanin, I won’t know it well when we start learning it in the Yeshiva Shel Maaleh!” (Reb Aharon Leib, Artscroll, p.419)
If these are the sentiments of the greatest amongst us, a brilliant talmid chacham, the gadol ha’dor, and a giant in middos tovos and maasim tovim, what shall we say…
May we always have the desire to strive to obtain the crown of Torah, yet with the realization that our knowledge is like that of children, for no matter how much we have learned, there are seas of Torah knowledge that will always be left to explore, just beyond our reach and grasp.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,