Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Terumah 5769- THEY will construct an ark

The parshah gives details of the building of the Mishkan, Aron Kodesh and the vestments of the Kohen.  Throughout Hashem directs the comandments to Moshe stating “You” wild do X.  However, when it comes to the Aron Kodesh- the ark within which the Torah will be contained, he states “THEY” will build.  Why this sudden shift commanding Moshe via the nation rather than directly as before?

In the Midrash of Rabbi Alshich he brings and interesting explanation:  three items are built which have “crowns” around them.  The table, alter and the ark.  R’ Alshich corresponds these to the three crowns that can be achieved: Royalty, Priesthood  and Torah.  Now the first two of these are restricted- only the descendants of Aharon can be Kohanim; only members of the royal family can be royalty.  The third crown, that of Torah, on the other hand, can be achieved by anyone.  Any person can study, learn and follow the Torah. One does not need to be a master of Torah for it to be part of your life.  You do not need to be a chacham to derive benefit from Torah- it is a crown that we can all achieve, that we can bring into all our lives.

R’ Alshich brings another thought into this.  He brings in the Mishnah from Avot that names four crowns- and then discusses why the fourth crown, that of a good name, is not brought in the Torah or mentioned even obliquely to  in this passage.  The reason he gives is that a good name, devoid of Torah, is meaningless.  A good name, like being a good person, is a good thing- but only when in the correct context.  Without the Torah- without the framework specified by Hashem, they loose meaning as they are empty- purely defined in human terms and missing the spiritual element that brings them to life and give them meaning beyond the immediate..

He delves into this further- looking at the overall construction of the ark- the fact that the ark consists of three boxes- the outer and inner ones of gold, the middle one of acacia wood.  The question becomes- why have the inner box of wood which is not visible but completely hidden?  The outer box represents “Osher v’Kavod” “Wealth and honour” the inner box “orach yamin binyameinu” “eternal life in the hereafter”.  The inner box, the acacia wood box reflects the “eitz chayim” “tree of life” – the Torah which sustains all.  Essentially this refers to the same idea- wealth and honour are sustained by the Torah- just as eternal life in the hereafter is dependant on the Torah.  Without the Torah,wealth, honour, a good name are meaningless.

So, here we see why the building of the ark was directed at the whole nation.  the rest of the implements of the Temple and Mishkan were just as much for our benefit- but they were commanded through Moshe since they were aimed at specific elements within the Jewish nation- the Kohanim would wear and utilise them for all our benfit.  When, it come to the Aron Kodesh- here we see the ultimate sybolism that all Jews, all Bnei Yisrael, are one- the Torah is equally all ours as is the reward any one of us can gain from studying and allowing the Torah into our lives.


February 24, 2009 - Posted by | Torah | , , , , , , , ,


  1. I wonder if the is the hidden acacia wood could be compared to the afikoman which is also in the middle and hidden. With Passover only a few months away it seems an obvious connection although I’m not sure of its significance.

    – Just a thought…

    Comment by R. Bobavich | February 25, 2009 | Reply

    • Not that I ever heard or read. But then I just got given a copy of Midrash Talpiot as a Birthday present and that has a lot of midrashim on the afikoman. Guess I’ll have to read those midrashim and see if any comment is made in this regard.

      Comment by marcl1969 | February 25, 2009 | Reply

  2. No significance it would seem Midrash Talpiot takes the significance of the Afikoman from the fact that it is at the end of the Seder- and hints at the future redemption that will come with mashiach. With that it also derives varies lessons related to the mana and the mana that that the tzadikim eat in the world to come.

    As for it being the middle matza- that is actually custom and it would seem to be a machlokes between the Rama and the Arizal- the Rama uses only two matzot to correspond to the lechem mishneh- the Arizal three three since he sees the need to have the seder said over lechem ani- poor bread, which requires one to be broken and not whole. But since he wants two whole ones to correspond to lechem mishneh on the seder table at all times, he uses a third for the lechem ani. So the position of the afikoman being in the middle seems to carry no significance since it is customary rather than halachic or even Rabbinic in origin. The significance in the afikoman seems to rely solely on its position of being eaten at the end of the meal. There is an opinion brought that the three matzot represent the Kohanim, Levi’im and Yisraelim, but this opinion does not subscribe any relevance to the middle matzoh beyond it providing the afikoman for the end of the meal.

    Comment by marcl1969 | February 25, 2009 | Reply

  3. […] Terumah 5769- THEY will construct an ark […]

    Pingback by Baby name meaning and origin for Acacia | March 2, 2009 | Reply

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