Friday, February 27, 2009

Parshat Terumah - פרשת תרומה

This week I don't have a single central D'var Torah, but I have two smaller ones.

In the first Aliyah, we read how the Aron Hakodesh was to be constructed. The materials used are specified, as are the embellishments and it's dimensions. It all seems very elaborate.

But if we think about it, something is very odd about the dimensions. Why are they not whole measures? The Aron haKodesh was to be one of the focal points of Judaism - surely there shouldn't be half-measures, quite literally, in it's dimensions. The pasuk (25:10) states, "A cubit and a half it's width, a cubit and a half it's height." Why not one cubit or two cubits?

Rav Zalman Zorotskin suggests that philospohically we may derive a lesson from the Aron. There is debate as to what the Aron housed exactly, but the consensus is that it held the Shnai Luchot - The Two Tablets. The Luchot (and the Sefer Torah that may have been contained there too,) were the ultimate representation of the Written Law. But the written law is nothing by itself - it truly is incomplete.

We learn from the dimensions of that which contained the Torah SheBichtav, that the written law alone is incomplete, and that the Oral law, the Torah Sh'Baal Peh is needed for us to fully understand, to properly appreciate its beauty and wisdom.


Something that was interesting me this week was that the Aron had three layers, one main Wooden box, and one inner and one outer layer of gold. The basic concept to be understood is that the gold is there so that there the Aron would have a pleasing appearance, both inside and out. But there was a word that was troubling me that was used to describe the outer layer, זר. This word has another meaning - stranger. What is the link between the two different meanings? And what has the concept of a stranger got to do with the Aron?

I tender the following answer: that the gold was not used to merely look nice. Nothing is for show in Judaism - everything has a deep meaning. We must understand that something that is good and serves a good purpose naturally will look good. Of course, after the sin of Adam HaRishon, our perception of this reality was changed, but the Bet Hamikdash still had to be perfect. Either way, the two layers of gold used, although seemingly separate from the "main" wooden box, were actually intrinsically connected to the function of the box. They were also important, after all they merited a mention in the Torah. On a similar level, we can see strangers as people who are separate from us, who are different and seemingly "irrelevant" to us, or we can choose to see things as they truly are. Just as they external layers of the Aron seemed different and apparently unconnected, but were really deeply connected to the essence of the Aron, so too we should perceive our relationship with strangers.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom!

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