Parshat Terumah

Beginning with Parshas Terumah, Hashem provides us with exact specifications regarding the construction of the Mishkan and it’s Keilim, or vessels. Hashem commands us in 25:10-15 to build the Aron out of shittim wood, interpreted to mean acacia wood, and then have that wood container coated in pure gold, inside and out. We are also told to create two baddim, or poles, out of acacia wood and cover them in gold, too. They are then to be placed through rings attached to the Aron. Similarly, these rings and poles are created for the Shulchan and the gold and copper Mizbeichos, or altars. However, there is an additional, unique, and unprecedented prohibition included – these poles are never to be removed from the Aron. Why would this be, especially considering that the other three Keilim which also have poles are allowed to have their poles removed? Why is the Aron the only one which cannot have its poles removed?

There are additional concerns to be had regarding these specifications. Why would Hashem want the Aron, the holiest vessel there is, to be built out of wood, a dull, earthly material? Additionally, if the wood was going to be completely coated in gold anyway, why shouldn’t the whole thing be made out gold, without any wood on the inside? Even more bothersome is, if the poles are never meant to be removed, then why are they not permanently attached to the Aron? Why are they made to even have the capability of being removed, and thus requiring the additional prohibition of removing them? Strengthening this question, if the poles enable the transportation of the Aron via the carriers’ shoulders, then why shouldn’t the poles be removed, if after the Aron is placed in the Kodesh Hakadashim, it remains there permanently, never to be lifted again?

To answer these questions, one must understand the special and unique purpose the Aron serves, in comparison to the other vessels. The Shulchan represents the importance of the materialistic aspects of life, and the Mizbeichim act as places to perform sacrificial services for atonement and other various offerings, while the Aron is the heart of the entire Mishkan, the physical home of the Torah, which is Hashem’s most direct connection to B’nei Yisrael.

With this, one can begin to answer the question of why the Aron needs to be created out of both wood and gold instead of just gold. Since wood is an earthly material and the Aron acts as the earthly home of the Torah, the wood represents the Torah’s place in our lives in this physical world. Consequently, since the Luchos, the Tablets on which the Ten Commandments are written, are housed inside the Aron, it is our responsibility to properly shelter the Torah which was placed in this world. However, if the wood represents the Jewish People’s utilization of the physical world to build a home for the Torah, then why do we coat it in gold? Coating the wood in gold shows how we, the Jewish People, should beautify and elevate the physical world, our actions, and our qualities by utilizing them for spiritual means.

However, the answers above do not provide the solution for the other question: why are the Aron’s poles unique and forbidden to be removed? To begin with, just as the Aron acts as the Torah’s receptacle in this world, the poles are the means of transportation for the Torah and represent its life and mobility. Similarly, the commandment to leave the poles inserted is Hashem’s way of telling us to keep the life and mobility of the Torah intact, by continuously growing in this lifelong pursuit that follows us everywhere. One should always be active in and never withdraw from this task, as back in Parshas Vayeichi in Bereishis 49:15, where Yissachar is likened to a donkey when he receives his blessing from Yaakov Avinu, the Chachamim teach us that just as a donkey holds its burden even while it rests, Yissachar would always carry the “burden” of Torah.

In Gemara Sotah 35A, the Rabbis inform us about an intriguing aspect of the Aron. They say that instead of the carriers of the Aron holding it up via their shoulders, the Aron would lift itself into the air, picking up it’s carriers with it, miraculously floating and transporting itself. With this, one can make a connection: just as the Aron carries its carriers, the Torah ultimately elevates and sustains its ‘carriers’, the Jewish People. Thus, the poles of the Aron do not only represent the Torah’s mobility but also how through one’s efforts, a person can maintain a connection with Torah, which will enable one to be sustained by it and triumphant through it.

Even with all of these beautiful insights, one question remains: why are the poles removable at all then? Why is it seemingly giving one the opportunity to drop one’s relationship and connection with Hashem and His Torah? The answer is exactly that – Hashem is providing wisdom, truth, and enlightenment, but is not forcing it upon any man. Hashem has given freedom of choice, to build a relationship with Him if one chooses to. If one allows himself to be overcome by the Yetzer Hara, then he will waste away this opportunity by making the wrong decision, and as a result discard his relationship with Hashem. One can foolishly remove the poles, disregard living in the ways of Torah, and deprive himself of the sustenance which the Torah offers.

While the poles may be prone to being removed from the Aron, Hashem pleads with us to heed his advice not to remove them, via the prohibition in the Torah. One should secure the poles in place, maintain the connection to and live by the Torah, and cherish the relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu. We should be zocheh to remain active in Torah, grow in our relationship with Hashem, and be supported and carried by the Torah into the impending arrival of Mashiach.

Have a wonderful day and a freilichim Purim,
Student Studying in Reishit