Larchmont Temple Chevra Torah

Questioning faith in the parsha


Feb. 5, 2011/1 Adar I
Modern author: Shalom Auslander
T’rumah: Exodus 25:8-22

Koshi: HOW does the building of the ARK—its very construction—reflect the Covenant it carries?

 v.8       So let them make for Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among you.

RASHBAM… “make Me a Sanctuary…”  This verse is, in actuality, the command to build the Ark, for the Ark is the whole reason the Mik’dash—Tabernacle  must be made.

SARNA… The purpose of assembling all the materials is to construct a “mik’dash”—describing that which is recognized as sacred space…The Sanctuary is not meant to be understood literally as God’s abode…rather, it functions to make tangible the conception of God’s immanence, the Indwelling of the Divine Presence to which the people may orient their hearts. 

ABRAVANEL…  The entire Sanctuary, the Ark and the Tabernacle, each part has allegorical meaning.  When Torah speaks about the mik’dash, it is not only describing a sacred building but also the body of every human being…for each person is God’s sacred sanctuary.

v.9    Exactly as I show you—the pattern of the Tabernacle & all its furnishings—so shall you make it..

RASHI“so shall you make it” is superfluous, for God has already commanded.  Not so, [for it implies] “in future generations,” make them according to the pattern of the original Ark and Mishkan

S’FORNO… “so shall you make it”   That is, in such a way “that I may dwell among you….”

v.10/11  They shall make an Ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long, and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold, inside & out…

RAMBAN…   “They”  refers to the Israelite people in V.2.  The imperatives that follow revert to the singular, addressing Moses as representative. Or perhaps “they shall make” hints that all Israel should participate in the Ark, since it is “the Holy dwelling place of the Most High,” [Ps 46:5] and would thus all deserve the Torah.

IBN EZRA… The Ark was four sided and rested on four feet [cf. v.12]

RASHI… Like the sort of chest that is made without legs; it rests flat on its bottom.

GERSONIDES“pure gold, inside and out.”   It is clear that the Ark is not plated gold, as one does silver plating, for the gold would not stick to the wood…Rather there were three Arks, two of gold and one of wood in between…The gold overlay was not a thin veneer but two Arks of substance.

ABRAVANEL… It is implausible that this would be specified “within and without” simply for the sake of ornamentation, thus the allusions that GERSONIDES imagines he has found here are so absurd that I will not even dignify them with a response. 

v.19     Make one cherub at one end and another at the other end—of one piece with the cover shall you make the cherubim…

RASHI…  Do not make them separately then solder them onto the cover after you have made them… 

MUNK“a cover of pure gold…”  In the TALMUD, R’ Chanina states that Torah gives the length, breadth and thickness of every object except for the cover of the Ark.  Its length and breadth are mentioned, but not its thickness. [Succah, 5a]  Thus Torah leaves it to man to determine how much the Divine Presence will reveal Himself on earth.  For it was from above the Ark that God speaks to Moses.  Thus the spiritual intensity of God’s Revelation depends upon the thickness of the cover.

v.20-22         The cherubim shall have their wings spread out above…they shall confront each other…Place the cover atop the Ark.  There I will meet with you and there I will speak with you, from above the cover, between the two cherubim atop the Ark

RAMBAN…  If God speaks “from above the cover,” then obviously He is speaking “from between the two Cherubim.”   The explanation is that God commanded that the two Cherubim must have their wings spread out, but the text has not made clear what purpose they serve.  So it now adds that the Pact that I will give to you should be placed inside the Ark so that it can be a Throne of Glory, for there will I cause my Shechinah to dwell, and so speak with you.

RISKIN… The place where Revelation continues is “between the cherubim.”  Thus RAMBAN would insist that the main purpose of the Mikdash was to teach the eternal word of the Divine.  From this perspective, it is our Synagogues, our institutions of Torah which are the legitimate heirs to the Sanctuary.  The Hasidic interpretations see in the Sanctuary construction a different purpose altogether: the building of a home in which the Almighty and Israel [and ultimately all humankind] will dwell…From this perspective, the heir to the Sanctuary is the Jewish home…


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