Monday, February 15, 2010

Nuggets of Gold in the Ark / Parshat Terumah

What did the wilderness Tabernacle look like? What was it made of? How was it constructed? A myriad details of the Tabernacle, as well as its furnishings and vessels are contained in parshat Terumah. Sages and scholars have poured over this parashah in an effort to understand every detail of the complex structure our ancestors built in the wilderness and regularly dissembled and moved to a new location where they reassembled it. The material list alone gives us pause to consider the project with awe: fine twisted linen, cloth woven of goats’ hair, dolphin skins, acadia wood planks (some overlaid with gold), silver sockets, an acacia wood altar overlaid with copper, pails, scrapers, basins, hooks and firepans of copper, and much more.

Here’s a broad view: the wilderness Tabernacle consisted of a Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting), and within that the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The Mishkan consisted of two chambers: the Kodesh (Holy) and the inner sanctum, the Kodesh ha-Kodashim (Holy of Holies). In the Holy of Holies the aron (ark) containing the tablets Moses brought down Sinai rested.

Parshat Terumah’s details, like the aron itself, contain treasure. Here are two nuggets of gold:
Overlay [the ark] with pure gold – overlay it inside and out – make upon it a gold molding round about. (Exodus 25:11)
Why cover the inside of the ark with gold? No one will ever see it because the ark is sealed and never opened. The Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 72b comments, “Any Torah scholar whose interior is not like his exterior is no Torah scholar.” Yoma’s message applies to scholars, to be sure, but to us all, as well. We all seen people whose slick fa├žade covers a lack of integrity or morality; we see them in positions of leadership, in business, in the community. They use the world and others for their purposes, taking far more than they give. Talmud reminds us to be sure it doesn’t describe us.

Another nugget of gold:
Make for it [the ark of acacia wood] a rim of gold round about (Exodus 25:24).
Again, the Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 72b comments: “R. Yochanan said: There were three crowns: of the Altar, of the Ark, and of the Table. The one of the Altar [representing the priesthood], Aaron deserved and received. The one of the Table [representing royalty], David deserved and received. The one of the Ark [representing Torah] is still available, and whoever wants it, may come and receive it.” We can continually receive Torah as we continually increase our learning. As Hillel taught (Pirke Avot 2:5): Fix a time for study. Thus the Talmud continues: “R. Yochanan pointed out a contradiction. It is written zar yet we read it zir [crown or wreath]: If he deserves it, it becomes a wreath for him; if not it remains alien to him.”

Talmud is reminding us all that Torah study is essential to a full Jewish life. The Talmud doesn’t prescribe precisely what or how to study, only that we should all be involved in the process. These days, with all the resources available to us in adult education classes, the shelves of bookstores and on the internet, it is easy to earn the crown of Torah and through it broaden our horizons and deepen our understanding of life’s purpose. It’s never too late to start, and always rewarding.

© Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

No comments:

Post a Comment