“Exactly as I show you — the pattern of the Tabernacle
and the pattern of all its furnishings —so shall you make it.” (Exodus 25:9)
Parashat T’rumah is a structural engineer’s delight. It describes in excruciating detail the building of the mishkan, the desert Tabernacle which is the precursor to the Temple in Jerusalem. Every piece of material is listed and every hook, eye, tenon, socket, plank, curtain, and crossbeam catalogued. Amidst all this arcana, the design of the ark offers two lessons: one historical and one theological.
The ark is made of acacia wood, covered inside and out with gold. It is graced with two cherubs, located catty-corner from one another. The cherubs face inward, “looking at one another.” (Ex. 25:20). The next verse explains God will appear and speak from the space above the ark, between the two cherubs. (Ex. 25:21).
This is one historical basis for the custom of two gabbaim (sextons) standing at each side of the table when we read from the Torah in the synagogue. The table represents the ark, and the gabbaim (who are there to ensure the accuracy of the Torah reading) represent the cherubs. The Torah is God’s word coming from between.
This symbolic reenactment of the Torah’s words makes clear the theological assertion of the ark’s design: God is found in the relationship-space between individuals. This is why acts of chesed (kindness) are so important in Jewish thought: they are God’s portal for entering our world.
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom