Parashat Terumah begins a major thematic shift in the Torah. Up until this point, we have read about the birth of a nation. We saw the Jews suffering, how they were saved, and the ultimate giving of the Torah. Terumah, however, is about the building of the Mishkan, God’s temporary home, if you will. The holiest vessel of the Mishkan was the Aron, which contained not only the tablets, but deep lessons for future generations.
In addition to the Aron itself,
“The cherubim shall have their wings spread upwards, shielding the ark cover with their wings, with their faces toward one another…And you shall place the ark cover on the ark from above, and into the ark you shall place the testimony, which I will give you” (Shemot 25:20-21).
Rashi questions why the Torah felt the need to tell us to place luchot into the Aron if we had previously known that. He answers that “it comes to teach that when it is still an ark alone, without an ark cover, he [Moshe] should first put in the testimony and then place the ark cover over it”. His answers seems simple and technical, but Rav Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l learns a very important lesson from these verses.
A Gemara in Masechet Berachot writes that the cherubim had the faces of little children. Rav Eliyahu addresses the question of what connection the face of a child has with the Aron, and then proceeds to learn out a fundamental lesson of educating children. When children are young and innocent, it is necessary to teach them the way of the Torah because when they grow up, they will be a glory for Am Yisrael. As it says in Tehillim, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings You have established strength” (8:3). Even though we already have the Torah and may live according to it, we still must continue to spread its teachings and enrich the knowledge of the children. If we don’t imbue them with this wisdom at a young age, “The elders have ceased from the [city] gate” (Eichah 5:14) will be said of them. Therefore, after we receive the Torah, we should then place the cherubim on top, which teaches that we must continue and educate our children.
This teaching isn’t only limited to children. Many of us go through the motions and struggle to find meaning in following the Torah. Some simply place the luchot into the Aron and leave it at that. The Torah teaches that there’s more work to be done. It’s not finished until we place the kaporet and the cherubim on top. Our lives aren’t complete until we engage in the Torah. We may be lacking until we delve into the deep teachings of the Torah. My wonderful roommate, David Gleizer, loves to point out that it’s called Torat Chaim because our lives should be centered around the Torah, because it really is our life.
Lehavdil, if a football team is aimed for winning the championship, what would happen if the coach presented the playbook and simply said “just go play”? They wouldn’t win. Instead, the players would have to learn the ins and outs of the playbook, memorize the plays, center their life around them, until they fully internalized the entire book. Obviously it’s a bit much to internalize every single aspect of the Torah and Judaism, but without trying, we won’t get anywhere. When a player has the playbook embedded in his mind, the game will come natural to him. When we spend our lives learning how to live with the Torah, we will realize that it’s who we are.
May Hashem grant us the ability to learn and teach so that we will raise ourselves, and especially our children, to be Ovdei Hashem and merit the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash Bimheira Biyameinu Amen!