“There are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of royalty. But the crown of a good name is greater than them all.” Rabbi Simon, Avot 4:17 

God instructs Moses to build the Tabernacle, the portable desert Temple. The people of Israel contribute generously of their time and resources towards its construction. The last part of the Book of Exodus is filled with the details of the building, materials, labor, components, utensils, measurements and final assembly of what is otherwise also known as The Sanctuary.

There were a few components within the Tabernacle that were of particular significance. The most prominent was the Ark of the Covenant that carried the tablets of stone that bore the famed Ten Commandments. The Ark was situated in the innermost chamber of the Sanctuary. Two other components are worth mentioning for their symbolism: the Table and the Altar.

According to the Netziv on Exodus 25:14, the Ark is symbolic of Torah, the Altar is symbolic of the priesthood and the Table is symbolic of kingship. As per Rabbi Simon quoted above, it relates well to the concept of the three crowns and indeed, each of these components (the Ark, Altar and Table) had a raised border that surrounded its upper surface not unlike a large physical crown. The Mishna in Tractate Avot goes on to enumerate how one can attain these metaphorical crowns. Those of priesthood or kingship are by definition only available to a small subset of the people of Israel, but the crown of Torah is available to all.

The Netziv makes another interesting observation. The crowns of kingship and priesthood are not only attainable based on ones lineage, but can also only be reached when the people of Israel are fully established in the land of Israel. However, the crown of Torah can be reached anywhere in the world, independent of the national situation.

May we not only individually find our crowns of Torah, but as a nation may we see the crowns of priesthood and kingship restored speedily in our days.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the Uruguayan parliament, for their meaningful and moving remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust.