Sharona Margolin Halickman

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Photo Courtesy Sharona Halickman

In Parshat Vayakhel, Shmot 37:1-9, we read about how Betzalel made the “aron” (the ark):

Betzalel made the ark of acacia wood, 2 ½ amot long, 1 ½ amot wide and 1 ½ amot high. He covered it with pure gold from inside and out…”

How and why did we lose the ark?

There is a dispute over whether the ark was purposely hidden or whether it was taken away against our will:

The Talmud, Yoma 52b teaches that King Yoshiyahu purposely hid the ark:

It was taught in a Braita: When the ark was hidden away towards the end of the First Temple era, the following items were hidden with it: the jar of manna, the flask of anointing oil, the staff of Aharon with its almonds and blossoms and the box that the Plishtim sent as a present to the God of Israel…And who hid the ark? Yoshiyahu hid it. Why did he hide it? He saw that it says in Dvarim 28:36 “God will lead you and your king who you will set up over yourself to a nation you never knew.”

In contrast, we learn in the Talmud, Yoma 53b, that the ark was taken away by Nevuchadnetzar:

The Mishna does not teach, “After the ark was hidden,” but rather “After the ark was taken away.”Rabbi Eliezer says: The ark went into exile in Babylonia, as it says (Divrei HaYamim II: 36:10): “King Nevuchadnetzar had King Yehoyachin brought to Babylonia together with the precious articles of the Temple of God.”

Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai says: The ark went into exile in Babylonia, as it says (Yishayahu 39:6): “Behold the days are coming when everything in your house, and whatever your forefathers have accumulated until this day will be carried off to Babylonia. Not a thing will be left, said God.” “Not a thing will be left” refers to the Tablets containing the Ten Commandments within the ark.

Either way, by the time the Second Temple was built, we no longer had the ark as we see in Yoma 21b:

These are the five things that the Second Temple was lacking: 1.The ark, the ark cover (kaporet) and the Cherubim 2.The fire from heaven 3. The Divine Presence (Shechina) 4. The Holy Spirit(Ruach HaKodesh) 5. The Urim v’Tumim.

We see from these two contrasting views that it is possible that the ark is still in Jerusalem or it was moved to Babylonia. As well, it may have been looted from one of those places and taken somewhere else.

I am not a big Indiana Jones fan but I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark in order to see why they were so fascinated with the ark.

The more archeological digs that we engage in, the more pieces of our past that come up. We must continue to excavate in order to understand our history and why the Land of Israel is so important to the Jewish people.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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