Man is a creation of desire, not a creation of need. — Gaston Bachelard
After the historic divine revelation at Mount Sinai, God commands Moses to build a Sanctuary, the Tabernacle. The Torah provides extreme detail as to the composition, construction, and measurements of the inner components of the Tabernacle as well as to its structural elements.
The central and most famous component of the Tabernacle is the Ark of the Covenant, where the two tablets containing the newly received Ten Commandments were stored. (It is not, contrary to popular belief, being held in a US government warehouse, after being rescued from the Nazis by Indiana Jones…).
A curious design feature of the Ark is that it has two poles for carrying it. Well, that’s not the curious part. The curious part is that there is an explicit command that those two poles may never be removed from the Ark, even when there is no longer a need for them and nobody is carrying the Ark.
The Meshech Chochma on Exodus 25:11-18 learns a deep lesson as to the necessity of permanently leaving the carrying poles in an Ark that is not being carried.
He explains that we misunderstand the role of the poles and by extension, God’s role and relationship to us.
The poles are not there to carry the Ark. The Ark, in some metaphysical fashion which we don’t understand but that the Talmud verifies (Tractate Sotah 35a), carries itself. In fact, not only does the Ark carry itself, but it actually carries the people who think they’re carrying the Ark.
To support his argument further, the Meshech Chochma brings the example of the second most famous component of the Tabernacle, the Candelabrum, the Menorah. According to Maimonides, the Menorah was lit not only at night but also during the day. Why light the scarce and precious olive oil during the day when there is no need for illumination? The Meshech Chochma explains that it comes to make the same point. God doesn’t need the light; not at night and not during the day. By lighting the Menorah during the day, the obvious lack of a practical physical purpose demonstrates that God doesn’t need it. The same point is made by the poles. The Ark doesn’t need the poles, and by having them permanently attached, even when at rest, it further demonstrates that at a deeper, fundamental level, they are not really needed.
Ultimately, these physical examples inform our own relationship with and service to God. God doesn’t need it. God manages and will manage just fine without us. However, He wants us. He does want a relationship with us. He does want us to reach out to Him. He does want us to connect. Not because He needs us, but rather, because He wants us.
May we always be wanted by God.
To the Israeli voters (again).