Over the next few parshiot, we will be inundated with many measurements and exacting detail. At first glance the detail seems to be architectural information about the Mishkan and the various Kailim that were used for the Avodah. However, upon taking a closer look at the content of our parsha, we actually discover the true meaning and inherent beauty of the Mishkan.
Let us look at the “Ark”-“Aron”, as explained by the Keli Yakar:
All of the measurements of the Aron are fractions – one and a half ama in width, two and a half ama in length, and one and a half ama in height. Why are the measurements not whole in number, i.e. one, two, or three amot?
The Aron represents Torah -the spiritual aspirations of the Jewish people. The measurements are not whole in number, specifically to emphasize that there is always more to achieve in our spiritual lives. With regard to our progress in the sphere of our religious activity, we must not just look at what we have achieved, but rather at what remains to be done. The minute that our religious activity becomes routine, it ceases to be Avodat Hashem. Implicit within the phrase, Avodat Hashem, is the requirement to be constantly at work, in all three facets of life: Between man and G-d, between man and man, and between man and himself.
The Baal HaTania, emphasizes this point, stressing that complacency in our Judaism will inevitably lead to a regression in our level of religiosity. Indeed, many have seen this exact symbolism in the ramp leading up to the altar. A ramp was proscribed as opposed to stairs, to symbolize exactly this point. When ascending the staircase, we are able to stop at any given point, rest and then proceed, however, when ascending a ramp, the minute one stops going up, regression automatically begins.
We are often lulled into a false sense of security, we get used to a certain framework of religious behavior, automatically performing many of the commandments – a status quo. Yet this “status quo” is an optical illusion, even to keep at the same level of spirituality requires enormous effort.
These fractional measurements of the Aron therefore stand as a constant reminder to us, that we are spiritually incomplete. Our ambition and yearning to achieve should be directed towards our Judaism. I have never met a human being without ambition, yet more often than not, that ambition is being channeled in the wrong direction. Do we study Torah with the same seriousness as we do in areas of our professions? Are we as careful about doing mitzvot – our spiritual well being, as we are about our physical health?
Let there be no doubt in our minds, we are in this world in order to serve Hashem, we have been sent here for one purpose, and one purpose only. True, we are all different, and therefore we all serve Hashem whilst using the talents that He has given us (within the Halachik framework), however, we must never lose sight of the goal.
Like most men in my Yishuv, I spend the first part of my Friday mornings in the local store, buying whatever I have been instructed to buy by my wife for Shabbat. Immediately after shacharit, I am given a list, and with that list I enter the store. The most important things on that list, are of course wine and challot. Yet once one arrives, one busies oneself with buying cola and cake, in fact on occasion, I have been known to return home without the things that were actually on the list.
Upon reflection, many of us lead our lives in this fashion, we are sent to this world for a particular reason, but once we are here, we tend to be sidetracked, and unfortunately, many of us return to shamayim, (after 120 years), without the essential “wine and challah”. The Aron serves as a constant reminder to us of where the real emphasis should be in our lives.
Also unique to the Aron is the fact that we are instructed to make the Ark with the use of the plural form “Veasu” as opposed to the singular form “Veasita” that is used regarding all the other kaylim. Success in the spiritual arena is only achieved in its truest form when accompanied by a united people. We can only make the Aron if we are together. Why is this so? Why is there such an emphasis on unity, specifically in the area of Torah?
The root of all unity, is first and foremost, tolerance and mutual respect for ones fellow man. The enemy of unity is selfishness. Selfishness is essentially definable as man doing whatever he wants because there is nothing more important than him and his needs, in effect man sees himself as god. Where selfishness exists religion cannot truly exist, since religion proports the worship of Hashem, selfishness proports the worship of man.
Unity, in its essence is about man being able to take others into account. It is about our ability to see something else in the center of the world apart from ourselves. It is only when an atmosphere of unity exists that the Torah can truly develop. It is only when man is ready and willing to leave the center stage for G-d that true spiritual progress can be achieved.
The Aron, the Shulchan, and the Mizbayach, all have poles to enable them to be carried proficiently, when the people journey. However, when the Mishkan was set up in a specific place those poles, were removed. We are told by the Torah, however, that the poles of the Aron must never be removed, even when the people were encamped, and the Mishkan erect. It is in fact one of the 613 mitzvot not to remove the poles from the Aron. The significance of this mitzva is quite beautiful. The Shulchan and the Mizbayach are particular to the Mishkan, when the Mishkan moves they move, when the Mishkan is not in use, neither are they. The Aron, the Torah, however, is not restricted by the Mishkan it is relevant in every place at any time. The Shulchan does not accompany us into the exile, but the Torah does, it must be with us wherever we are, what ever we decide to do.
We have seen just a few of many beautiful insights regarding the Mishkan and its true meaning. We have emphasized the need to achieve, the need for unity, and the need for the Torah to accompany us in everything that we do.