It is the dream of every outstanding talmid at a Yeshivat Hesder to be either the rosh yeshiva of a Yeshivat Hesder or a dayan on a beit din rabbani, official rabbinic court of the State of Israel. Rav Shlomo Shushan—our guest this past Shabbat Parashat Terumah at Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic congregation of Teaneck—realized both dreams. For the past 10 years, Rav Shushan has served as the founding rosh yeshiva of the Yeshivat Hesder of Beit Shean. As Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Shushan’s influence has extended well beyond the four walls of the Yeshiva’s Beit Midrash, with his talmidim teaching and impacting the wider Beit Shean community along with neighboring kibbutzim as well. This year, Rav Shushan was appointed to serve as a dayan of the district beit din of the eastern Galil, which meets two days a week in Tzfat and two days a week in Tveria.
Serving as a dayan and a rosh yeshiva require very different strengths. The dayan must strike a forceful presence in resolving thorny real-life dilemmas in the courtroom, whereas the rosh yeshiva is more of a charismatic figure able to impact the youth. Rav Shushan is blessed with a unique blend of a personality equally suited to both the tasks of dayan and rosh yeshiva. Our beloved members Idit and Rav Shimon Shushan were delighted to host their brother and have him share his inspiring words of Torah with our kehillah. I am delighted to present a beautiful thought he shared at seudah shelishit.
Rav Shushan noted the oddity of some of the measures of some of the keilim in the Beit HaMikdash. The Aron’s dimensions are 2 ½ cubits long, a cubit and a half wide and a cubit and a half high. Why does Hashem present half measures in regard to the Aron? Moreover, in regard to the Shulhan, its measurements are two cubits long, a cubit wide thereof and a cubit and a half high. Why are some of its dimensions half measurements and others are whole numbers? Finally, the Mizbeiah HaKetoret’s dimensions are 5 cubits wide, 5 cubits broad and the height is 3 cubits. In this kli, the dimensions are in whole numbers unlike the Aron and the Shulhan. Thus, we are left to ponder why the Aron is entirely is half numbers, the Mizbeiah HaKetoret is whole numbers and the Shulhan is inconsistent.
Rav Shushan offers a beautiful explanation. The dimensions depend on what the kli represents. The Aron represents Torah (after all, it contains the luhot) and the Torah requires humility. One should always regard his Torah knowledge as incomplete and thus, regarding the Aron, whole numbers are not used. Even a great scholar should regard his Torah as incomplete and should always be open to learning new approaches, especially those articulated by his students. The Ari HaKadosh taught that the approximately 600,000 letters in the Torah correspond to the 600,000 souls of Jews, meaning that each Jew has a share in Torah and each Jew has something significant to contribute to our understanding of our beloved Torah. Thus, one should always regard his Torah knowledge as incomplete as there will always be others who can contribute to this understanding of Torah.
The Shulhan, upon which the Lehem HaPanim is placed, represents material success. Regarding the length and breadth of one’s material success, he should regard it as complete. Who is the wealthy man? Pirkei Avot states that it is one who is content with what he has, recognizing that what Hashem has ordained he should own is precisely what he has and should have. Thus, he should not view himself as deficient in material possessions but instead thinking that he has all he needs. The height of the Shulhan is a half measure to remind the materially successful individual not to view himself above others. Regarding his height or stature he should remain humble.
Regarding the Mizbeiah HaKetoret, the numbers are all complete since the fragrant ketoret is associated with the sense of smell which is most connected with the neshama. The neshama, as we say every day in the tefillah of Elokei Neshama, is tehorah, complete and pure. No matter what sin a Jew may erroneously fall into, his neshama remains unsullied. Thus, the Mizbeiah HaKetoret’s dimensions are complete, just as our neshamot always remain pure and pristine.
This was a mere taste of the beautiful Torah shared by a leading Torah personality, Rav Shlomo Shushan. We at Shaarei Orah eagerly await Rav Shushan’s visiting our kehillah and hearing him once again joyfully present special insights into our beloved Torah.
By Rabbi Haim Jachter
Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck.