April 17, 2024
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Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz, zt”l, was a renowned gaon and lamdan (rabbinical scholar). The rosh yeshiva of Kaminetz was a talmid muvhak (outstanding student) of Reb Chaim Brisker, and respected as one of the great Torah minds and mechadshim, innovative teachers of the generation. Rav Baruch Ber once wondered aloud to his talmidim: “On what grounds can I expect to gain entry into olam haba? Will I be rewarded for my chiddushei Torah in sefer Birkas Shmuel? No … For how insightful will my ideas be relative to those of the Tannaim, Amoraim, Rishonim and Acharonim? Will it, then, be as a reward for my mesirus nefesh for Torah and mitzvos? That too, is unlikely, for many generations of Jews have paid the ultimate sacrifice and given their lives al Kiddush Hashem.”

Turning to his students, Reb Boruch Ber opened his heart: “Even if not for my learning, or for my sacrifice for mitzvos, what is certain is that I will be rewarded for my ahavas Yisrael—for I love every Jew, exactly as he is. I have never met a Jew in the street and not wished them well with all my heart … ”

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Our sedra details the construction of the Mishkan as well as the vessels that are found within it. First among them is the aron, the ark containing the luchos. Atop the ark was the kapores, a golden lid upon which rested the keruvim, the golden cherubs:

וְעָשִׂיתָ שְׁנַיִם כְּרֻבִים זָהָב מִקְשָׁה תַּעֲשֶׂה אֹתָם מִשְּׁנֵי קְצוֹת הַכַּפּרֶת:

“And you shall make two golden keruvim; you shall make them from hammered work from the two ends of the ark’s cover.” (25:18)

These childlike angelic figures were fashioned of a single piece of gold. They were specifically not to be soldered together, rather formed as a miksheh, “a hammered out form” from the same source.

וְהָיוּ הַכְּרֻבִים פֹּרְשֵׂי כְנָפַיִם לְמַעְלָה סֹֽכְכִים בְּכַנְפֵיהֶם עַל־הַכַּפֹּרֶת וּפְנֵיהֶם אִישׁ אֶל־אָחִיו אֶל־הַכַּפֹּרֶת יִהְיוּ פְּנֵי הַכְּרֻבִים:

“The keruvim shall have their wings spread upwards, shielding the ark cover with their wings, with their faces toward one another; (turned) toward the ark cover shall be the faces of the keruvim.” (25:20)

The gaze of the keruvim—directed both toward the ark and toward each other—represents the essence of a life of Torah. Yiddishkeit is meant to cultivate in us the ability to experience the hashraas haShechinah, the resting of the divine presence, but precisely in the mode of “their faces turned toward one another.” This radiant symbol of ahavas Yisrael—of a people looking toward each other, rooted in a single soul, and hammered out and formed from the same Source—was situated above the luchos. Ahavas Yisrael crowns the Torah.

Rav Dovid Feinstein, zt”l, insisted: “When Yidden get up after learning a sugya (talmudic discussion), they should be more compassionate, kinder and with more room in their heart for others. If that doesn’t happen, then they didn’t really learn it, and they should sit down and learn it again.”

 וְעָשׂוּ אֲרוֹן עֲצֵי שִׁטִּים… וְצִפִּיתָ אֹתוֹ זָהָב טָהוֹר מִבַּיִת וּמִחוּץ תְּצַפֶּנּוּ וְעָשִׂיתָ עָלָיו זֵר זָהָב סָבִיב:

“They shall make an ark of acacia wood … Overlay it with pure gold inside and out and make upon it a gold molding surrounding it.” (25:10-11)

While other vessels in the Mishkan were constructed of solid gold, the ark was constructed of acacia wood and only plated with gold. This would seem to diminish the honor of the Torah that rested within it. However, during the travels of Bnei Yisrael in the desert, the Leviim had the privilege and responsibility to carry the heavy aron. Chizkuni suggests that the instruction to make the ark out of wood—lightly plated with gold—shows deliberate sensitivity to the Leviim. And this provides a lesson—for all of us—in how to live a Torah life. It is a reminder that the goal of Torah is expressed when we alleviate the physical, emotional or spiritual burdens of our fellow.

There are times where living a Torah observant life can feel heavy, and carrying the zechus of mitzvos not always easy. Yet kavod haTorah is enhanced when we turn toward our fellow, cover them with our wings of love and lighten their load with our friendship. And this is part of the goal of Creation itself, as Rabbeinu Bachya comments: “The attribute of kindness pervades all of existence in its eternity, the heavenly realms and the lower realms, and these realms have no possibility of continued being without it; everything needs kindness and kindness has no end or boundary.” (Kisvei Rabbeinu Bachya, page 327)

The construction of the Mishkan and its vessels gives us models of how to “carry” the Torah as individuals and as a community, and to grow closer to Hashem and each other. May we internalize these lessons in kindness, and may the Shechinah dwell within all of us, together—“ … v’shochanti b’tocham—and I will dwell in them.”


Rav Judah Mischel is executive director of Camp HASC, the Hebrew Academy for Special Children. He is the mashpiah of OU-NCSY, founder of Tzama Nafshi and the author of “Baderech: Along the Path of Teshuva.” Rav Judah lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife Ora and their family.

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