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Par sha t Ter umah

Innocence Lo st And F ound


Ra bbi Ari Kahn

Parshat Teruma represents somewhat of a departure from the previous sections of


the Torah. While the other sections were mainly concerned with narrative, and
Mishpatim introduced what may be seen as an extension of the Aseret Hadibrot,
Teruma virtually ignores narrative in favor of instructions for building the Mishkan.

On the face of it, building the Mishkan is a strange thing to do. G-d, who is
transcendent, certainly has no need of a "home" and it would be mistake to
understand the Divine decree as an attempt to find haven for the ineffable
transcendent G-d. A careful reading of the text indicates the objective of the
construction:

"Make Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in them" (27:8)

The verse describes the result of the building: G-d will live within the Jew or the
Jewish nation, "I will dwell in them", rather than the more obvious result of G-d
“residing” in the Sanctuary. Clearly, the objective of the building was not to
provide G-d with shelter, but to provide an avenue for man to take G-d into his
life.

The decree to build the Mishkan seems to fit very nicely into the narrative flow.
The preceding verse described Moshe's ascension to receive the Torah. There is a
difference of opinion among various commentaries, and Midrashim as to whether
the Golden Calf episode preceded or followed the instructions for building the
Mishkan.

Rashi follows the opinion expressed in the Midrash that the Mishkan is
commanded only after the Golden Calf debacle. Ramban, on the other hand, sees
the Mishkan as directly following the Revelation at Sinai, as per the Zohar (see
Shem Mishmuel Teruma).

An earlier verse apparently connects the Giving of the Torah and the building of
the Mishkan, independent of the Golden Calf. When Moshe speaks to G-d at the
Burning Bush, Moshe questions his own role in the redemption of the Jews. G-d
responds;

This will be for you a sign that I sent you; when you take the people out
from Egypt, you shall worship the Lord on this mountain (3:12)

Rabbi Soloveitchik Zatza”l once explained1 that two things had to transpire in
order for this Divine promise to be realized. First, the Jews needed to receive the
Torah, and second, the Jews needed to build the Mishkan. Both are included in the

1
I believe he cited the Sefer Hachinuch but I was unable to locate the source.
phrase "worship the Lord on this mountain". Therefore, according to this
understanding, once the Torah was given, the only thing left to do was to build the
Mishkan. Consequently, our Parsha follows the ascension of Moshe.

This explains the logical sequence of the verses, but the understanding of the
Divine imperative to build the Mishkan seems elusive. There are numerous
components to the Mishkan, but the central part of the Mishkan was clearly the
Aron- the Ark. On top of the Aron a pair of gold Cherubs were placed. The two
were to be made of one block of gold. They had an angelic appearance with their
wings touching, and they faced one another. It was from the space between the
two cherubs that G-d communicated with the Jewish People.

I will make Myself known to you there, and I will speak to you from above
the Kaporet from between the two Keruvim which are upon the Tent of
Testimony, all that I command you regarding the Children of Israel. (25:22)

From between the Cherubs the Divine Presence emanated, and communication
flowed. This would serve as a further link between the Revelation on Sinai, and
the building of the Mishkan - which would replace Sinai and become a conduit for
further revelation. Ramban makes this observation, and explains:

This is the mystery of the Mishkan. The glory of G-d which was manifest on
Mount Sinai would now radiate [to Moshe] inside [the Mishkan]. (Ramban
25:1)

Nonetheless, it is somewhat strange that Judaism, which generally rejects


representations of the human form, and of the Divine form as it were, should
prescribe a pair of Cherubs in the holiest of places. After all, what is the difference
between the Keruvim and the Golden Calf? Why should one represent Divine
communication, and the other desecration?

Rashi alludes to an answer to this question in his comments on the verses


following the Ten Commandments, (Exodus 20:19) which describe the prohibition
of constructing "gods of gold or silver". Rashi explains that even the slightest
deviation from the Divine decree is tantamount to idolatry. Construction of
Keruvim of silver instead of gold, or the wrong number of Keruvim, or their
incorrect placement, would constitute a violation of the command. This teaches us
that the reason that the Keruvim were allowed was that G-d commanded us to
construct them. Conversely, the reason that the Golden Calf was considered
idolatry was that G-d did not command us to construct it. The word Mitzvah
means "command"; the phrase Avodah Zarah means "strange worship", that
which was not commanded.

Therefore, on at least a procedural level we are able to distinguish between the


Golden Calf and the Keruvim. However, on a substantive level there must be a
difference as well. In order to fully grasp the meaning of this Divine imperative we
must uncover the significance of the Keruvim.
There is some difference of opinion regarding the actual appearance of the
Keruvim. The composite form was that of 2 young children (see Rashi 25:18) with
wings, without clothing. According to the Talmud the two Cherubs were embracing
like two lovers (Yoma 54a-b see below). The Zohar clearly says one was male and
the other female.

R. Jose said: ‘The word “equity” (mesharim, lit. equities) in the above
quoted verse indicates that the Cherubim were male and female.’ (Zohar
3:59a)

This image of naked, embracing innocents obviously could have been


misunderstood. The Talmud relates that when the Babylonians captured the
Temple and entered the Holy of Holies they were shocked:

Resh Lakish taught; when the Heathen entered the Heichal, they saw the
Keruvim embracing one another, they took them out to the market place
and said: ‘This [Nation of] Israel whose blessings are blessings and curses
are curses, are involved in such things!?’ They immediately cheapened
them, (HIZULUM) as the verse says, ‘All their valuables were cheapened for
they saw her nakedness’.(Eicha 1:8 ) (Yoma 54b)

The invading forces were evidently quite surprised to see the representation of
the human form in the midst of the Holy Temple. The Jews were not thought of as
idolaters, and the uninitiated assumed that what they saw was not only prohibited
in Jewish law, but objectively erotic, or pornographic. One can certainly appreciate
how they arrived at that conclusion.

In order to find a deeper understanding of the meaning of the Keruvim, we must


investigate the other places that the Keruvim appear.

The first mention of the Keruvim in the Torah is in the verse describing the
eviction of man from the Garden of Eden:

Man was evicted and Keruvim were placed East of the Garden of Eden, and
a revolving burning sword was placed in order to guard the path to the Tree
of Life (Breshit 3:24)

As a result of man's sin, the Keruvim enter the world, in order to protect the "Tree
of Life". We have noted the identification between the Tree of life and the Torah2. It
is therefore interesting to note that in the Mishkan the Keruvim protect the Ark,
which contains the Torah, and in Eden the Keruvim protected the path leading to
the Tree of Life/ Torah.

Before the sin of Adam and Eve, the Keruvim were unnecessary; they appear only
as a result of the sin. This leads us to conclude that the "Keruvim" represent none
other than Adam and Eve themselves, young and innocent - and naked in the

2
See my notes to Shmot, and B’shalach.
Garden. Only as a result of their sin did they become aware of, and embarrassed
by their nakedness.

And when the woman saw that the Tree was good for food, and that it was
pleasant to the eyes, and a Tree to be desired to make one wise, she took
of its fruit, and ate, and gave also to her husband with her; and he ate. And
the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. They
heard the voice of G-d the Lord reverberate in the Garden in the spirit (or
wind) of the day, and the man and his wife hid from in front of G-d the Lord,
in the midst of the trees of the Garden. And the Lord G-d called to Adam,
and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard your voice in the
Garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ And He
said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the Tree, which
I commanded you that you should not eat? (Bereishit 3:6-11)

The new, "sophisticated" perspective of Adam and Eve, born of partaking of the
forbidden fruit, gave them a different, perhaps distorted view of the world. Now
they knew that they were naked; now they needed to clothe themselves. Now
they hid from G-d. It is fascinating that the Hebrew word for clothing is "Beged"
from the root "BGD", treason or rebellion. The clothing which man wears is a
memorial to rebellion and the resultant distancing from G-d. Immediately after
eating from the Tree of Knowledge, the Torah describes;

"They heard the voice of G-d the Lord, reverberate in the Garden in the
spirit (or wind) of the day, and the man and his wife hid from in front of G-d
the Lord, in the midst of the trees of the Garden." (Bereishit 3:8)

As a result of their sin, man felt alienated from G-d. G-d, for his part, was
accessible and willing to engage man in a dialogue, but Adam felt embarrassed,
naked, seeing the world from a different perspective than he had previously. Man
lost his innocence. In the place of this jaded couple, pathetically attempting to
hide from G-d, now stood an innocent looking couple, representing Adam and Eve
before the sin, guarding the passage to the Tree of Life, to the Torah.

How appropriate that in the Mishkan and later in the Temple itself, in the Holy of
Holies, stood a symbol of man at his apex - before his sin, in a state of total
innocence before G-d. Specifically from here would the word of G-d emerge and
reverberate. How appropriate that in anticipation of the destruction of the Temple
the Keruvim embrace, an act of innocence in the face of the marauding, corrupt
legion of conquering warriors. Sin had again permeated the world, and the
Keruvim were taken out and misunderstood, their "nakedness" uncovered.

Man’s sense of abandonment in the wake of his sins is a universal feeling; it was
part of the reassurance that G-d had to give Moshe, when Moshe sought
forgiveness for the people for the sin of the Golden Calf:
"Rabbi Yochanan said, ‘If it were not a verse then it would be impossible to
say. We learn that G-d wrapped Himself (in a Talit) as a Shiliach Tzibur and
He instructed Moshe as to the proper order of the prayers. He said,
‘Whenever Israel sin, perform this service before Me and I will forgive them:
"G-d, G-d.." I am G-d prior to man's sin, and I am G-d after man sins and
repents." (Talmud Rosh Hashanah 17b)

While man feels the alienation caused by sin, G-d remains unchanged. The
alienation leads to man’s loss of innocence, and to hiding from G-d. G-d, for His
part, insists that there is always a path of return. The Keruvim, the image of man’s
innocence, guard this path. They are armed with a revolving sword, to symbolize
the shift which man must make in order to approach Torah.

The two Keruvim were made of one piece of gold, just as Adam and Eve were
initially joined together as one. The Keruvim symbolize the ultimate return to
one’s self.

…Adam and Eve were created as a united pair; and since they were coupled
together, G-d blessed them. For blessing does not reside save in a spot
where there are male and female. (Zohar, Bereishit, Section 1, Page 165a)

R. Jose the younger once went in to see R. Simeon and found him
expounding the verse: “And the man said: The woman whom thou gavest to
be with me, she gave me of the Tree and I did eat” (Gen. III, 12). ‘The
expression “with me”,’ he said, ‘indicates that Adam and Eve were created
together with one body.’ (Zohar, Vayikra, Section 3, Page 83b)

Throughout the generations, the High Priest would enter the Inner Sanctum on the
holiest day of the year - Yom Kippur, the day on which the Jews were finally
forgiven for the sin of the Golden Calf. Yom Kippur more than any other day
symbolizes rebirth, regained innocence. It is the day when the Divine Presence,
the Shechina, flows. The High Priest, attired in special clothing, would venture into
the Holy of Holies. As he entered he saw before him this perpetual image of
innocence, purity, and holiness; the Keruvim, symbolizing Adam and Eve as they
were meant to be. Standing before G-d, he prayed for cleansing, purity, and
innocence, for the entire nation.

For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to purify you,
that you may be purified from all your sins before the Lord. (Vayikra 16:30)

The Mishkan was not designed to be a home for G-d, but a place where
man could return home - to himself.