Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Terumah
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Revital Bat Lea

Parashat Terumah

A Youthful Meeting of the Faces


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

4 Adar 5766
Connected to the kaporet which covered the aron (Ark) in the Mishkan were two keruvim, which were facing each other (Shemot 25: 19-20). The gemara (Chagiga 13b) derives from the similarity of the word keruvim to the Aramaic word, ravya, that the keruvim had faces that resembled children. Much has been said about the significance of the image of children. Let us see what we can learn from some of the explanations.

The Torah Temimah (ad loc.) refers to a commentary called Ein Eliyahu, who says that the image of a child hints at the idea that Hashem treated Bnei Yisrael as a child at that time. As a young nation, they were bound to make "immature" mistakes. Therefore, Hashem considered their national age when deciding how harshly to react to their flawed behavior.

The Torah Temimah rejects this explanation on the grounds that the same keruvim were used in the Beit Hamikdash. At that time, hundreds of years later, Bnei Yisrael was already a mature nation, long settled in its land. He prefers the idea that emanates from the gemara in Yoma (54a) that the kohanim would display the keruvim to those who came for the regalim. They would see the forms of the keruvim embracing each other like a young couple, representing Hashem’s love for Bnei Yisrael. The youthful appearance of the figures represents the appeal that a sweet, "baby" look has on those who see it.

Both of these ideas (and others) do not seem to take one important factor into account. Although they have nice explanations of the youth of the keruv that represented Bnei Yisrael, what sense is there for the one that represented Hashem to look so young? (The commentators on the gemara in Yoma dispute whether the two keruvim were identical or whether one was a male figure and the other female. However, I did not see any claim that one looked older than the other.)

The lesson may be a profound, if somewhat dangerous one, if misunderstood. Certainly, Hashem, the Divine and Perfect, is inapproachable to us on an absolute level. "Man cannot see Me and live" (Shemot 33:20). "He is an all-consuming fire" (Devarim 4:24). However, in the Mishkan, Hashem highlighted the elements of His Being that could interface with Bnei Yisrael, ka’veyachol, on our level. Eliyahu Rabba (24) explains that we can follow in Hashem’s footsteps by learning from some of his characteristics. Our parasha teaches us how one accomplishes that and goes about the process of imitatio dei. The meeting place of the two keruvim was the ark that contained the luchot habrit (tablets of the covenant), representing the Torah. The Torah emanates from Hashem and is the representation of His Will, as it finds expression in the physical world. Bnei Yisrael, by accepting, studying and fulfilling the Torah, connect themselves to it as their spiritual lifeline. By being connected to the Torah, we are connected to the "youthful face" of Hashem, those element of His Being that He is able to share with us.

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