Parshas Terumah relates the commandment and undertaking to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Through Moshe, G-d communicates the materials that are to be used as well as precise instructions for the construction. Upon its completion, the Mishkan would be a dwelling place for G-d’s presence. The nation would experience the intimacy of G-d residing in their midst and would be spiritually elevated by this sublime connection.
The most sacred of the vessels, and the focal point of the Mishkan, was the Aron (Ark of the Covenant). The Aron was to be housed in the Holy of Holies, and would contain the tablets of the Ten Commandments. The Aron’s cover was to be made of pure gold and feature two cherubim, one on each end of the cover. The verse instructs that the wings of the cherubim “shall spread upward,” and that their faces should be “toward one another.”
Rabbi Yitzchak Elchonon Spector zt”l deduces profound lessons from the Torah’s directive. The wings of the cherubim, spreading heavenward, symbolize the call to man to journey forth, ever higher. Rather than be satisfied with our spiritual accomplishments, we must realize that we can always ascend higher, coming ever closer to G-d.
That the faces of the cherubim should be toward one another teaches us that, notwithstanding the dizzying heights we may attain, we must be certain to concern ourselves with our friends and neighbors. How are they faring? How can I share the good fortune that I have with those around me? How can I use my experiences to inspire and encourage those who may benefit from them?
Sadly, we no longer have the majesty of the Tabernacle or the splendor of the Temple. But when we heed the lessons of the cherubim, we will have done much to bring G-d’s presence into our midst.
Rabbi Menachem Winter is the Rosh Kollel at the Greater Washington Community Kollel.