Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Terumah - 5779
THE ARK OF TORAH
In Pareshat Terumah, Moshe was given the details for the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The first vessel they were told to create was the Aron (the ark). The Aron served as the central feature of the Mishkan, since it contained the Luchot (testimonial tablets).
The material used for the assembly of the Aron was acacia wood. However, Moshe was told that it should be overlaid with pure gold. Consequently, the Ark appeared to be made of pure gold, since the acacia wood was totally covered.
The question we must ask is, if the wood was not going to be visible, why have the wood at all?
Commentators explain that the Holy Ark symbolizes the Torah. The Torah is not just the recorded text, but also the oral tradition that accompanies every statement of the written text. The written Torah will always remain the same; nothing could be added and nothing can be subtracted from it. It is in a solid form that has not been, and will never be adjusted. The oral tradition, on the other hand, is the part of the Torah that is alive and dynamic. When the Rabbis make a decree on non-kosher wine, or when they prohibit the mixture of fowl and milk, that too becomes the will of the Torah.
Accordingly, the Torah has two elements: one that is solid, and the other that is organic. However even the organic - namely the oral tradition - has a framework that limits its flexibility.
With the above information, we can appreciate the symbolism of the wood and gold used in the building of the Ark. The organic wood represents the oral tradition. The gold, on the other hand, is the firm written law.