Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Terumah - 5772
THE MESORAH AS REFERENCED IN MELECHET HAMISHKAN
In Pareshat Terumah, Moshe was given the details for the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The first mentioned vessel, which served as the central feature of the Mishkan, was the Ark. It was in the Holy Ark that the Testimonial tablets were placed.
Hashem told Moshe that they shall make the ark of acacia wood, yet overlay it with pure gold. Thus 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 is not going to be visible at all, 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 detracted from it. It is in a solid form that has not and will never be adjusted. The oral tradition, on the other hand, is the part of the Torah that is alive and active! When the Rabbis get together and make a decree on non-kosher wine, or to 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 frame work that limits its flexibility.
With the above information we can appreciate the wood and gold needed for the Ark.
The wood represents the oral tradition. The gold, on the other hand, is the firm written law.