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The Ark of Gold and Wood

by Rabbi Kalman Topp

The central and holiest item in the Mishkan (sanctuary in the wilderness) was the Aron-the Ark which held the Tablets of the Law. The Torah (Exodus 25:11) teaches that the Ark should be “plated with gold from within and without.” Rashi explains that this was accomplished practically with the fashioning of three different boxes, two of gold and one of wood. The largest box was thin and made of gold. A second box of wood, thicker but with slightly smaller length and width, was placed inside the box of gold. Then a third box made of gold, thin and slightly smaller in length and width, was placed inside the wooden box.  Thus, the Ark was wood in the middle and completely “plated with gold from within and without.”

The commentary known as Daat Zekeinim, authored by 12th-13th century German scholars, asks: Being that the Ark was gold on the outside and inside, why not make it completely of gold? The holiest item in the sanctuary is certainly deserving of being completely gold?  The answer offered by the Daat Zekeinim is simple yet profound: If it was made entirely of gold, then it would have been too heavy to carry. The Mishkan and specifically the Ark were carried during Israel’s travels through the wilderness. An ark completely of gold would have been unnecessarily burdensome.

Whether dealing with holy matters or the more mundane, we always need to take into account and have sensitivity for other people including the workers and custodians.  The Torah presents a way of life that reflects emet-truth and also chesed-kindness. The combination of gold and wood in the construction of the Ark reminds us that it’s a Torah precious as gold always observed with humility and sensitivity.

Shabbat starts Friday: 7:13PM
Shabbat ends Saturday: 8:12PM
Mon, August 19 2019 18 Av 5779