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Parsha Ponderings-Terumah

THE POLAR EXPEDITION

OF THE ARK BEAR(ER)

בטבעות הארון יהיו הבדים לא יסורו ממנו

In the rings of the Ark the poles shall be, they shall not be removed from it

Much like other vessels of the Tabernacle, the Aron, or Ark, had poles by which it was carried while in transit. Much unlike the other vessels, however, whose poles were inserted only while being transported, the Ark’s poles were permanently in place. In fact, the Torah goes so far as to expressly prohibit the removal of the Ark’s poles at any time. The reason for this distinction is unclear. Why, one wonders, would poles clearly designed to facilitate transportation, be required to remain perpetually attached?

The Ark, we know, carried the Luchos (Tablets) Moshe received at Sinai, and is thus representative of Torah itself. Hence, explain some, the message of its ever-present poles is that Torah is intrinsically mobile, always prepared to accompany the Jew and never bound by the confines of space or situation. Even as it rests in the Temple, Torah is prepared to be hoisted upon the Jew’s shoulder on a moment’s notice and taken to wherever fate takes the Jew himself. Far from being something to be tossed overboard as one pulls away from holy ground, Torah is forever ready to be clutched tight so that it may consecrate unholy ground upon which its bearer may be forced to tread.

Perhaps, however, there is an even deeper message here. Torah, by definition, is an entity in perpetual forward motion. It cannot possibly retain its identity while in stagnation, and must therefore always be in position to progress. A Torah not advancing with us along the path of spiritual growth, is not a Torah at all. It may be Mosaic theology, but it is not that which was given to Moshe. What God handed down at Sinai was a vibrant, growing seed of Truth, implanted deep within the soil of our souls, where it was to germinate and blossom into an ever-expanding manifestation of Godliness known to us as the Torah Jew. If we elect to instead take the lifeless shell of Torah and treat it as a mere body of knowledge to be displayed in the parlors of our static lives, then what we have is not Torah but tapestries, and what’s in our Ark is not Tablets any holier than the information stored on our tablet computer.

The Ark needs poles even while resting, just like a car needs wheels even while parked. It is a vehicle we drive to eternity, not a text we study until infirmity.

We must remind ourselves:

The Ark isn’t just there to float our boat… (that was Noah’s). It’s there to row it, hence the oars.

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