Shechina in Residence - Truma
The Ramban gives names to each of the 5 books of the Torah. The name he gives for the book of Shmot is ספר הגלות והגאולה. It is an apt name as the first half of sefer Shmot indeed deals with the galut in Egypt, the Exodus and ultimately Matan Torah.
If sefer Shmot ended after parshat Mishpatim, all would be well. However, the second half of sefer Shmot deals almost exclusively with the Mishkan. The Ramban asks why the books were not organized differently. Why not make the parshiyot from Shmot until Mishpatim - sefer Shmot and then take all the parshiyot of the Mishkan and group them together with the parshiyot in Vayikra in one bundle. You will then have the Mishkan and the Avodah in the Mishkan all in one sefer! What does the subject of the Mishkan have to do with גלות וגאולה? asks the Ramban.
The answer he gives is that the redemption of Am Yisrael was not complete until they had re-attained the status of the Avot and the Imahot - Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivkah, Yaakov and Rachel, Leah, Bilha and Zilpa, who merited the Shechina of HKB”H residing in their tents, ענן קשור על האוהל, נר דלוק מערב שבת לערב שבת וברכה שרוייה בעיסה, which was duplicated in the Mishkan by the Aron, Menorah and the Shulchan. So, according to the Ramban, the Mishkan was in fact the final link in the chain of the Geulah.
In this week’s shiur I would like to explore the Kruvim.
וְנָתַתָּ אֶל הָאָרֹן אֵת הָעֵדֻת אֲשֶׁר אֶתֵּן אֵלֶיךָ. וְעָשִׂיתָ כַפֹּרֶת זָהָב טָהוֹר אַמָּתַיִם וָחֵצִי אָרְכָּהּ וְאַמָּה וָחֵצִי רָחְבָּהּ. וְעָשִׂיתָ שְׁנַיִם כְּרֻבִים זָהָב מִקְשָׁה תַּעֲשֶׂה אֹתָם מִשְּׁנֵי קְצוֹת הַכַּפֹּרֶת. וַעֲשֵׂה כְּרוּב אֶחָד מִקָּצָה מִזֶּה וּכְרוּב אֶחָד מִקָּצָה מִזֶּה מִן הַכַּפֹּרֶת תַּעֲשׂוּ אֶת הַכְּרֻבִים עַל שְׁנֵי קְצוֹתָיו. וְהָיוּ הַכְּרֻבִים פֹּרְשֵׂי כְנָפַיִם לְמַעְלָה סֹכְכִים בְּכַנְפֵיהֶם עַל הַכַּפֹּרֶת וּפְנֵיהֶם אִישׁ אֶל אָחִיו אֶל הַכַּפֹּרֶת יִהְיוּ פְּנֵי הַכְּרֻבִים. וְנָתַתָּ אֶת הַכַּפֹּרֶת עַל הָאָרֹן מִלְמָעְלָה וְאֶל הָאָרֹן תִּתֵּן אֶת הָעֵדֻת אֲשֶׁר אֶתֵּן אֵלֶיךָ. וְנוֹעַדְתִּי לְךָ שָׁם וְדִבַּרְתִּי אִתְּךָ מֵעַל הַכַּפֹּרֶת מִבֵּין שְׁנֵי הַכְּרֻבִים אֲשֶׁר עַל אֲרוֹן הָעֵדֻת אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוֶּה אוֹתְךָ אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. (שמות כה, טז-כב)
If you analyze the overall structure of the Mishkan (and Beit Hamikdash) you see that it is layered according to the level of קדושה. The outer layers are less holy and as you go successively inwards, the layers become holier, until you reach the holiest compartment, the קדש קדשים. This process of “refinement” did not end at the walls of the קדש הקדשים however – the level of holiness within the קדש הקדשים continues to be focused further, until it reaches a single point – above the Aron, between the two Kruvim. At this point HKB”H concentrates His Shechina and it is from there He communicates with Moshe.
How it is possible for HKB”H, whose כבודו מלא עולם and stretches across galaxies, to minimize His vast Shechina into such a small area, is a topic of discussion in Chazal and the ספרי הקבלה, beyond the scope of this shiur. Suffice it to say that HKB”H is infinite and just as you have infinity on the large end of the scale you also have infinity on the small end. You may think of it as a decimal point moving right (larger), or left (smaller) - ad infinitum. Just as HKB”H is infinitely large He is at the same time infinitely small.
If HKB”H decided to focus His Shechina at this specific point in the Mishkan, there must be something special about it - the space above the Aron, above the Kaporet, between the two Kruvim – that it was fitting to house and focus HKB”H’s Shechina.
You may ask “Why do we need somewhere to house the Shechina in this world at all?” - Because it was the purpose of Creation.
The purpose of Creation was to have HKB”H’s Shechina reside in ALL levels of Creation, from the highest to the lowest.
In order to house HKB”H’s Shechina, you need a construct – a model. The concept of the model is identical in all levels but is reflected differently according to the nature of the level. In the highest level the model is entirely spiritual and in the lowest level physical.
The highest level is where the כסא הכבוד is, in the seventh/ninth layer of Heaven called מכון/ערבות, (depending on which opinion you follow). In his perush on Shmot פרק כה in regard to the Kruvim, Rabbeinu Bachyei goes into a detailed discussion of over 4 pages, how the Kruvim on the Aron resemble the angels in Heaven. This is a topic related to מעשה מרכבה, which is mostly beyond our human understanding. Chazal discourage us from dabbling in the affairs of angels, except for a select few, who are on a high enough מדרגה.
Analysis of the physical, golden Kruvim in the Mishkan, however, allows us some insight, within the limits of our human intellect, into HKB”H’s model for housing Shechina, which is the “aim of the game”, the ultimate purpose of Creation.
Sir Isaac Newton, perhaps one of the greatest scientists that ever lived, believed that the blueprint of the Beit Hamikdash harbored secrets of the essence of G-d and he spent decades studying and researching it. Despite having one of the highest intellects in the history of mankind, Newton was humble enough to admit that there is a higher power at work in nature, beyond the capability of human intelligence (if only some modern scientists could be as insightful as he was). Newton never managed to “decipher” the secrets of the Mikdash, as he never delved sufficiently into the Torah on the level required to understand them, his initial instinct however was spot on.
The English translation of Kruvim, “cherubs”, is a prime example of how the Torah is diminished through translation and how it is only possible to understand the true meaning of the Torah in the original לשון הקודש. The meaning of the word כ-רובים, “like” רובים - is explained in two different ways.
The first is רובים meaning “many”, רבים. This alludes to the comparison of the Kruvim to the angels (see Rabbeinu Bachyei above), of which there are “many”.
The second is רביין meaning children or babies. In other words the Kruvim are so called because they are כרביין “like children”.
Since the first perush deals with מעשה מרכבה, I am going to steer clear of the affairs of angels and rather concentrate on the second.
The Zohar Hakadosh says –
כְּרוּבִים, רָבְיָין...... חַד דְּכָר וְחַד נוּקְבָּא, לְמֶהֱוֵי דְּבִיקִין אִלֵּין בְּאִלֵּין בַּחֲבִיבוּתָא. (זהר, קמ"ח ע"א)
The Kruvim resembled children/babies, one male and the other female, in a loving embrace.
The psukkim from our parsha, above, describe the two Kruvim as made from gold, an integral unit (מקשה) with the Kaporet (not stuck on). One Kruv was on one end of the Kaporet and the second Kruv on the other end. Their wings were stretched upwards covering the Kaporet and they were facing each other and also facing the Kaporet.
(Aside: The Hebrew word for cabbage כרוב is probably derived from the configuration of the pairs of leaves that stretch upwards like wings).
The Gemara (Yoma, 54a) says that on the שלושת הרגלים the Kohanim would roll up the Parochet and Am Yisrael, standing outside in the Ezrat Yisrael, could see the Kruvim lovingly embracing – a symbol of HKB”H’s love for Am Yisrael (the Gemara explains how they were permitted to look at the Kruvim in the first place – not the topic of this shiur).
In Meir Panim I delve at length into the symbolism of the letter “kaf” כ and its similarity to a smiling mouth. It is possible to understand the word כ-רובים as two children in a loving embrace smiling at each other - the term in the Zohar בַּחֲבִיבוּתָא meaning smiling.
After teaching this principle in one of our Lechem Hapanim workshops, someone approached me and said “It is impossible that something of the grandeur of the Beit Hamikdash could be so simplistic. The face of a smiling child? Pah! The Lechem Hapanim must have resembled something more majestic!” So I replied “It was and I have a proof!” When HKB”H commands us to build the Aron it says ועשו ארון, in the plural. The Mefarshim say that this indicates that all of Am Yisrael have a part in the Aron, symbolizing the Torah. However, in the following psukkim, it continues all in the singular ועשה, ויעש, etc. It is referring to Betzalel, who the Mefarshim say was singularly responsible for building the Aron, only him, not Oholiav and not any of the other craftsmen. How old was Betzalel when he built the Aron? The Gemara tells us (Sanhedrin 69b) - he was thirteen years old. Why choose a child to build the Mishkan? It’s not as if he was born with genetic DNA of a master craftsman – HKB”H taught him all these skills. It was because he had special ruach hakodesh, yes, but it was also because he was תמים like a child is and HKB”H wants us to be תמים תהיה עם ה' א-לקיך and this is the model – it must embody the innocence of a child.
Let’s analyze the model. You have two figures, like children, one male, one female, their wings spread upward in a loving embrace, covering the Kaporet, both an integral part of the Kaporet, facing each other, smiling at each other and at the same time facing down to the Kaporet and the Aron, in which were the לוחות הברית. This is the configuration of the model in which HKB”H’s Shechina resides.
Interestingly you have two other כלים in the Mishkan that have a similar motif. The Menorah and the Shulchan.
The Menorah is an integral unit connected to a central stem (equivalent to the Kaporet) from which three קנים radiate upwards on either side like wings. The “faces” of the Menorah, the lights, are tilted inwards toward the central stem, so that the three lights on the left are “facing” the three lights on the right (and the central stem – the “Kaporet”). The shape of the קנים is the same as the letter כ flipped 90°, U, resembling a smile.
The Shulchan has 12 Lechem Hapanim stacked on it. The Shulchan perpetually has to have bread on it, the bread on the Shulchan (equivalent to the Kaporet) are an inseparable, integral unit. The Lechem Hapanim are in two stacks on the Shulchan, facing each other and at the same time facing the two bowls of levonah. The shape of the bread, like a כ flipped 90°, U, resembles two wings spread upwards and also resembles a smile.
And תראו איזה פלא - on the שלושת הרגלים not only would the Kohanim roll up the Parochet to show Am Yisrael the Kruvim (see above), they would also take the Menorah and the Shulchan out of the Heichal and display them )Gemara, Chagiga 26b) for the same reason – to show HKB”H’s love for Am Yisrael.
It was of paramount importance to display davka these three things -because they all reflected the model of the residence of HKB”H’s Shechina - even at the risk of these כלים becoming טמא if someone accidentally touched them (they had to prepare standby oil/Menorot and Lechem Hapanim/Shulchanot for this scenario).
It was vital for everyone to see, to understand and most importantly - to apply. It was through application that the ultimate purpose would be realized, that HKB”H’s Shechina can reside in all levels. You see, the Shechina can and should reside in all levels, not just in the Mishkan, in the Mikdash, but everywhere else in this world as well!
Let’s examine this model in the prism of history.
HKB”H on the 6th day created האדם. The first prototype of Adam Harishon was two parts in one single organism- one male, one female (בראשית רבה, פרשה ח, פסקא א), connected at the back, facing away from one another. Adam complained that he could not find עזר כנגדו – it bothered Adam that the two faces were not facing each other, smiling at each other. HKB”H acquiesced, “יפה בקשת” and separated the two parts, one male, one female at the rear end of the rib, closing up the backs, into two distinct parts (why didn’t HKB”H create them originally facing each other? It was a נסיון for Adam – לתקן עולם במלכות ש-קי). HKB”H conducted a wedding and acting as שושבין He braided the female - Chava’s hair (which incidentally is why we braid challah) and presented her to the male - Adam under the חופה (Brachot 61a). Adam and Chava, innocent like children with no יצר הרע, in a smiling, loving embrace, connected to and serving HKB”H in Gan Eden in the presence of the Shechina – they were the first Kruvim in this world – reflections of the חיות הקדש in Heaven - כולם אהובים, כולם ברורים, כולם גיבורים, כולם קדושים, כולם עושים באימה וביראה רצון קונם, וכולם מקבלים עליהם עול מלכות שמיים זה מזה ונותנים באהבה רשות זה לזה.
Then Adam and Chava sinned with עץ הדעת and messed up the model.
The Zohar Hakadosh says –
בְּהַהוּא זִמְנָא דַהֲווּ יִשְׂרָאֵל זַכָּאִין הֲווּ אַנְפִּין בְּאַנְפִּין מִתְדָבְּקִין דָא בְּדָא. וְכָד לָא הֲווּ זַכָּאִין, הֲווּ מֵהַדְרִין אַנְפִּין אִלֵּין מֵאִלֵּין. (זהר, קמ"ח ע"א)
There was a tremendous miracle in the Mishkan and the Beit Hamikdash. As long as Am Yisrael were doing HKB”H’s will, the Kruvim were facing toward each other in an embrace. When Am Yisrael sinned against G-d, the Kruvim would turn their faces away from one another.
HKB”H kicked Adam and Chava out of Gan Eden, but He kept the model – He stationed Kruvim to guard the entrance, as a constant reminder what the model should be if you wanted to get back into Gan Eden.
For ten generations nobody could achieve that model, until Noach. Noach managed to temporarily reproduce the model – in the תיבה, with everyone, (including all the animals) מקבלים עליהם עול מלכות שמיים זה מזה ונותנים באהבה רשות זה לזה and HKB”H’s Shechina resided in the תיבה. But, soon after leaving the ark, Noach became intoxicated and again messed up the model – for another ten generations.
Then came Avraham and Sarah and rediscovered the model and the Shechina once again resided in their tent, followed by Yitzchak and Rivka, followed by Yaakov, Rachel, Leah, Bilha and Zilpa.
But then the brothers sold Yosef and again messed up the model. For that we had to endure the slavery in Egypt to atone for that sin (and also for the sin of Adam and Chava – see my shiur on Breishit, 2021).
Finally, after Am Yisrael left Egypt, HKB”H was ready to restore the world to the state of Creation before the sin and give Am Yisrael the Torah. It was a reenactment of the wedding of Adam and Chava. The “ktuba”, between the groom, HKB”H and the bride, “Am Yisrael”, was stored for posterity in the Aron Habrit and a symbol of the model, the Kruvim, placed above it as a constant reminder to abide by the model.
If only that would have sufficed, but as we unfortunately know, Am Yisrael repeatedly sinned and only when the Mashiach comes and the תיקון is complete, will that model again be implemented in its entirety, this time permanently.
Until then, although this level - our world - cannot entirely house the Shechina, it can partially house the Shechina. This is the purpose of showing Am Yisrael the Kruvim, the Menorah and the Shulchan on the שלושת הרגלים – so that each and every individual could apply it in themselves and then in ever increasing circles, in their communities, in society and thereby bring about the eventual Geulah – ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם.
The model calls for two - male and female.
The passuk says שְׁנַיִם כְּרֻבִים. If it would have just said כְּרֻבִים, without the שְׁנַיִם, that would have sufficed. The Mefarshim say מיעוט רבים שניים so כְּרֻבִים means two. When the Torah specifies a number, seemingly superfluously, it does so to indicate equality in some respect, for example the שני שעירים on Yom Kippur, the שעיר לה' and the שעיר לעזאזל have to be equivalent in appearance, height and worth. Similarly the addition of the word שְׁנַיִם in regard to the Kruvim, indicates equality – in importance and endearment for one another. They are clearly not equal in other respects. The Torah repeatedly emphasizes the word קצה, four times in two psukkim to show how unlike they really are in other respects.
According to the פשט this means a man and woman, but it is deeper than that. It is also referring to the “male” and “female” כוחות in each of us – specifically גבורה and חסד. In order to apply the model within ourselves we need to balance these forces so that they work together in symbiosis כולם אהובים, כולם גיבורים, נותנים רשות זה לזה. The inner force of גבורה enables us to learn Torah, to educate our children, to make a parnasa, to control our יצר הרע. The force of חסד enables us to help others, to forgive others and ourselves, to respect our parents, our spouses, our children, our neighbors. To successfully apply the model, these forces cannot conflict – they must face each other as equals, in a loving, smiling embrace and be integrally connected to the wellspring from which they draw – the Torah. They must interact with each other בתמימות, like children. This is on the individual level.
The next level up is a husband and wife. Only when a man and woman are married can they fully apply the model. Someone who is not married is called פלגא דגופא – half a body. You need a complete body to apply the model. It must be a marriage of equals, two parts of equal importance, not equal parameters. The female has a role to play and the male an equally important role to play – but it is not the same role. The male and female have different roles to play to be מתקן the sins of Adam and Chava and different roles to play in serving HKB”H (this is why gender equality, so “popular” today, is such nonsense). The model calls for the husband and wife to be an integral unit with the Kaporet and the Aron that houses the Torah. They have to spread their wings upwards to shelter and protect the values of the Torah. It must be an interaction of חֲבִיבוּתָא – smilingly facing each other as equals, and also smilingly facing the Kaporet and the Torah, observing the precepts therein בשמחה.
A level above this is בין אדם לחבירו. The Shechina can reside between two people studying Torah, as long as the model is applied. It must be a פלפול תלמידי חכמים smilingly facing each other, with mutual respect and חֲבִיבוּתָא. It may be תלמוד תורה, but it may even be מחלוקת. As long as the model of mutual respect is applied, it will be לשם שמיים. This is the lesson of the Menorah.
Similarly, two people sitting to eat at a table can have the Shechina residing amongst them if the model is applied. Two people doing business with one another can also merit the Shechina according to this model, if there is mutual respect and smiling בַּחֲבִיבוּתָא, the cornerstone of successful commerce (מאיר פנים , פרק יד) and strict adherence to the Torah (the breads, in addition to facing each other, also face the levonah, symbolizing the Torah). This is the lesson of the Shulchan.
The level above this is the level of the nation. This is also a lesson of the Shulchan. If we have all Twelve Tribes applying the model, interacting as equals, בַּחֲבִיבוּתָא, each fulfilling their designated role, with mutual respect, being umbilically connected to the Kaporet and the Torah and serving HKB”H with שמחה, then we will merit the Geulah and bring about תיקון עולם and finally the purpose of this world will be achieved.
It is all about understanding the model of the Kruvim and filling in spaces. Someone applies it to themselves and fills in one space and then another and then another. You then apply it as a team, as husband and wife and family, as chavruta in the בית המדרש, as coworkers in a business. You apply it as a community, as a town, a city, a province, a whole country and finally the whole world. בבי"א.