Where Heaven Meets Earth
Make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits in length, one and a
half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits in height. Overlay it with
pure gold, inside and outside, and make a border of gold on around it.
That the Aron HaKodesh existed is not a question for anyone who believes
in the Bible. It was special to the Jewish people that is clear. Belief
that it had mystical powers associated with it depends upon the person.
After all, from where can such a box derive its power?
That's a good question, if the Holy Ark was merely a box. However, the
truth is, nothing in Creation is only what it seems to be down here. Even
a blade of grass has an angel in Heaven responsible for its growth, and
the existence of mountains and rivers depends upon the ability of
their "angels" to receive Heavenly sustenance on their behalf. Certainly
the Ark had special angels overlooking its existence channeling Divine
light its way.
Indeed, the power of the Ark lay in the fact that it had not one angel
acting on its behalf, but its very construction was in order to create
many high level spiritual roots, as the Arizal explains:
There were actually three arks, one inside the other, since there are
three Names of Elokim in Zehr Anpin of Atzilus, corresponding to Binah,
Gevurah, and Malchus. (Likutei Torah, Terumah)
As we have discussed in the past, there are five levels of reality. From
the bottom up, there is: Asiyah, Yetzirah, Beriyah, Atzilus, and Adam
Kadmon. Our world exists in the lowest, but the World-to-Come corresponds
to the level of Beriyah and higher. Each level is comprised of the same
five levels, but they can also be described in terms of ten sefiros -
Keser to Malchus - or as five partzufim: Arich Anpin, Abba, Imma, Zehr
Anpin, and Nukveh.
However, Zehr Anpin has its own identical system, which can be viewed,
likewise, as ten sefiros. Thus, we are referring to the Binah, Gevurah,
and Malchus of Zehr Anpin way up in Atzilus, all of which are situated on
the "left side" of the system, which is associated with the trait of
Gevurah, the source of tzimtzum, the constriction of G-d's light with
The Name of G-d, Elokim, is also associated with Gevurah, and therefore is
associated with these three sefiros. Thus, the first gold layer
corresponded to the sefirah of Malchus, the wood part to Gevurah, and the
inner gold layer corresponded to the Binah in Zehr Anpin of Atzilus.
The Arizal further explained:
The numerical value of these is 258, the numerical value of "Charan."
Betzalel made three arks corresponding to these three Names.
The gematria of Elokim is 86, so three such names total 258, which happens
to be the numerical value of Charan, the name of the city from which
Avraham made aliyah. It was in the city of Charan, at the age of seventy,
that G-d first approached Avraham and commanded him to travel to what was
at that time Eretz Canaan.
Thus, even though it was in Ur Kasdim, where Avraham had been born, that
he had been willing to sacrifice his life in order to back up his belief
in the one, true Creator, it wasn't until Charan that G-d broke "radio
silence" and directly connected to the father of the Jewish people.
"Lech-lecha" was the official beginning of the relationship that resulted
in the eventual creation of the Jewish nation, and the softening of G-d's
position with respect to mankind as a whole. For, had Avraham not come
along, Creation would have ceased to justify its existence, just as in
Noach's time. Avraham, mitigated the Gevurah of "Charan," just as the Ark
was constructed to do.
There I will be met by you, and I will speak regarding all which I will
command you concerning the Children of Israel, from above the cover
between the two cherubim, which are upon the Ark of the Testimony. (Shemos
The quote continues:
Since the top of the supernal tree is Binah and its bottom is Malchus, the
inner and outer arks were made of gold, whereas the middle ark,
corresponding to Gevurah, was made of wood.
Even the materials of this world allude to something in the Sefiros, and
they affect us the way they do because of that spiritual connection.
Whether we are conscious of it or not, gold represents an eternal quality
because of its root in the Sefiros. Likewise, wood seems far more down to
earth, more humble, more frail, a good material to counteract the strong
effects of Gevurah.
To what does the "tree" refer? If you set up the letters of G-d's Four-
Letter Name vertically, the Malchus plays the role of the ground, the Vav
appears to grow out of it like a tree trunk, and the Binah above it is
like the branches and leaves of the tree. Thus, the middle ark, made of
wood, corresponds to the middle section, the trunk.
Continues the Arizal:
You should also know that the Shechinah in Atzilus becomes vested in Keser
[of Beriyah], and these are the three arks: Akasriel in Beriyah, Metatron
in Yetzirah, and Sandalfon in Asiyah. These three names are names of
angels; it is customary not to pronounce names of angels.
Again, this is to show how the reality of the Ark was spiritually bound-up
with the upper worlds, and to what extent. This was only true about the
Ark that Moshe had Betzalel built, and which was hidden before the
destruction of the First Temple. Moshe Rabbeinu was infused with the Ohr
HaGanuz, and the people who were chosen to build the vessels to be used in
the Mishkan were also imbued with a similar light from G-d Himself.
It is no coincidence that the Ark of that time was hidden and remains
hidden until this very day, in spite of efforts to find it. It doesn't
matter what the reason is, we still don't have it in our hands. G-d has
many ways of accomplishing this, and when the time comes for the Ark to be
revealed, for us to be able to access the kedushah to which the original
Ark is attached, the means will also exist to do so.
The word Aron has the same total numerical value of Akasriel (662),
Metatron (314), and Sandalfon (280).
Though the letter Aleph normally has the numerical value of one, it can
also represent 1,000 as well, just as Heh can represent 5,000. Hence, the
Jewish year is Heh-Tav-Shin-Samech-Vav, or 5,766. However, since a
millennium changes only once in 1,000 years, and we don't have to be
concerned that a person will forget which millennium it is, we drop the
Heh from the group.
Therefore, "aron" is 1000+200+6+50, or 1,256, which is all the total of
662+314+280. Hence, even though the word "aron" is appropriate for
the "box" that was constructed to contain the tablets, it has dual meaning
in this case, alluded to by the gematria of the word.
Explains the Arizal:
Now, even though we said that the Ark embodies the three Names of
Elokim . . .
. . . implying strict judgment . . .
. . . nevertheless, in times of Divine favor the Name Hovayah and its
expansions . . .
Each of the four letters of the Shem Hovayah, the Tetragrammaton Name, can
be expanded by spelling them as they sound. For example, Yud is always Yud-
Vav-Dalet, but Heh can be spelled: Heh-Heh, Heh-Aleph, or Heh-Yud.
Likewise, Vav can written either Vav-Vav, or Vav-Aleph-Vav. When put
together, the various different combinations of expanded letters yield
different gematrios, four of which correspond to Atzilus (72), Beriyah
(63), Yetzirah (45), and Asiyah (52).
. . . shine into these Names, transforming G-d's attribute of justice into
that of mercy.
Combined, they total 232, and when you add 26 for the unexpanded Shem
Hovayah, the total is 258, the total of the three Elokims mentioned
earlier. Thus, the former "sweetens" the latter, turning the strict
judgment of Elokim into the mercy of Hovayah; this was the role of the
There is much more, but it only gets more Kabbalistic. However, this much
suffices at least to transmit why the Aron HaKodesh was a vehicle to reach
high levels of spirituality, and from it drew its mystical "power."
Tell the Children of Israel that anyone who desires to bring to Me an
elevated-offering should do so. (Shemos 25:2)
There are experiences and then there are experiences. Most of life's
experiences come and go, barely noticed, to such an extent that we can
wonder later on whether or not they were even real. Unfortunately, a lot
of life is like that, which is what prompts many people to say later on in
life, "Where did all the time go?"
However, occasionally there are the amazing experiences, the ones that are
so dramatic that they can even change the course of our lives, for better
or for worst. The negative ones we wish never happened, and we try hard to
erase them from our memories. The positive ones we try as hard as possible
to hold on to as long as we can, by taking pictures, videos, and even
Har Sinai and the giving of Torah was such an experience, and much more.
The only other experience that could have topped it was Creation itself,
but we weren't there for that. But, we were there at Mattan Torah, and as
a result, our lives and the destiny of mankind was dramatically changed.
However, we could not stay there forever. The Jewish people were destined
to move on to Eretz Yisroel, but as a continuation of the Sinai
experience, not as a different independent experience. Thus, the issue
became, how does a nation "package" the Sinai event in such a way as to
not denigrate or even minimize it, and yet make it "portable" enough to
bring it to Eretz Yisroel for good?
The answer, of course, is this week's parshah, and the construction of the
Mishkan. Whatever the Mishkan was, or whatever it contained, or whatever
went inside of it, it was, ultimately, the Sinai experience extended.
That's why it had to be built directly after the giving of Torah, and at
the foot of Mt. Sinai, like a sculptor who fashions his design while
having his subject in full view before him with which to compare the
accuracy of his handiwork. That is why it was built with "elevated
Therefore, to understand Mattan Torah on its deepest level available to
man is to understand what, ultimately, the Mishkan was meant to be. So,
other than being the spot where G-d gave the Jewish people the Torah, what
was Har Sinai?
It was an interface between Heaven and earth.
Normally, Heaven and Earth represent two very different and separate
domains. So distinct and separate, in fact, that so much of mankind lives
as if Heaven doesn't exist, and history runs as if Heaven has forgotten
about us altogether. However, for a brief moment in time, Heaven came down
in the direction of earth, and came close enough that man could have a
personal experience of the Divine.
However, once the Jewish people moved on, the fiery cloud over the
mountain ascended, and today we don't even know which mountain is the real
Har Sinai. Does that mean the experience of Har Sinai ended then and
there? No, especially since the tablets that Moshe descended with remain
in the Ark to this very day, wherever they may be. And, when the time
comes for us to know first hand once again, what it is like for Heaven and
Earth to touch, we will find both, the Ark and the rest of the contents of
the Mishkan, and also the aspect of the Sinai experience they were created
Let them make Me a sanctuary, so I can dwell among them. (Shemos 25:8)
I try not to express political opinions in Perceptions. I have my own
website to do that. However, sometimes the two overlap each other, and the
timing of each makes it hard not to make the point.
Last night, after Shabbos went out and I sat down to check my email, I
also scanned the news. The News, in general, is not one of my obsessions,
and quite frankly, today it is the source of so many people's depressions.
However, being focused as I am on the events of the "End-of-Days," I feel
a need to peek to see what is going on, only for the sake of trying to
read Hashgochah Pratis.
The main story included a picture of the so-called Palestinian Prime
Minister with his face in his hands, looking exasperated. The paragraph
below it explained why: Hamas, the Palestinian "government" WE allowed to
be elected, maintained its position of ignoring all previous peace
agreements made with Israel, calling instead for the destruction of the
State of Israel.
As I sat there pondering the hopelessness of the situation, I received a
phone call from my friend who lives in an area here in Israel that just a
year ago, would have been considered prime real estate outside of the
Jerusalem area. I was there. Other than the view of Ramallah, it is a
breath-taking place to be, and the houses that have gone up are lovely.
However, today he is panicking. He had made aliyah, like so many others,
and had invested in Jewish land, even choosing to be one of the brave
souls to live in a less protected area, helping to strengthen the Jewish
claim for Jewish soil. With his family, he turned his back on at least one
aspect of exile, the Diaspora, and settled in the place of his dreams, the
land of our Forefathers.
Rumors are floating around that his dream home is slated to become part of
the ongoing Israeli nightmare, G-d forbid. Originally, he had cried for
those who had already lost their homes and life's investments. Now, the
situation that he feared about and fought against on behalf of others, he
is now forced to do so for himself.
It is so sad. Of course, it is sad about my friend and his need to fear
about his future. More sad is the fact that so few of his brothers will
ever know about him, or other heroic Jews in the same predicament. And,
the farther you go away from the borders of Eretz Yisroel, the less they
will know, and the less they will care. It may not even occur to Jews of
the Diaspora that the situation going on today has no Jewish logic
The people behind all of this mishugas are counting on that. They have
their agenda and they have their method for carrying it out, and clearly
it has little to do with what most Jews had in mind when the Jewish state
was originally founded. The risks they are taking are monumental, many of
them proving to have been bad ones, but they steam ahead nevertheless,
confident that no one from their own people, here or abroad can do
anything to stop them.
We are so fractured, even within the groups that almost see eye-to-eye,
that the Erev Rav counts on that to cover their tracks down a slippery
path to an eventual final showdown with the rest of mankind.
One of the most important aspects of the Mishkan and everything inside of
it was that is was the organizing principle of the multi-million person
Jewish camp. As long as the Mishkan was there, though there were twelve
tribes there was only one G-d, and only one way to serve Him. We were
united in a common cause.
If you want to get a taste of what it means to be Mishkan-less, which in
modern-day terms means Temple-less, take a look at the Jewish people
today. Aside from being mostly assimilated, we are so spread apart
physically and ideologically. We are old and weak, so-much-so that the
Erev Rav had little trouble wresting power away from us.
It is almost Purim, and I will end, one week in advance of Shabbos Zachor,
with a page from Megillas Esther: "Tucked away and distant from the
action," Mordechai chided Esther, "you may feel secure and unaffected.
It's a mistake, for, G-d may have put you here to save your people, and if
you don't, eventually it will chase after you!"
For all you know, this may simply be G-d's way of calling out, "Who is for
G-d, come to Me!"
The last time we made the mistake of letting only the tribe of Levi
respond to the call. This time, let's answer it too.
Have a great Shabbos,
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.