Vol 26.20 - Terumah 2              Spanish French Audio  Video

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(5744) Debate of Rashi and Rambam (Ex. 25:21) if the name "Aron" includes the cover (kappores) and the difference according to Halacha; The difference betweeen them regarding the cherubim and their form


The Aron, Kapores and the Keruvim

The Torah portion Terumah contains the command to make the Aron , (the Ark), the Kapores (the lid for the Ark), and the Keruvim (the Cherubs that jutted out from the edges of the lid).15

According to Rashi , the Ark and its lid were two distinct entities,16 while Ramban maintains that the Ark’s covering was part and parcel of the Ark; only when the Kapores was upon the Ark could it be called the Aron.17

Why do they differ?

According to the Ramban , the main reason for G-d’s desiring a Mishkan was to have a place for the indwelling of the Divine Presence.18 This was accomplished by placing the “Testimony” within an Ark that had upon it the Kapores and the Keruvim.

According to Rashi , however, the purpose of the Aron was for the storage of the Torah,19 while the Kapores had a different function. “I shall make Myself known to you and I shall speak to you from above the Kapores , from between the two Keruvim.”20

This leads to yet another disagreement between Rashi and the Ramban : According to Rashi , the Keruvim were part of the Kapores , which was, as mentioned previously, wholly distinct from the Aron , while according to Ramban the Keruvim together with the Kapores and Aron served one purpose — they were a place where the Divine Presence resided.21

In light of the above, the reason for yet another difference between Rashi and the Ramban becomes clear: According to Rashi , the Keruvim looked like human infants,22 while according to the Ramban they resembled the Divine Chariot seen by Yechezkel.23

Since according to Ramban the Keruvim served as a residence for the Divine Presence, its form was symbolic of that Presence — the Divine Chariot. According to Rashi , however, who maintains that the Kapores and Keruvim were wholly distinct from the Ark, they resembled human infants, thereby emphasizing G-d’s love for the Jewish people, as the verse states: “For Israel is but a lad, and therefore I love him.”24

Thus, according to Rashi the Aron with its “Testimony” denoted the Torah, while the Kapores and the Keruvim , serving as the place where G-d made His will known, emphasized G-d’s love for the Jewish people.

On a more esoteric level, the difference between the two sages lies in the following:

The Aron , containing as it did the “Testimony,” is symbolic of Torah. Thus the Ramban notes25 that all the Jews took part in making the Ark “so that they all merit Torah.”26

It thus follows that according to the Ramban , who maintains that the Kapores and Keruvim were one with the Aron , the phrase “I shall make Myself known to you… and speak to you from above the Kapores between the Keruvim ” relates entirely to the Torah, while according to Rashi the Aron related to Torah while the Kapores and Keruvim related to G-d’s love for the Jews.

The reason for this difference between Ramban and Rashi is as follows: Ramban speaks in a revealed manner about esoteric matters of Torah. His commentary therefore deals with things as they are seen to exist. In this state, “Jews are bound to Torah and Torah is bound to G-d”27 — only through Torah can the Jewish people be bound to G-d.

The commentary of Rashi , however, speaks of the simple meaning of the verses, and as such addresses the essential aspect of the Jew — wholly one with G-d’s simplicity.28 This direct connection of a Jew with G-d transcends the connection achieved through Torah.29

Accordingly, Rashi states that the Keruvim , which indicated G-d’s love for the Jewish people, were in the shape of infants, for the essential love of a father for his child is not dependent on anything; it stems from the simple fact that father and child are one. And it was this love that was revealed by the shape of the Keruvim.

(From http://congregationlubavitch.org/page.asp?pageID=%7BFD4933DE-417E-4A17-81E3-0654BE118A41%7D&displayAll=1)


14. Ibid. 
15. Shmos 25:10-22. 
16. See Rashi ibid. verse 21. 
17. See commentary of Ramban on verses ibid. 
18. See ibid. 25:1. 
19. See commentary of Rashi ibid. verse 16. 
20. Ibid. verse 22 and see commentary of Rashi. 
21. Commentary of Ramban ibid. verse 22. 
22. Rashi ibid. verse 18. 
23. Ramban ibid. verse 21. 
24. Hosheiah 11:1. 
25. Shmos 25:10. 
26. Shmos Rabbah 34:2. See also Rabbeinu Bachya and Abarbanel on the verse ibid. 
27. See Zohar III 73a. 
28. See Likkutei Dibburim III, 491b. 
29. Bereishis Rabbah 1:4; Tanna d’Vei Eliyahu Rabbah ch. 14. See also Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim 19:b-c; Hemshech 5666 , ma’amar titled Vayidabeir… b’Midbar Sinai.


The Cherubim

After reading the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah at Sinai we arrive at the final theme of the book of Exodus: the story of the construction of the Mishkan, the temple, which the Jewish people built in the desert.

The first article which the Torah commands us to build is the “ark of the testimony”, which would contain the tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were engraved. The Torah then commands us to build the “Kaporet”, commonly translated as “cover”, with two golden Cherubim emerging from the two ends of the “Kaporet”, which would be placed upon the ark. As the Torah states: 

And you shall make an ark cover of pure gold, two and a half cubits its length and a cubit and a half its width. And you shall make two golden cherubim; you shall make them of hammered work, from the two ends of the ark cover. And make one cherub from the one end and the other cherub from the other end; from the ark cover you shall make the cherubim on its two ends.1

What was the purpose of the ark covering and it’s the mysterious Cherubim? If the ark contained the essence of the Torah, what could possibly be so important as to be placed on top of the Torah?

Nachmanides, the great 12the century commentator, explains that the Kaporet and its Cherubim symbolize that the Divine presence rests upon the ark and the Torah.

According to Nachmanides, the ark and its covering symbolize the continuation of the experience at Sinai, where G-d revealed himself to the Jewish people and gave us the Torah. The Angelic Cherubim remind us that G-d dwells within the Torah, and that by studying the Torah we can experience a glimpse of the awesome revelation at Sinai.2  

Rashi, the primary commentator of the Torah, offers another explanation for the Kaporet (ark cover). He implies that the ark and the Kaporet are two distinct vessels, which hold separate and distinct symbolism.

To Rashi, the ark represents the bond between the Jewish people and G-d that is achieved through the study and commitment to the Torah. Yet, as we recognize the awesome power of the Torah, we wonder, what happens to a person who fails to live up to the Torah’s teachings and values? What happens if, like our ancestors who constructed the golden calf, we betray the teachings of the Torah? Is our connection to G-d destroyed? Is there a path of rehabilitation?  

This precisely is the message of the Kaporet and its Cherubim. The word Kaporet, (as well as the word “Kippur”), is derived from the Hebrew word Kaparah, which means atonement. The Cherubim, according to Rashi, had the shape of the face of young children, symbolizing the essential and unbreakable love between parent and young child. Love shown to older children is, often, colored by reason; we love our children because we love the people they have become, we love their wisdom, their talents and their character. By contrast, love to very young children, is an essential love, not defined by the specific achievements of the child.

The Cherubim, then, are placed above the ark because they are a symbol of the unconditional love and unbreakable bond between G-d and the Jewish people. The Cherubim remind us that no matter how far we think we have strayed from the Torah, we can always return and experience atonement. We can always return and rediscover that G-d’s love to us is unconditional.3


1 Exodus, 25:17-22. 

2  As the verse describing the Cherubim continues: “I will arrange My meetings with you there, and I will speak with you from atop the ark cover from between the two cherubim that are upon the Ark of the Testimony, all that I will command you unto the children of Israel.”

3 Based on the teachings of the Rebbe, Likutey Sichos Terumah vol. 26 Sicha 2.





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