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1 adar I 5768 - February 7, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Aron HaEidus — The Receptacle for Torah

by HaRav Emanuel Ralbag

When Moshe erected the Mishkan the Torah writes that "he took and put the eidus [i.e., the Luchos] into the Aron and set the poles on the Aron, and put the Poroches above on the Aron, and he brought the Aron into the Mishkan . . .." (Shemos, parshas Pekudei, 40:20-21). The Torah tells us that first the eidus was put into the Aron and later the poles were set on to the Aron.

There are certain difficulties in connection with this posuk:

1) In the pesukim of parshas Terumah where Moshe was commanded to make the vessels of the Mishkan the order concerning putting the eidus into the Aron is just the opposite. First the Torah writes (ibid, 25:13-14), "And you shall make poles of shittim wood and overlay them with gold. And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the Aron, that the Aron may be carried therewith." Only afterwards (v. 16) does the Torah write, "And you shall put into the Aron the eidus which I shall give you." First the poles are to be put onto the Aron and afterwards the eidus must be put into the Aron.

2) It was not Moshe who put the poles into the Aron's rings but Betzalel. The Torah tells us, "And Betzalel made the Aron of shittim wood . . . and he put the poles into the rings at the sides of the Aron" (Shemos 37:1,5). [According to the Tosafos (Yoma 72a) there were two types of poles, one permanent and one for traveling.]

3) If you wish to reconcile the first difficulty concerning the correct order (the placing of the poles on the Aron first or the putting of the Luchos into the Aron first), and the second difficulty (who put the poles in the Aron, Moshe or Betzalel), you cannot try to do so by arguing that Moshe Rabbenu, for some reason, removed the poles that Betzalel had placed in the Aron and he later put them into the rings of the Aron himself, since the posuk says (Shemos 25:15), "The poles shall be in the rings of the Aron, they shall not be taken from it." There is an issur lav to remove the poles from their place. They must remain there forever — see Rashi.

4) What is meant by "And he took" (in 40:21 of parshas Pekudei)? What did Moshe take? Is it something other than what he "put"? From where did Moshe take it? Even according to the Ramban, who explains that Moshe took the Luchos from the temporary wooden Aron that he already had, it is still difficult to understand what difference that would make to us. The main thing is that he put the Luchos into the permanent Aron.

5) The Torah in parshas Pekudei writes that first Moshe put the Luchos into the Aron and only afterwards put it into the Mishkan. But when it came to the Shulchan first Moshe put it in the Mishkan and then he set bread on it. With the Menorah too, only after it was put in Ohel Mo'ed were the candles kindled. Likewise with the Mizbeiach, only after bringing it to the Mishkan was ketores burnt on it. What was it different with the Aron, that first it was prepared and only then brought into the Mishkan?


It seems that we can resolve the first question (that apparently according to the posuk in Pekudei first the Luchos were put in the Aron and later the poles were put in) by simply saying that "and he set the poles," written after putting the Luchos in the Aron, does not mean that Moshe put them into the rings just then but rather that he adjusted them and arranged them after they were already inside the rings (as we see in parshas Terumah) so that the Aron could be carried into the Mishkan. This is similar to the way the Ramban explains the posuk (Bamidbar 4:6) "And they shall put on it the covering of tachash skins, and shall spread over it a cloth wholly of techeiles, and shall put in its poles." He explains that "shall put" means in this case that they fixed the polls to sit loosely in the rings so that they could be of even length when the Leviyim carried the Aron yet would protrude more in the front when resting in the Mishkan and facing the Poroches.

We likewise find in the gemora (Yoma 72a) that the poles were movable but would not slip out — See Rashi (s.v. misparkin) who explains that the poles' ends were wider than the rest of the poles. These ends were forced through the rings but afterwards could not slide out easily. See also the Ha'ameik Dovor (Bamidbar 4:6).

Why did the Torah obligate Moshe to "put in [the Aron's] poles" even before it was brought into the Mishkan or carried?

The Brisker Rov, HaRav Yitzchok Zeev Soloveitchik zt'l, writes in one of his letters (at the end of Chidushei Maran Riz HaLevi) that the Aron had a different din than the other keilim. Other keilim were considered klei Mikdosh that had to be carried, but this status was in effect when they were actually being carried when traveling in the desert. Before the Mishkan was erected, and after the Beis Hamikdosh was established, these keilim did not have a din of avodas masso. The Aron was different. It had a din of avodas masso even before it became a kli Mikdosh.

This should be further clarified. The Aron of wood that Moshe made had in it the broken pieces of the first Luchos. That Aron was stolen by the Philistines and was recovered for bnei Yisroel by Dovid. However, Dovid was punished since he carried it back in a wagon and not by people carrying it on their shoulders.

Even before the Aron was brought into the Mishkan and was not yet a kli Mikdosh, carrying it had a din of nesi'as ha'Aron (carrying the Aron). The final Aron did not have a lesser halocho than the Aron of Moshe, since, because it had in it the Luchos, there was an obligation to carry it on people's shoulders. The Torah therefore wrote "And they shall put in its poles," meaning that they arranged the poles properly so that the Aron would be ready to be carried on their shoulders because of its special din of nesi'as ha'Aron.

The phrasing used about the Aron, "and he brought the Aron into the Mishkan," is unlike what is written about other keilim, such as, "And he gave," concerning the Ohel Mo'ed, or "And he put." This is because those keilim did not have any din of bringing them in before being put in the Mishkan. After they were put in the Mishkan the din of their being a kli Mikdosh started. This is in contrast to the Aron which had its status even before it was in the Mishkan.

If, however, we intend to explain that the posuk (Shemos 40:20-21), "and they set the poles in the Aron" refers to preparing the poles and not to actually putting them inside the rings of the Aron, the posuk should only have written "and set the poles" without adding "in the Aron." If the posuk was simply saying that the poles were being put into the rings it is fitting to write where they were put. If, however, the poles were already inside the rings there is no reason to mention where they were. Compare what we find in parshas Bamidbar, where the Torah writes several times "and they set its poles" without writing where.

It seems to me, therefore, that the explanation is as follows: the Aron was different from the other keilim in that putting the Luchos inside the Aron was not like putting the Lechem Haponim on the Shulchan. The entire essence and importance of the Aron was that the Luchos Habris were inside it. It was not defined as being an Aron without the Luchos. For this reason it is called the Aron Ha'eidus. It is not because the way of preparing it for use is to put the Luchos inside it, but because without the Luchos it is only a box and not an Aron. [The Brisker Rav has explained similarly. See also what the Meshech Chochmah writes here.]

Now we understand why Moshe first put the Luchos in the Aron and only afterwards brought it in to the Mishkan. Only after it had a din of being an Aron could it be brought to the Mishkan.

When the Torah writes "And he took" in parshas Pekudei, this phrase is really referring to the poles and not to the Luchos. Moshe had removed the poles from the Aron, placed the Luchos inside it, and later returned the poles to their place. By doing this he did not violate the lav of, "The poles shall be in the rings of the Aron, they shall not be taken from it," since the whole issur to remove the poles derives from the nature of the Aron. Without the Luchos within it, it was not considered an Aron at all, and so it was permitted to remove the poles.

In parshas Terumah the order is the opposite: First the poles were put in the Aron and later the Luchos were put in the Aron. This is because the Torah is talking there about how the Aron was actually made. The Torah in parshas Terumah is only describing how the Aron was made, and not how it received the special din of the Aron. (It is also possible that Betzalel disagreed with Moshe about this point.)

Moshe did this to show everyone the principle mentioned above, that as long as there are no Luchos the Aron is not called an Aron at all. The practical difference in this distinction appeared during the Second Beis Hamikdosh, when there were no Luchos and therefore they did not make any Aron.

Everyone should remember that the essence of any yeshiva is the Luchos inside it, the Torah studied inside it and how it is studied. The maggid shiur strives to present his shiur with utmost clarity and to make himself loved by the talmidim.

When choosing a yeshiva, it is not enough to look for an institution that has a good name. First the institution should have the sheim of being a yeshiva — it should be the essence of what a yeshiva needs to be. Not all places are equal, and every one should seriously contemplate where he fits in.

HaRav Emanuel Ralbag is a rosh yeshiva of Mesillas HaTorah in Yerushalayim. This article was written to give guidance to choosing the proper yeshiva for each student.

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