No matter how far we stray, God, Torah, the Jewish people, and Jerusalem are all interconnected. It is a “marriage” that can never be broken.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Teruma” (Exodus 25:1–27:19), and in it we read about the construction of the vessels of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary that accompanied the Jewish people during their 40 years of wandering in the desert. One of the vessels of the sanctuary was the mysterious and intriguing “Cherubim”: childlike angelic statues that adorned the top of the Holy Ark in which the Ten Commandments, the original Torah scroll and other holy items were kept.
We are told that when the Jewish people were properly observing the Torah, the Cherubim would embrace one another. When the Jewish people were straying from the proper path, the cherubim would turn away and have their backs towards one another. This was one of the many miracles of the Mishkan, and later, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Now fast-forward many years. When Jerusalem was being destroyed by the Romans and the Romans entered the Holy of Holies, they saw that the Cherubim were embracing each other. But here’s the obvious question: Jerusalem was being destroyed and the Jews were about to be taken into exile as the prophets had forewarned for years, due to the Jewish people not observing the Torah. As such, why did the Romans find the Cherubim embracing each other when they entered the Holy of Holies? Indeed, the reason that the Romans were successful in their conquest was because the Jews were sinning, so they should have found the Cherubim with their backs towards one another. How could this be?
Among the answers to this question is that the Cherubim were also meant to correspond to a husband and wife. There is a law in Judaism that a husband is required to be intimate with his wife before setting out on a journey. The Jewish people were about to be exiled. They were about to go on a “journey.” As such, with the Jews about to leave Jerusalem and the Jewish people being inseparable with Jerusalem, God, and the Torah, the Cherubim were having their last moment of intimacy before the nation was going to leave on a “journey.” It was the proverbial kiss goodbye.
This is not to justify or make light of a tragic situation of death, destruction and exile. But it does remind us that no matter how far we stray, God, Torah, the Jewish people, and Jerusalem are all interconnected. It is a “marriage” that can never be broken.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah reading, click on the links below.
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