Little Angels!

The Torah details the materials and the dimensions of the vessels and components of the holy Temple that accompanied the Jews during their forty year sojourn in the desert.

The holiest of all vessels was the Ark of Testimony, which housed the tablets of the Ten Commandments, both the shattered pieces of the first set and the complete tablets of the second set.

One of the thirteen Torah scrolls that Moshe scribed was also with the Ark.

The Ark was a rectangular box assembled from three boxes; the outer walls of the Ark were pure gold, the middle walls were made of wood and the inner walls were gold. Surrounding the top edge of the Ark was an ornate crown.  It was approximately 60 inches by 36 inches by 36 inches.

The lid of the Ark was a flat piece of gold four inches thick. Two Cherubs with wings extended were hammered seamlessly out of the golden lid. The Torah tells us that the Cherubs faced each other with their heads looking down toward the Ark. The height of the Cherubs was around 40 inches. G-d communicated with Moshe from between the two Cherubs.

What were the faces of the Ceruvim like? The Talmud explains that they were the faces of an infant girl and an infant boy. Interestingly, the Talmud comes to conclusion that it was the faces of a girl and a boy based on the fact that in Babylon they call an infant Ravia and the word Ceruvim can be read, “as a Ravia”.

The obvious question is, why on the holiest vessel in the world, does the Torah call its sculpture with a name based on the Babylonian language?

This is not the only place the Torah uses a different language to describe something. The Torah – in the Shema prayer, calls the Tefillin box that we wear on our head as Totafos. The Talmud wonders about the origins of this peculiar word. The Talmud explains that it is a combination of two words from two languages. Tot in Caspian is the number two, and Fos in African is the number two. Thus, Totafos is the combination of these two numbers, two and two which equals four – the number of compartments in the Tefilin worn on the head.

Rebbe Yehuda Tzadaka o.b.m. explains that the Torah chose other languages to describe the Mitzvah of Tefilin to give an eternal message: When a Jew finds himself in Africa, in Caspia, or for that matter anywhere in the world, he should never feel self-conscious and deny himself the opportunity and privilege of adorning Tefilin. The Torah chose other languages to describe Tefilin to underscore the degree of importance of the Mitzvah, so that wherever a Jew finds himself, the Mitzvah of Tefilin is with him.

Based on this we can appreciate why the Torah calls the young boy and girl figures above the Ark of Testimony as Ceruvim, a name stemming from Babylon. It is to stress and emphasize that even when Jews find themselves settled in countries which speak languages different than our native tongue, they should not neglect to engage and educate our youth in an environment of Torah. This is why the youth are present on the Ark – which represents our Torah. It is the Torah education of our youth that carries the security of our future.

Rebbe Meir Shapiro o.b.m. would explain that the Torah specifically commanded that the Ceruvim be fashioned of pure gold, to highlight that we are to protect and care for our youth like pristine gold and not compromise the standards of their Torah education. And that it is imperative to expend gold ― top dollar ― for them to receive the best and most accurate instruction.

G-d proclaimed the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai in Hebrew, but the Medrash adds that each of G-d’s statements splintered off into 70 languages in order that Torah would be understood in any language.

Similarly, the Torah commands that once the Jews enter the land of Israel under the leadership of Yehoshua, they are to etch the Torah in 70 languages on to large stones. This enabled the Torah to be accessed and understood in all languages.

Additionally, with the establishment of the Sanhedrin ― the Torah-based Supreme Court ― it was necessary for each of the 71 great scholars to understand all the languages – for testimony was not accepted through an interpreter.

The Torah commands that four rings be placed on the Ark to hold the two poles used to transport the Ark. The Torah forbids the removal of these poles. The question is why?

An answer offered is that the poles that are permanently attached to the Ark stands for that the Ark is ready to be picked up at any given time and taken to another location.

This is to symbolize that Torah is not reserved for one specific location – the Jew is to travel the entire world together with the Torah. Torah is the regal crown that we display with distinction and reverence!