Parshas Terumah - In Fifth Graders We Trust

By Rabbi Paysach Diskind

Posted on 02/15/18

As I sat at the formal breakfast honoring the initiation of Gemara study by the fifth grade of Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim, I was overcome by the intense meaning of this moment. My grandson along with another 90 fifth graders are about to embark on their career of Talmud study. This career is the lifeblood of our people.

Throughout history the winds of change are constantly blowing. Our current period is experiencing a typhoon. There is almost no place on Earth which has been spared by this storm. Even our communities are suffering under the weight of this storm. However, within our community we have a bunker which remains a safe place. In this bunker we can be secure that our grandparents will be proud of our grandchildren. That secure bunker is our Talmud. For those who commit themselves to study her diligently she will protect them and their families from the raging storm outside.

In this week's Parsha, Terumah, HaKadosh baruch Hu instructs Moshe to build a Mishkan, a Temple in which HaShem's Presence will be housed. The Parsha is filled with great details how Moshe should construct this Mishkon. Every detail is instructed in second person; you shall make the Menorah, you shall make the Alter, you shall make the curtains, etc. Their are, however, two exceptions. When the order for the Aron (Ark) is given and for placing the Cheruvim HaShem orders it in third person plural. They shall make the Aron, they shall place the Cheruvim…. The implication is that regarding the Aron and Cheruvim the entire nation are to participate in their construction.

This presents a question. In the Parsha of Vayakheil, where the actual construction is recorded, we find that the Aron was made only by Betzalel and his crew of craftsmen, no different than all the other components of the Mishkan. In what way does HaShem expect the Aron and the Cheruvim to be made by the people?

At the above-mentioned breakfast where the school honored the boys who were about to embark on their life's journey of Talmud study, Dr. Ronnie Samet addressed the several hundred people in attendance. He pointed out the remarkable resemblance that exists between the two Cheruvim that are placed above the Aron and the boys who were beginning their journey. The Cheruvim were angelic figures with the face of children. They faced each other but were looking downward toward the Torah that was stored beneath them. How similar this picture resembles two fifth graders facing each other on either side of the table upon which they place their Talmud. Both boys are studying together but their faces are looking downward into the text from which they learn.

When HaShem communicated with Moshe, He spoke to him from atop the Aron between the two Cheruvim. Behold! the point of contact by which HaShem communicates with His people is through these Cheruvim.

We asked what HaShem's intent was that everybody build the Aron and place the Cheruvim on top.  Perhaps His intent was that we should create the fifth graders and their environment in which the Torah will be transmitted from generation to generation. HaShem intended that we should celebrate their embarking upon this grand journey and to ascribe to it the great value that we place on it. As we support their journey and continue our own journey we are the builders of the Aron. When HaShem instructed Moshe that THEY should construct the Aron and place the Cheruvim on top of the Aron, He was addressing every member of our people from those in the desert to those in Baltimore.