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Friday - Shabbat February 19 - 20

Torah Reading:  Terumah (Exodus  25:1 - 27:19)

Candle Lighting Time 5:17 PM
Shabbat ends 6:18 PM

Not Half Bad 

The single most holy and remarkable object in the Sanctuary or Mishkan, discussed in this week’s parshah, was undoubtedly the Holy Ark that was built to house the Tablets. The precise dimensions of which are given in our parsha:

“And they shall make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits in its length, a cubit and a half in its width, and a cubit and a half in its height.”

Commentators take note of the fact that all of the three dimensions (length, width and height) of the Ark included a half measure, unlike other components of the Sanctuary such as the Table and Altar.

Kli Yakar, by the 16th century great, Rabbi Shlomoh Efraim of Luntchitz,explains that the Ark symbolizes the Torah which must be studied with humility. One must always know that as much as one can understand there is so much more that is elusive. One never learns everything. As much as we can know there are always greater heights to scale.

But, the question still remains: Why do all of the dimensions of the Ark have to be half measures? Wouldn’t it suffice if only one of the dimensions included a half cubit? That too would have conveyed the symbolism of incompletion.

Kli Yakar explains that there are three reasons why one cannot fathom all of that there is to know in Torah:

First there is the limited nature of our minds, which Kli Yakar associates with width; our minds are not “broad” enough to contain the knowledge of the Torah.

Second there is the depth of the subject. This, the Kli Yakar states corresponds to the height or depth of the Ark.

Thirdly, there is the sheer volume (length) of knowledge.

Another way of understanding the three dimensions of the Ark and how they relate to the never-ending nature of Torah study is that there are three dimensions of knowledge:

The first is the depth of the subject. Every subject can be understood on the surface level and on a deeper level. But, Torah’s depth is unfathomable since it is G‑dly knowledge and there is no limit to the depths we can go. As soon as we think we’ve uncovered a hidden meaning in the text of the Torah, we discover that there is yet a deeper level. The deeper we plumb the secrets of Torah, the deeper and more elusive it becomes.

Torah also has incredible breadth. This involves the extensive details of each and every aspect of Torah. In addition, each subject can be explained in so many diverse ways. Our Sages say that there are “seventy faces” or perspectives to the Torah. The great Kabbalist, the Ari, stated that there are 600,000 different approaches to each part of Torah that corresponds to the 600,000 root souls of the Jewish nation; the number of adult men that left Egypt at the time of the Exodus. One can appreciate Torah from every angle and from all perspectives. The more approaches we discover the more seem to appear.

Torah also has length; its ability to reach the farthest areas. The length of Torah relates to its ability to be transmitted to each and every Jew. No matter how abstruse or deep a part of Torah may be it can be “brought down” into the minds of each and every Jew regardless of their level of knowledge and commitment to Judaism. Just as no Jew, no matter how brilliant, can fathom the depths of Torah, no Jew is out of reach of the Torah. Torah is accessible to every Jew no matter how simple or detached from its knowledge he or she may be. 

In historical terms it means that the same Torah that was given to us over 3,300 years ago on Mt. Sinai has been successfully transmitted down the generations and has reached us, unchanged and unadulterated. And no matter how far we think we may be from the original transmission of the Torah at Sinai, the Torah will reach and resonate with us.

Indeed, the Kabbalists tell us the Torah has “traveled” from its glorious place in the highest of the heavenly spheres—from the essence of G‑d’s wisdom that transcends the entire order of creation—down through the various spiritual worlds, until it makes its appearance in this physical world of ours. We cannot possibly fathom how the Torah that is Divine wisdom can enter our puny minds and be grasped by us. But it does. And when it does it is the same Divine wisdom that enters our consciousness. Thus, Torah has incredible reach.

In summary, there are three aspects of Torah that are unparalleled: Its depth, its breadth and its length. To make sure that we don’t view Torah as we do other intellectual disciplines, the Torah tells us that all three of the dimensions of the Ark included half cubits; we cannot entirely fathom Torah in any of these three areas.

But Torah itself can be divided into different levels; wherein one level is wondrous and elusive even when comparing it to other levels of Torah itself.

In general terms, the Torah has been divided into the two dimensions of the “revealed” and the “esoteric.” Whatever limits we have on our access to the revealed parts of Torah in terms of depth, breadth and length, they pale in comparison to our ability to grasp the esoteric and mystical teachings of the Torah.

But even the esoteric discipline of Torah that we have now cannot compare with the teachings of Torah to be revealed in the future. Our Sages tell us that the Torah we study now is “vanity” relative to the Torah that will be revealed by Moshiach in the Messianic Age. What appears to us as deep, broad and lengthy now is nothing compared to the depth, breadth and length of the Torah knowledge to be revealed in the future.

Moshiach, we are taught, will teach Torah to all of the Jewish people; from the simplest to Moses. Obviously, Moshiach will reveal new and deeper layers of meaning that were not even revealed to Moses. The prophet Isaiah refers to these deeper layers of meaning when he speaks of a “new Torah will emerge from G‑d.” This does not mean, G‑d forbid, that the Torah will be replaced or changed. It means that there will be new vistas of Torah knowledge that were heretofore beyond any human being’s reach.

With regard to breadth, Moshiach will help us know infinitely more details of Torah. Our mind’s ability to absorb will be greatly enhanced. This is can be attributed to at least two factors:

First, there will be no more forgetfulness. Forgetfulness, Kabbalah teaches us, comes from the “animal” soul that is resistant to the G‑dly knowledge of Torah. The more our animal soul is refined and allows the light of the G‑dly soul to shine through, the less obstructive it is to the retention of G‑dly knowledge. Thus, in the Messianic Age, when “the spirit of impurity will be removed from the land,” we will be able to retain infinitely more information than we can retain now. Much more will therefore be revealed to us.

Even today as we stand on the cusp of the Messianic Age, we are witness to the phenomenon of computers that can store incredible amounts of information. And the sophisticated search engines we have enable us to access this information almost instantaneously. This is a fitting metaphor for the way in which knowledge will be accessed and stored in our minds in the future.

Second, the manner in which Torah will be taught will be through the medium of vision. Moshiach will present us with the knowledge of Torah visually. While it may take hours and even days to digest huge amounts of data, when one sees the knowledge they can get a panoramic view of the Torah. This is akin to the story of the Ari who took a short nap one Shabbat afternoon, When he awakened he told his disciples that what he “saw” in his dream was an exposition of the deeper meanings of the section of the Torah that discussed Balak and Bilam. If he would try to transmit all that he had experienced in that dream verbally, it would take him 60 to 80 years!

In addition to the new unfathomable layers of meaning that will be revealed in the Messianic Age, Torah will also become even more accessible to everyone. Even the simplest of people will be able to gaze at the visual presentation of Torah no less so than the greatest scholar. The Torah we will behold will not only be deeper and broader, it will also be “longer.” It will reach out and down to touch every individual no matter who they are and in what mental and spiritual state they may be. No matter how little one knows and no matter how limited our capacity to learn may be, we will all be able to appreciate the depth and breadth of Torah knowledge that will be imparted to us by Moshiach himself. 

The purpose of knowing that the Torah is so deep, vast and far reaching is to whet our appetite to want to study Torah. The more we appreciate the elusiveness and mystique of Torah the more it entices us to seek its knowledge much like the desire we have as humans to explore the unknown.

And it is through Torah study now—within the constraints and impediments we have presently—that we will be prepared to partake of the sumptuous Torah feast that we will enjoy at Moshiach’s table. 

Moshiach Matters  

Moshiach is a human being, born in normal fashion of human parents. The only qualification about his origins is that he is a descendant of King David, through the lineage of his son Solomon. From his birth onwards his righteousness will increase continually, and by virtue of his deeds he will merit sublime levels of spiritual perfection. (Rabbi J . I . Shochet,  

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