And they shall make an Aron of shittim wood…and you shall cover it with pure gold from within and without. (Shemot 25:10,11) Although in the eyes of the beholder, the Aron appeared to be made completely of gold, it is a well known fact that this was only an overlay. The Aron was made of wood, sandwiched between outer and inner layers of gold. This seems enigmatic. It would be appropriate that this most sublime vessel, which housed the Torah, consist entirely of gold. Certainly gold would more readily reflect the magnificence and majesty of Hashem. Rabbi David Feinstein, who raises this question, offers the following lesson to be derived from this “wooden” Aron. Wood is a living substance which grows and reproduces. In contrast, gold, which captivates its beholder with its beauty, is inanimate. Which one would make a more suitable repository for the Torah?
The Torah was given to human beings, who are made of flesh and blood. They are subject to the seductive influence of their yeser hara, evil inclination, and must exert amazing strength to avoid falling prey to its constant blandishments. Nonetheless, this is life. One must live and grow in order to overcome these obstacles. Thus, a wooden Aron teaches us that the Torah, a tree of life, was not to be contained by the cold inert gold, regardless of its beauty. Rather, the Torah was given to living, breathing, growing human beings in order to enable them to attain eternal life. Why then, asks Rabbi Feinstein, is the Aron covered from within and without with gold? The answer is that while a Torah scholar is subject to the same weaknesses as others, he must, nonetheless, attempt to purify himself to the greatest extent possible. Although he is human, he should aspire to reach the purity of an angel. Thus, the gold is also within to teach us that, even in privacy, a ben Torah should be pure. In the innermost parts of his private life, he should mirror the virtue he has achieved through Torah study. (Peninim on the Torah)
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