The Most Important Crown
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
In Parshat Terumah the Torah describes the articles that were to be placed in the Mishkan (Tabernacle). A special awning (crown) was to be placed surrounding these vessels on their upper edges. These vessels were: the ark containing the Torah and the Ten Commandments, the table upon which the showbread was arranged, and the golden incense alter. Our sages relate these crowns to three areas of greatness. The crown upon the the ark represents the crown of Torah, the crown upon the table represents the crown of kingship, and the crown upon the incense alter represents the crown of priesthood (Kehunah.) The crowns of kingship and priesthood both have hereditary limitations; To be a priest one must be a descendent of Aron, and to be a king one must be a descendent of King David. The crown of Torah is open to every human being. Anyone dedicating themselves to character development and deep Torah study can merit this crown.
Maharal explains that priesthood is the crown of bodily sanctification, kingship is the crown of emotional sanctification, and Torah is the crown of spiritual and intellectual sanctification. This explains why our sages teach us that the greatest crown of all is the crown of Torah – spiritual sanctification is the highest level of sanctification. Torah is the greatest crown. In Ethics of the Fathers, our sages introduce the idea of a forth crown (the crown of a good name) and state emphatically that the crown of a good name is the greatest of all the crowns. This teaching leaves us with a number of questions. What exactly is this crown of a good name? How does one attain this good name? Why is a good name the greatest crown?
Rabbi Ovadia Bartenura explains that a good name is acquired through doing good deeds. Through performing good deeds and conducting oneself in an ethical fashion, one acquires a good name. Without a good name, Torah scholars, priests, and kings are not worthy of respect and honor. Without a good name, all other crowns are disgraced and lost. A good name is the greatest crown, in the sense that all other crowns are dependent on the crown of a good name. Some commentators explain that the Menorah and its shining lights represent good deeds and, therefore, a good name is as is stated in Proverbs “Indeed a candle is a Mitzvah…” (Proverbs 6:23) Let us strengthen our commitment to performing great deeds and living according to the lofty ethical standards of our Torah.