To Become a Cherub
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
“And you shall make an ark cover of pure gold, two and a half cubits its length and a cubit and a half its width. And you shall make an ark cover of pure gold, two and a half cubits its length and a cubit and a half its width. And make one cherub from the one end and the other cherub from the other end; from the ark cover you shall make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall have their wings spread upwards, shielding the ark cover with their wings, with their faces toward one another, toward the ark cover shall be the faces of the cherubim.” (Exodus 25, 17-20)
The ark in the tabernacle housed the Torah as well as the tablets containing the Ten Commandments. The Torah instructs us to make a gold cover for the ark with two gold human-like, winged figures (cherubs) on the edges of the cover. The two figures are to face one another while looking toward the base of the ark cover. What is the strange symbolism of this ark cover?
Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains that the cover (Kaporet in Hebrew) represents the concept of guarding the Torah. The winged humans represent the Jewish people diligently watching over and protecting the Torah. The nation must show concern for one another and, simultaneously, partner to guard the Torah and its precepts. When they do so, their ‘protective wings’ enable them to soar to new heights. It is our diligent guarding of the Torah that enables us to elevate ourselves spiritually. Rabbi Hirsch and many others point out that when we do so, we cause the Divine Presence to shine upon us. For this reason, we refer to God as Yoshev HaKeruvin, the one who dwells among the Cherubs.
The cherubs represent the lofty mission of the Jewish people—to gather in mutual respect and brotherly cooperation to focus on keeping and guarding the
Torah. In so doing, the Jewish people elevate themselves to the ideal of a Holy Nation, bearing God’s name on Earth. Although we do not have the temple today, the message of the cherubs is eternal. Let us live like the cherubs and, in so doing, sanctify God’s name on Earth.