Parashat Terumah:  Exodus 25:1 to 27:19

This week’s Torah portion describes the “mishkan” commonly translated as the “sanctuary,” but in fact, literally means the “dwelling place of the divine.” What does it mean to dwell in the house of the Lord? The Torah details the various accoutrements of the sanctuary–curtains, candelabrum, table for the showbread, and the altar. But the central feature is in fact, the holy Ark, and the tablets of stone (decalogue).

Perhaps the most unique feature of the Ark (aron ha-kodesh) are the “keruveem,” the cherubs that rest directly above the ark. These are winged creatures with an ambiguous identity which gave rise to a multitude of interpretations. Rashi described them as infant-faced creatures! No wonder Renaissance painters depicted them as angels and rosy-faced goddesses.

All we know from the Torah is that the “keruveem” are winged. Perhaps the essence of their identity is not in their appearance but in their function; what do they do? The Torah says: “the cherubs shall spread out their wings on high, screening the Ark-cover with their wings, with their faces toward each other, toward the ark cover shall the faces of the cherubs be.” (Exo. 25:20)

When you screen something, you are protecting it. So it appears that the cherubs are present for a protective purpose. Ultimately they are present to protect the “tablets,” the Torah that God gave Moses to be stored inside the Ark. 

Parashat Nitzavim-Va'yelech: Deuteronomy 29:9 to 31:30

Selichot Shabbat September 8, 2023 This Shabbat, proceeding Rosh Hashanah, includes two Torah portions for our reading. “Nitzavim,” is a…

Parashat Ki Tavo: Deuteronomy 26:1 to 29:8

Shabbat September 1, 2023 Our Torah portion addresses the time when the Israelites will settle in the land of Israel,…

Parashat Kee Tetzey: Deuteronomy 21:10 to 25:19

Shabbat 8/25/23 Our Torah portion continues the rules for the Israelites when engaged in warfare. “Kee tetzey,” when you go…