By Rabbi Nosson Greenberg
In this week’s parsha the Torah focuses on the construction of the Mishkan and its vessels, the first of which is the Aron. The Aron as we know housed the Luchos and thus was the official symbol of Torah in the Mishkan. Like all chests, the Aron had a Kapores – lid. This lid is given the kovod of being the exact resting-place of the holy Shechina. The Midrash tells us (Shmos Rabbah 34,1) Moshe was puzzled as how to build a structure fully containing Hashem’s glory. Hashem responded, “I will constrict Myself into a square amah” referring to the empty surface area of the lid (between the two keruvim).
The Kapores played another vital role. We know many items in the Mishkan served as triggers to bring forgiveness to the Yidden for many different types of sins (see Zevachim 88b). The Yerushalmi (Shekalim 1,5) states: Rav Yosi the son of Chanina said, “Let the gold of the lid come and bring forgiveness to the Yidden for the sin of the Golden Calf.” One must ask: why of all the gold that was used in the Mishkan, is it the gold used for the Kapores that is singled out and given the credit to help repair Klal Yisroel’s bond with Hashem that had become frayed due to their participation in the Golden Calf?
As we mentioned earlier, the Aron represents Torah and those who learn it and keep it. Its accessories, too, are ambassadors to different facets connected to Torah. The poles that carried the Aron correspond to those who provide financial support for Torah projects. The four rings (which housed the poles) represent the four planes of Torah – the pardes. But what about the Kapores? What area of Torah is symbolized by the lid ?
Perhaps we can suggest the following. A lid not only protects the contents of a container, but it can also serve as a preventative from getting at those contents. A lid demands that more efforts are necessary in obtaining the contents. And the heavier the lid, the harder the access. The kapores was very, very heavy. It was made up of approx. 4,500 cubic inches of pure gold. Gold weighs 0.698 lbs per cubic inch. That’s 3141 lb! (That is similar to the curb weight of a small size car.)
Torah & mitzvos are our lifeline to Hashem, and the yetzer horah knows this. And he puts all types of lids on top of the containers of life within which we house our precious Torah. Those lids are better known as nisyonos – tests. Tests of character, patience and perseverance. These lids at times seem to be extremely heavy. Other times they feel like those frustrating lids on top of some medicine bottles (“Please align the arrows while pushing down and twisting in an anti-clockwise motion!”). These are the type of lids the old wily yetzer presents us with. And he is hoping that we get lazy and frustrated and perhaps even panic in our inability to remove those lids. That is what happened at the Golden Calf: using smoke & mirrors the satan got the Yidden thinking that Moshe was dead and they were leaderless. And they panicked.
But Hashem wants us to know that all those lids are mostly a mirage. They look devilishly difficult to remove, but they are ultimately a creation of our own fears. Patience and effort will allow us to thwart the efforts of the yetzer and gain access to what is important to us. This is what the kapores represented. Ask yourself why it is that the kapores rested on the inner boxes of the Aron and its thickness could not be seen from the outside?. Ask yourself why the Torah gives us all the dimensions of the lid except for its thickness (1 tefach, see Sukkah 5a)? The answer is that the Torah wants us to recognize the barriers of life but at the same time to be be undaunted by their imposing presence. Look at the weighty covers as if they were paper thin, easy to remove at all times. That is how we should attack our nisyonos: with patience, a sense of purpose, and much clarity.
A true antidote to the episode of the Golden Calf.
Rabbi Nosson Greenberg is rov of Khal Machzikei Torah of Far Rockaway, N.Y., and maggid shiur at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway.