Proceed with Caution
Rabbi Ron Simon
I guess that there is something untoward about reading Plato's Republic in Starbuck's, especially in Cedarhurst Long Island, but that is what I have been doing the last couple of weeks. Well, life has its tensions, and if youâre going to do some hard stuff, you might need to do some not-so-hard-stuff too.
While going back and forth on some difficult points, a friend of mine caught my eye in the corridor. They asked a couple of very powerful questions about the set of Parshas related to the Mishcan. One of them is this weekâs parsha, Trumah. I guess that I havenât been the only one out of sync with the calendar lately (This was a couple of weeks ago).
One of the questions that they asked concerned the presence of the ceruvim in the Mishkan. The Mishkan and Mikdash are both designed as an ascent from the less Holy to the Holy of Holies. Upon arriving at the Holy of Holies, one is greeted by the ceruvim that are over the ark. Isnât it ironic that upon entering the holiest place, you meet up with a couple of statues?
What is more, is that the Ramban actually identified this location, the place from where the Divine voice emanated, as the essence of the Mishkan, the resting place of the Divine presence!
The Rambam also encourages the dissemination of the belief in angels amongst the Jewish people. Wouldnât it be easier just to focus upon the one true being, G-d? The Rambam is the great expositor of monotheism, isnât he?
I believe that the answer to these questions is contained in the fact that the ascent to the understanding of the existence of G-d is marked by a certain tension as well. We encourage a certain intellectual freedom in Judaism, This freedom is seen both in the inclusion of all of the people in the pursuit of knowledge and the creativity that is seen in the Torah style of debate. The text of the Talmud records a history of lively and colorful discussions that took place between our Rabbis, pursuing their theories as far as they could take them.
The zeal and independence inherent in this tradition, which is itself a type of ascent, is tempered by an awareness that we are bound to a great extent by our physicality and particularity. In the rush to ascend, we canât forget that we are pulled in two directions. Ceruvim impress this upon us. They are sort of going in two directions, although not to the same degree that we are. They are a sort of boundary condition, so to speak.
The ceruvim do not represent G-d either as images, or, in another sense, as spokesmen either. They are boundaries at the ascent. They are consequently seen as infants, in that they rely completely on G-d for their existence.
As Bnei Yisrael, we should see ourselves in some sense as independent, while still recognizing that we are banim, children, as well. In a somewhat fatherless age, let us just pray for more guidance.