Kabbalistic Concepts

Connecting to the Ark

Shabbat Terumah is one where a tremendous amount of Light is revealed; however, it all revolves specifically around the individual’s ability to make a personal connection to the Light of the Creator. 

In the portion Terumah, in the story in the Torah, Moses and the Israelites build the physical structure of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. And the Zohar tells us about the Tabernacle, which was replaced by the Temple Mount in Israel, that it is the energy center for the world. The Kodesh HaKoshedim, the Holy of Holies, was the most important room in the Mishkan, and the Temple. It houses the Aron, or Ark, inside which are the broken parts of the first Tablets, and the Tablets the Ten Utterances are written on. The Aron gets its name, the great kabbalist the Maharal tells us, from the Hebrew word Or, meaning light, because all the Light that comes into this world comes from there.

On top of the Ark, there are two angels. It says that the angels have wings, and the wings are turned upwards. The commentators on the Torah, called the Baalei HaTosfot, discuss why the angels’ wings are turned upwards, explaining it is because the angels are showing a level of humility. Their wings are pointing upwards, showing there is knowledge above them, there is wisdom above them, and there is Light above them. The wings represent the angels’ knowledge that there is more above them than they currently have.

We learn from this that the way to connect to that room, the room from which any Light we receive comes, the room called the Holy of Holies, is with humility.  Humility means, as the commentators quote Aristotle as saying, that a person should never think he has come to wisdom. No matter what a person has received, it does not mean he has wisdom; all it means is that he is no longer completely in the dark. The consciousness is such that, “I don’t really have wisdom. The only thing I have done through my work is made it so that I am not completely disconnected from the Light of the Creator.”

Our awareness and humility, which is an indication of the fact that there is so much beyond where we currently are concerning wisdom and Light, is the first way to ensure we are making a connection to what we’ll call a room, but is really a place beyond time and space, where all the Light comes into this world from. Therefore, the reason the angels on top of the Ark had their wings spread upwards is to let us know that if we want to have any chance of connecting to the Ark, we have to make sure we understand how much there is above us in wisdom, connection, and growth.

The Ralbag, Rav Levi ben Gershon, says a similar thing.  A commentator on the Torah, he says the reason the angels’ wings are turned upwards is to show that they are aspiring to grow upwards, and that their burning desire is to leave the place they are in right now to go to a higher, more elevated place.

So, how do we begin our connection to the Aron, to the Ark, through which all the Light that comes into this world flows? By truly understanding how much there is beyond where we are now in wisdom, connection, and Light. And also to know that we want to leave where we are, no matter what we think we’ve achieved or learned. We have to have, as those angels on top of the Ark do, our wings turned upward, indicating we want to leave the place we are in now and go to the next level, and the next level, and so on.

On Shabbat Terumah, one of the understandings we receive is that if we do not have the burning desire to elevate from where we are to the next level, we cannot be truly connected to the Aron, we cannot be truly connected to the Ark. We learn from this portion the important teaching that there are two prerequisites we need as we come to the Ark: humility, and a burning desire to elevate to a place that is higher than where we currently are. 

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