Vayakhel; bein adam lacaveiro and bein adam lemakom and The physical and the spiritual

Right, this week's very long double parshiyos mark the end of the mishkan making; including the making of all the vesels and clothes. I want to focus on one part; the keruvim. These were the child-like figures on top of the kapores which was in turn on top of the aaron described in 37; 7-9. In fact, if i remember correctly we are told that when bnei yisrael were behaving correctly, the keruvim would look towards each other, and even hug. And if we would behave otherwise, they would turn away from each other. Now, pasuk 9 tells us something very interesting (and its actually from where we learn the minimum height of a sukka!). It tells us that the keruvim had wings which were upwards, yet their faces were looking one at the other. Now the gemorro tells us that certain parts of the mishkan represent different things/ concepts. For example, the aharon represents torah, the shulchan is kingly wealth, etc. (Yoma 72b).

So what do the keruvim symbolise? The keruvim symbolise the ability to combine the bein adam lamakom with the bein adam lechaveiro aspect; their wings were upwards (between man and G-D) yet they face each other (between man and man). As an aside, it's interesting that between man and G-D comes first in the pasuk. This is for (at least 2 reasons). First, one must understand who they are before relating to and giving meaningfully to others; a prerequisite to this is obviously understanding one's Source - HaShem. And the other reason is that when doing kindness to others one should have pure, unselfish motives, which can only come with motives of serving HaShem. (How many famous people have claimed to be 'great and kind' but their motivs were ultimately self-interest? I should mention by the way that mother teresa would convert the people she helped just before they would die)

Anyway, back to the subject in question, this point is part of a wider concept that other religions in the world do not have. The mishkan has within it the aaron, the keruvim, and the shulchan (amongst other things) ie it can combine seemingly contrasting worlds; that of the physical world (the shulchan) and the spiritual (the aron; torah), that of bein adam lamakom and bein adam lachaveiro. We do not merely abstain from the physical world; we use it to come close to hashem - we say a bracha on even going to the toilet; what could be more non-spiritual than going to the toilet?! But the connection is more than this...

The ultimate expression of this (apart from a neshama being in a physical body) is in the shema. The question has been asked why are the brachas we say in the 2nd paragraph in shema all physical? Why does it not say "if thou shalt be good, G-D shall bestow upon thou ample time to daven, ability to learn, and plenty of merit for the World to Come" - if our goal is to do mitzvos, then HaShem should bless us with mitzvos; who wants to be blessed with rain when they could have a mitzva? (those formerly from mancheste should feel this rain question the most!) The rambam (hilchos teshuva 9;1) poses this question and answers that this is a promise that HaShem will take care of all our physical needs so we can be free to devote our time to mitzvos. Another answer given is that the physical world reflects the spiritual world; if all is fine and dandy (rain on time, etc.) in the physical world, that is an indication that we are doing well in the spiritual world. So we see the immense connection between the spiritual and the physical.

The gemara (i think yoma again) tells us that Amon and Moav went into the beis hamikdash, Titus went in, and they saw the keruvim hugging each other and they could not understand it. This is what happens in the Jews' holiest place on earth? Children hugging; they thought it was a perverted desecration of sanctity. But we know that they are coming from completely the wrong direction; if the physical and spiritual worlds are connected, then the keruvim hugging does not look like a mere physical act - it attains the status of reflecting a higher spiritual concept; which the Amon and Moav could not see.

Lastly, I would like to end with something Rav Gifter said on the connection between bein adam lemakom and bein adam lechaveiro; Why is shir hashirim written as a parable of love between a man and wife to symbolise that of HaShem's love for bnei yisrael - why not just speak directly about HaShem's love for us? He answers that to understand the love between HaShem and His people, one must first grasp what love is; and that we get via the love between man and wife.

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