2003This week's parshah, Parshat Terumah deals with the building of the Tabernacle, or Tent of Worship that the Children of Israel carried with them in the Desert and that served as the model for the Temple in Jerusalem. The Torah goes into great detail about the measurements and requirements of each vessel that was in the Tabernacle.
Inside Like the Outside
The first vessel that the Torah describes is the ark, which carried the two tablets with the Decalogue.
They shall make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold - overlay it inside and out - and make upon it a gold molding round about. Cast four gold rings for it, to be attached to it four feet, two rings on one of its side walls and two on the other. Make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold; then insert the poles into the rings on the side walls of the ark, for carrying the ark. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark: they shall not be removed from it. And deposit in the Ark [the tablets of] the Pact which I will give you.
Your Torah Navigator
1. Why do you think the Ark is the first vessel described?
2. Why must the Ark be overlay with gold on the inside and outside?
3. Why can the poles never be removed from the ark?
One detail to which many commentaries are sensitive is the fact that the ark must be covered on the inside and out with gold. The Talmud makes the following observation based on this fact:
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yoma 72b
Overlay it inside and out - Rava says any Torah scholar whose inside is not like his outside is not a Torah scholar
Your Talmud Navigator
1. What does it mean for someone's inside to be like his/her outside?
2. Why does Rava find this trait to be necessary for one to be a Torah scholar?
3. Why does Rava learn this trait for a Torah scholar from the Torah's description of the Ark?
4. Can you think of other leadership positions for which you would require one's inside to be like one's outside?
This description of a Torah scholar is used in another passage in the Talmud. Rabban Gamliel, who was the head of the Sanhedrin, had embarrassed Rabbi Joshua on a number of occasions. The other rabbis decided to depose Rabban Gamliel from his leadership position. The Talmud says:
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Brachot 27a
A Tanna taught: On [the day that Rabban Gamliel was deposed] the doorkeeper was removed and permission was given for all students to enter. For Rabban Gamliel had issued a proclamation [saying]: No disciple whose interior is not like his exterior may enter the House of Study. On that day many stools were added. Rabbi Johanan said: There is a difference of opinion on this matter between Abba Joseph ben Dosethai and the Rabbis: one [authority] says that four hundred stools were added, and the other says seven hundred. Rabban Gamliel became alarmed and said: "Perhaps, God forbid, I withheld Torah from Israel!" He was shown in his dream white casks full of ashes. This, however, really meant nothing; he was only shown this to appease him...
It is taught: The Talmudic tractate Eduyot was learned on that day. And anywhere in the Talmud that refers to "that day" refers to this incident. There was no law debated in the house of study that was not explained.
Your Talmud Navigator
1. Why were so many people prevented from entering the House of Study when Rabban Gamliel was the only one in charge?
2. What does it mean to have your exterior be like your interior?
3. What is the meaning of Rabban Gamliel's dream?
4. If the dream did not support Rabban Gamliel's actions, why did he merit having a dream that appeased him?
5. Why were they able to learn a new tractate of Talmud specifically on that day?
6. Given the story of Rabban Gamliel, are Rava's standards for a Torah scholar too demanding?
For one's inside should be like one's outside means that one is sincere and perfectly honest in all that one does. This is an appropriate trait for our Torah scholars and leaders to possess. Our leaders and Torah scholars should be held to higher standards because they represent the ideal for which we strive. Rabban Gamliel's fault lay in the fact that he expected everyone to meet the standards of our sages. The passage in Brachot clearly demonstrates, to prevent people access to Torah study benefits no one.
It is appropriate that this discussion is started by the description of the Ark, which represents Torah. The Ark's poles could never be removed, symbolizing that Torah is accessible to anyone willing to grab onto it. Everyone has a part in Torah and a unique contribution to make in the study of Torah. Our understanding of the Torah and of Judaism will flourish and be complete only if we ensure that these conditions are met.
Prepared by Elliot Kaplowitz, Iyyun Fellow, Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies.
Additional commentaries and text studies on Terumah at MyJewishLearning.com.