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Rabbi Kalmar's Message - Parshat Terumah / Shabbat Zachor 5781 - "Reaching Across the Aron"

In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray is forced to wake up in Punxsutawney, PA every day, the same day, thousands of times.  Sort of how many of us are feeling this year.  Every day it’s the same thing – still COVID – all the time – everywhere you go. In the movie -  every day the clock strikes 6:00am, and the radio alarm comes on with “then put your little hand in mine”, a line from Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe”.  It’s like life is on repeat.

There is a seeming blip in this week’s parsha – we get a repeat as well.  As if someone spliced the same scene into your video twice.   The Torah tells us about the Ark – the wood, the gold, the rings, the staves – and then וְנָתַתָּ, אֶל-הָאָרֹן--אֵת, הָעֵדֻת, אֲשֶׁר אֶתֵּן, אֵלֶיךָ – and you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you.  Ok. Fine – the testimony here means the luchos – the tablets.  The tablets go in the ark.  Great.    Then the parsha continues – and tells us all about the ark cover and how you make that.  And then we get this - וְנָתַתָּ אֶת-הַכַּפֹּרֶת עַל-הָאָרֹן, מִלְמָעְלָה; וְאֶל-הָאָרֹן--תִּתֵּן אֶת-הָעֵדֻת, אֲשֶׁר אֶתֵּן אֵלֶיךָ
And you shall put the ark cover on the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you.    Uhhhh….. we just said that 6 verses earlier.  It’s on repeat – we heard that already.   Why are we saying this again?  We know – the tablets go in the ark.

R. Avraham Mordechai Alter, (1866-1948) the Imrei Emes, the fourth rebbe of Ger, explained that what happens in between these two statements is the construction of the Keruvim.  What does the Torah tell us about the Keruvim – the two Cherubs, or angels what were built on the cover of the ark?  וַעֲשֵׂה כְּרוּב אֶחָד מִקָּצָה, מִזֶּה, וּכְרוּב-אֶחָד מִקָּצָה, מִזֶּה; מִן-הַכַּפֹּרֶת תַּעֲשׂוּ אֶת-הַכְּרֻבִים, עַל-שְׁנֵי קְצוֹתָיו  “You should make one Keruv on one end of the cover and one keruv at the other end.”

    They represent people who are at opposite extremes – can’t get along – have different viewpoints – they are far from one another – this one at that extreme and this one at that extreme.  They are kitzoni – the modern Hebrew word for extremist.    There are so many things that we as Jews can fight about – politics? Religion? Covid practices? Israel? You name it – we can fight about it.    What does it say in the next verse - וּפְנֵיהֶם, אִישׁ אֶל-אָחִיו Their faces were one to the other.  They find a way to get along with each other.  They may be very different, but they find ways to get along.  To make peace, to face each other lovingly – to reach across the Aron, to reach across the ark – what is in the ark?  The Luchos – the tablets, the Torah – every person’s truth – my torah, your torah, my hashkafa (outlook on life) vs. your hashkafa.   Says the Imrei Emes (as Rabbi Josh Flug points out) that there is no comparing having the Luchos put in the ark before the Keruvim come along to after they come along.  The Torah is qualitatively different and better when there is unity.  You can have Torah without the unity – but it is a shadow of what the Torah can be when you have unity.  When you do whatever you can to reach across the aisle, the divide, between people and opinions, with love.  The Torah tells us that God spoke to Moshe - מבין שני הכרובים – from between the Keruvim (Bamidbar 7:87)  In that spot of love and unity was the place where God spoke to Moshe because that represented the highest level of connection we can have with God – from a place of unity and peace.  
    We read about the Amaleik this week in Parshas Zachor.  The Keli Yakar tells us that there is a reason that the Amaleiktes attacked us in a place called רפידים - Refidim. If you switch the letters around you get the word פרידים- Freidim – separated.  The Jews at that time were fighting with each other after Masa-U’Merivah.  That was the point of time for Amaleik to attack.
Do we never learn?  Do we not know that this is the reason why the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed? And yet, we can’t help ourselves from fighting with, criticizing, mocking and maligning Jews who are not like us or whom we disagree with.

The repeat – the double mentioning of the Luchos was meant to teach us something.  In Groundhog day, Bill Murray’s character got to relive every day – until he got it right – until he changed his behavior and became a better person.  It was meant to teach him something.  I would dare say that Hakodesh Barcuh Hu – that God keeps hitting the repeat button and giving us another chance to get it right.  To learn the lesson of Achdus, of unity, of ridding the hate in our hearts for our fellow Jews. To fulfill the mission of the Keruvim – to teach us ViAhavta Lireiacha Kamocha, to love your fellow like yourself.  If we want to stop feeling like we’re just in this repeating loop scene – let’s break the pattern, learn something,  and get it right and just get along.
Good Shabbos!

Wed, May 18 2022 17 Iyyar 5782