Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Keruvim and Fear of Heaven

Aside from the k'ruvim that were formed upon the holy ark, there were another set found in the mishkan. On the screen that seperated between the heichal and the holy of holies, exquisitely woven images of k'ruvim faced outwards, towards the ark, menorah and shulchan, comprising Man's domain within the house of God. What is the significance of these k'ruvim? Whereas the golden k'ruvim intently protect the aron (as discussed in a previous essay, they represent the Jewish people bearing and guarding the Law throughout history), the woven ones do not. Why do they direct their gaze outward instead of in, towards the holy of holies? Finally, the tapestry is made of the high cloths that are common in the mishkan: White, red, purple and sky blue. However, the gold thread that is so common in the clothes of the Kohen Gadol is missing. Why?

Rav Hirsch provides the key to the secret of these k'ruvim. If one were to stand within the heichal, he would see the table of show-bread to the north. This symbolizes the material success that arises naturally for a nation which, with brotherly love and care for one another, faithfully keep the laws of God. On the south, the menorah casts the light of Torah and intellectual success. In the direct center, the holy ark contains the source of these national and individual benefits, the word of God. When the Jewish people take the lesson of the golden k'ruvim seriously, truly bearing and preserving the word of God throughout the generations, they find themselves possessing all the spiritual and material blessings that flow from it. It is over all this good that the woven k'ruvim guard.

The colors of thread that are used in the weaving of the tapestry are also meaningful. The white is the pure vegetative element of the world. The red wool, dyed from the blood of worms, represents the animal element, while the regal purple wool represents the highest callings and elements of mankind as humans. The sky blue wool represents as it does in the tzitzit the Godly spark that was placed in humanity. Man contains all of these elements within his personality, and their use together represents the harmonious use of all our faculties for the higher purpose within the ark. When humanity uses its strengths thus, Heaven showers upon it the riches of the menorah and the table, the spiritual and physical successes. Thus, these k'ruvim which look out over Man's domain within the heichal represent Divine Providence, the hashgacha of God, bestowing the multi-faceted reward upon a nation that uses all its faculties for Divine commands.

However, one golden thread is left out. Heaven showers all blessings forth, including the blessing of continued use of vegetative, animal, human and Godly facets in God's service. The only thing left out is the golden thread, that most noble moral force of Man: fear of Heaven. "All is in the hands of Heaven, except fear of Heaven." The grace of God leaves this fear of God and awe of his commands as a constant test, a constant labor, left only for Man. This constant free-willed re-affirmation to this foundation of foundations ensures that Man continues to reap reward for a task that is still in his domain alone to choose.

And so, the k'ruvim, the heavenly bestowers of grace and kindness upon this earth, leave the final touch, the golden thread, constanly in our hands. Our success or failure is our decision, to enter the house of God on earth, or to turn away at the last minute. This missing gold thread is that which we constantly, each day anew, provide.