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Parashat Teruma: The Permanence of the Torah

In commanding Beneh Yisrael to construct the Aron (ark), in which the Luhot (tablets) and Torah were kept, G-d instructed that four rings should be attached to the corners of the Aron, and two transport poles should be inserted through the rings. When the time came to travel, and the Aron needed to be transported, the Leviyim assigned this role would carry the ark by holding the poles.

Surprisingly, G-d added the prohibition, "Lo Yasuru Mimenu" – "They should not be removed from them" (25:15). Meaning, the poles must be permanently affixed to the sides of the ark, and never be removed, even when the Aron is in its place. We would have naturally expected the transport poles to be placed alongside the Aron only when they were needed for carrying it. But G-d specifically forbids removing the poles at any time, and this is counted as one of the Torah’s 365 prohibitions.

How should we understand this law? Why were the transport poles kept at all times on the sides of the Aron?

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Frankfurt, 1808-1888) explained that the poles signified the fact that the Torah, represented by the Aron, must always be ready to be "transported," to be carried with us. The Torah’s authority and relevance are not confined to any particular time or place. It remains binding upon us in every generation and in every society. To teach us this vitally important lesson, G-d instructed that the Aron should always have the transport poles at its sides, indicating that the Torah accompanies us wherever we go.

We read in Megillat Ester that after Mordechai heard of Haman’s decree to annihilate the Jews, he went out into the city square dressed in mourners’ garb, and cried. When Ester heard, she sent her servant to Mordechai to ask "Ma Zeh Ve’al Ma Zeh" (4:5) – what this was all about. The Gemara in Masechet Megilla (15a) explains that Ester here was alluding to the Torah’s description of the tablets which Moshe brought from Mount Sinai, which were engraved "Mi’zeh U’mi’zeh" – on both sides (Shemot 32:15). She was asking Mordechai whether perhaps the Jews were being punished for transgressing the laws which were engraved "Mi’zeh U’mi’zeh," on both sides of the stone tablets.

Why did Ester mention this particular aspect of the Torah’s laws – that they were engraved on both sides of the tablets?

Rav Yosef Salant (1885-1981), in his Be’er Yosef, explains that when a stone is etched all the way through to the other side, the text cannot then be erased. If only one side is etched, one can erase what is written by etching around the inscription. But once the inscription has penetrated the width of the stone, it is permanent. The text of G-d’s commands was engraved on the tablets "Mi’zeh U’mi’zeh," on both sides, to teach us that these laws are permanent and eternally binding. And this is the connection between the inscription of the tablets and Haman’s decree. The Gemara earlier teaches that the Jews of that time were deserving annihilation because they participated in Ahashverosh’s feast. Mordechai urged them not to attend, as their participation violated the Torah’s principles, but they dismissed him as "old-fashioned." They felt that the Torah laws and values which Mordechai was trying to preserve were "outdated" and no longer relevant. And thus Ester was hinting to Mordechai that the Jews were threatened with this calamity because they denied the concept of "Mi’zeh U’mi’zeh," of the Torah’s eternal relevance and authority.

The society we live in is rapidly changing. There are constantly new fads and new ideas that become popular, and, living and participating in this society, we face enormous pressure to embrace these fads and ideas. One of the messages of Purim is the recognition of the Torah’s permanence, that its "poles" are always alongside it, that it accompanies us and must inform our lifestyle and our conduct at all times, in every generation, and in every society. Even when our society’s values change, our values must remain constant.

Parashat Behaalotecha- Rectification is Always Possible
Parashat Naso- Emuna First
Shavuot- Celebrating the Eternal Torah
Shavuot- The Challenge – and Rewards – of Torah Commitment
Parashat Behar- Experiencing the Sweetness and Delight of Torah
Parashat Emor- Keter Shem Tob 'The Crown of Good Reputation'
Parashat Ahare Mot- Planting Our Spiritual Trees
Parashat Shemini- Respect and Reverence in the Synagogue
Pesah: Redemption Then and Now
Pesah- Its A Mirage
Parashat Vayikra- The Triple Sin of Dishonesty
Parashat Pekudeh- Counting the Things That Matter
Parashat Ki Tisa- The Sanctity of Every Jew
Purim and the Sale of Yosef
Parashat Terumah- The Torah’s “Footsteps”
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