Why Are There Two Keruvim in the Holy of Holies?

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy

 

Mikdash

Rav Yitzchak Levi

 

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This week’s shiurim are dedicated by Leonard Balanson
in memory of Rose Balanson z”l

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Lecture 143:

Why are there two keruvim in the Holy of Holies?

 

            In the previous lecture, we discussed the relationship between the keruvim that stood in the Holy of Holies and the prohibition of idolatry. In this lecture, I wish to raise a question regarding the place of two keruvim in the Holy of Holies.

 

            On the face of it, the Holy of Holies, which symbolically expresses the site of God's presence, His house, and the place of His royal throne and footstool, should more than any other place express God's unity, the quality of "God is one and His name is one." Not only is God's essence one, but His revelation in our world should also be one! How, then, are we to understand that two keruvim emerge from the kaporet above the ark? What does this come to express?

 

            The commentators offer various answers to this question, the gist of which we will bring below:

 

            To prevent idol worship: Were there only one keruv, people might have thought that this is the image of the deity to be worshipped. In the course of his discussion of the various forms of idol worship, the Rambam also relates to the keruvim, which he identifies as angels. He writes as follows:

 

It is known that these people built temples for the stars and that in that temple an idol whose worship was agreed upon was set up, I mean an idol assigned to a certain star or to a portion of a sphere. Consequently, we were commanded to build a temple for Him, may He be exalted, and place in it the ark within which were the two tablets containing the words "I am the Lord" and "You shall not have."

It is known that the fundamental principle of belief in prophecy precedes the belief in the Law. For if there is no prophet, there can be no Law. The prophet receives prophetic revelation only through the intermediary of the angel. Thus, "And the angel of the Lord called;" "And the angel of the Lord said unto her." This occurs innumerable times. Even in the case of Moshe our Master, his prophetic mission is inaugurated through an angel: "And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord in the heart of fire." Consequently, it has been made clear that that belief in the existence of angels precedes the belief in prophecy, and the belief in prophecy precedes the belief in the Law.

Since the Sabians were ignorant of the existence of the deity, may He be exalted and glorified, and thought that the sphere with its stars is the being that is eternal and to which nonbeing can never come, and that forces flow over from the sphere toward idols and certain trees – I mean the asherot – they thought that the idols and the trees give prophetic revelation to the prophets, speak to them in the course of such a revelation, and make known to them what is useful and what is harmful, according to their doctrines that we have explained to you with reference to the prophets of Ba’al and the prophets of Ashera. Thereupon, when the truth became clear to the men of knowledge and it became known by demonstration that there is a being that is neither a body nor a force in a body, who is the true deity, and that He is one; and there are also other beings that are separate from matter and are not bodies, beings toward whom His being, may He be exalted, overflows, namely, the angels, as we have explained; and that all these beings are beyond the sphere and its stars; it became known with certainty that true prophetic revelation is given to the prophets by the angels, not by the idols and the asherot. Thus, it has become clear through what we have stated before that the belief in the existence of angels is consequent upon the belief in the existence of the deity and that thereby prophecy and the Law are established as valid. In order to fortify belief in this fundamental principle, He, may He be exalted, has commanded that the image of two angels be made over the ark, so that the belief of the multitude in the existence of angels be consolidated; this is the correct opinion, coming in the second place after the belief in the existence of the deity, constituting the originative principle of belief in prophecy and the Law and refuting idolatry, as we have explained. If there had been one image, I mean the image of one keruv, this might have been misleading. For it might have been thought that this was the image of the deity who was to be worshipped – such things being done by the idolaters – or that there was only one individual angel, a belief that would have led to a certain dualism. As, however, two keruvim were made and the explicit statement enounced: "The Lord is our God, the Lord is one," the validity of the opinion affirming the existence of angels was established and also the fact that there are many. Thus measures were taken against the error that they are the deity – the deity being one and having created this multiplicity. (Guide of the Perplexed III:45)

 

            The Rambam explains that it is precisely in the Holy of Holies that there are two keruvim, and not just one, in order to emphasize that this is not the image of the deity that is to be worshipped. It is precisely two keruvim that teach that the Lord created them because the Lord is our God, and the Lord is one, and it is with His oneness that He created multiplicity –  in this case, two keruvim.

 

            The Malbim and R. S.R. Hirsch explain the matter of two keruvim in a different manner. The Malbim writes as follows:

It also teaches the people about the matter of leadership. For there were two tablets in the ark. On one tablet were written five commandments between man and God and on the second tablet were written five commandments between man and his fellow. And there were two types of leaders in Israel, the king and his officers, who were appointed by God to execute justice and to wipe out all those who do evil between man and his fellow, and the High Priest and the teachers of religion, who were appointed to teach the people and to oversee the Divine service and the commandments between man and God. Corresponding to them stood the two keruvim, the one overspreading with its wings the one side of the ark containing the tablet containing the commandments between man and his fellow, and the second overspreading with its wings the second side of the ark containing the commandments between man and God. Therefore, the two stood on the kaporet which covered the tablets as a whole. And it was necessary that the two keruvim spread there wings above so that they should do everything for the sake of heaven, and that they should elevate themselves above all material affairs and desires, and that they should overspread the kaporet and protect the commandments of God. And He commanded that their faces should be directed one to the other, so that the king and the High Priest should help one another. Not the way it was in the days of the wicked Second Temple kings who would cast low the honor of the priesthood, as it says: "Remove the turban, and take off the crown" (Yechezkel 21:31). And not like the wicked priests who incited rebellion and raised a hand against the honor of the monarchy. Rather, their faces should be directed one to the other, as it is stated: "And the counsel of peace shall be between them both" (Zekharya 6:13). And similarly, their faces, that is to say, the direction of their faces, should be towards the kaporet, to fortify the pillars of the religion and the fear of God and to set judgment and justice in the land. (Shemot 25:18)

 

            The Malbim connects the doubling of the keruvim to the tablets of the covenant found beneath them. One tablet contains the commandments between man and God, whereas the other tablet contains the commandments between man and his fellow. According to him, the two keruvim are connected to the two tablets – one keruv overspreads with his wings the side of the ark containing the tablet that deals with the commandments between man and God, while the other keruv overspreads with its wings the side of the ark containing the tablet that deals with the commandments between man and his fellow.

 

            According to the Malbim, the Torah emphasizes that the faces of the keruvim should be directed one to the other to teach that the king and the High Priest should be of mutual assistance to each other, as opposed to what actually happened during the Second Temple period. On the other hand, their faces must also be directed toward the kaporet, thus fortifying the pillars of the religion and the fear of God and establishing justice on earth.

 

            The spreading of the keruvim's wings upwards also has meaning, namely, that they should all act for the sake of god, and elevate themselves above all material affairs and desires.

 

            R. Hirsch explains the matter in the same direction as the Malbim, but he expands upon the matter:

 

All that now remains is to consider the question: Why two keruvim? The kaporet which at its end rises to keruvim, i.e., the care of the Torah, which God has entrusted to them, becomes its own keruv and the keruv of God's presence on earth. All this is one single idea, and one single keruv would represent it. Why then two keruvim? This question is the more necessary as the answer to it is essential for the understanding of one other point which has not yet been considered. The keruvim have to have their faces directed not only downwards towards the kaporet, but also, as expressly mentioned, each towards the other, so that their attitude must represent two ideas. While they conjointly accomplish the guard of the kaporet, the guard of the guardians of the Torah, they mutually consider each other, and have the other in view, or rather, the other way about, in mutually considering and having each other in view, they conjointly accomplish the guard of those that guard the Torah. For the order of the verse runs: "And the keruvim shall stretch out their wings… and their faces shall look one to another; towards the kaporet shall the faces of the keruvim be."

The ark, as well as its contents and the ideas that they are meant to bring to us, all offer diverse points from which an answer to our question could be worked out. Everywhere we find a dualism present. The "testimony," the object of the care, consisted of two tablets. The ark, the "receiver" of the tablets, accepting dedication to carrying out the Torah, consisted of two materials, required two qualities. The "care" itself, as we have seen, required two factors, the theoretical, mental care, and the practical, actual care. Each of the three components which made up the idea and meaning of the ark – the tablets, their acceptance, and the special measures necessary to ensure their being carried out, consisted accordingly of two factors, both essential, each complementing the other, both having to keep the other in mind. So that the protection necessary for the Torah could well be represented by two keruvim with their faces directed towards each other and both together downwards towards the kaporet.

In the general basic rules laid down in our article, "The Foundations of Jewish Symbolism," the meaning of any symbol in the Torah may not be stretched beyond that which is directly expressed in the description given of it. Also, where several explanations fit, the one which is least far-fetched and which seems naturally to conform to the general train of thought which the symbol wishes to indicate is the one recommended to be adopted. Accordingly, of the various ways in which this duality of the keruvim can be taken, two only should be retained. These two, moreover, in their innermost meaning, can be shown to have exactly the same idea underlying them.

To refer the duality of the keruvim to the duality of the tablets which form the main contents and the whole raison d'etre of the ark would at first seem to offer the most natural explanation. They [the tablets] represent the most comprehensive and general idea which Israel is constantly to bear in mind, and they are the objects to which, one can suppose, contemplation of the keruvim on the ark would most readily direct one's thought. The two tablets lay side by side, so that if one stands in front of the ark and thinks of the cover in two halves right and left, each half covers one tablet, so that if each half on the cover rises to become one keruv, the keruv is evolved from the guard of one tablet. Now the two tablets were of exactly the same size; they proclaimed themselves to be one unit. If one tablet did contain preferably the basic principles of our relations to God and the other that of our social relation to our fellow men, they are still in their value before God and in all influence in ensuring our happiness, completely equal to each other. Neither can do without the other, neither can take the place of the other, neither may lose sight of the other. If the guard which Israel keeps over the Torah is to become their own guardian and end up in their becoming the bearers of the glory of God on earth, then this guard must be given to both tablets in equal measure, each completing the other, each keeping the other constantly in mind. This guard, to be complete, must not erect itself as one keruv, but a pair of keruvim, which mutually consider each other and have regard for each other, and in together completing the guard of the guardians of the Torah offer themselves thereby as a home for the glory of God on earth. Two keruvim, from the two ends of the kaporet, spreading their wings upward, overspreading the kaporet with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; towards the kaporet shall the faces of the keruvim be.

But to understand the duality of the keruvim, it is not even necessary to look back to the contents of the ark, which, after all, are hidden from the eye. The kaporet itself, representing the direct "guard of the Torah" offers the motive for this duality. If the keruvim-cover represents "the guardians of the Torah," by that guard becoming guardians of themselves, of their own happiness, and at the same time bearers of the glory of God on earth, then this guard is simply Israel, who, by the ark, symbolically accept the Torah to carry it out with all their powers of action and firmness, and by the kaporet accomplish this guard with protecting firmness. But then the pair of keruvim, which in its ends the kaporet becomes, can represent the picture of Israel, and show them how they are to emerge, as a consequence of their accomplishing this keeping the Torah.

But, as we shall see when we come to consider the public or national offerings, the Torah uses two forms to represent the whole nation, either as one unit or as a duality. Just as in words it uses two expressions of the nation – the one, goy, regarding the nation as a single body, regarded externally as one closed unity, the other, am, regarding the nation internally as a large number of individuals joined together socially – so in the Sanctuary the nation is represented in a twofold manner, as one single united whole by the number one, and as a large number of members belonging together, by the number two, the minimum symbol of plurality. Accordingly, here, too, the whole nation of Israel is represented not by one keruv but by two, by a pair of keruvim, and the wooden-golden ark with the golden keruvim-cover would express:

If Israel keeps the Torah which is entrusted to it, with gold-like firmness and strength, right up to the full extreme, then by completing this guardianship, it makes itself not only in its united totality a holy nation, but in all its members a priestly kingdom, a totality, every single member of which fulfills the threefold function: Furthering the well-being of its neighbor, protecting the whole nation, and being one of the bearers of the glory of God on earth – then Israel will become a pair of keruvim who in mutual respect and consideration are peacefully directed one to the other, each one there for the other, each a guarantee for the other, each entrusted to the other – in brotherly co-operation, a whole nation keeping and protecting the Torah, and together achieving a throne for the glory of God on earth. Then will become two keruvim, from the two ends of the kaporet, and their faces shall look one to another, overspreading the kaporet with their wings, spreading their wings upward, towards the kaporet shall the faces of the keruvim be. Then He who sits on the keruvim becomes identical with He who sits on the praises of Israel (Tehillim 23:4).

If here we have considered Israel itself as a keruv, it may not be superfluous to remind ourselves that even the kingdom of Tyre is explicitly described as a protective keruv (Yechezkel 28:14). It Tyre was a "keruv" into whose protection the culture of the nations was given over, then with greater justification Israel can appear as a keruv to whom God's laws for humanity are entrusted, who has been appointed in the world to keep the way of the tree of life and to whom God said: "Let them make Me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them."

In their real inner depth, these ways of looking at the duality of the keruvim can be absolutely identical. For do the two tablets of the Testimony contain anything other than just that very same double reference which is shown both in the direction of their glance and the spread of the wings of the keruvim? Are the commandments between man and his fellow of the one tablet anything other than the looks of the keruvim directed one to the other, and the nation guarding the Torah, other than the wings of the keruvim covering it? And the commandments between man and God of the other tablet, are they anything else than the glance of the keruvim directed downwards towards the protection of the Torah and the spread of the wings of the keruvim to receive the glory of God from above? And, accordingly, is the ark with its keruvim-cover anything else but the representation of the complete meaning of the Divine Torah guarded in the ark, being kept in all its purity and entirety?

 

            Let us briefly summarize what is stated here. R. Hirsch argues that there is duality in all matters connected to the ark:

 

·           There are two tablets

·           The ark is made of shittim wood, but it is plated with gold.

·           Two keruvim stand guard above the kaporet.

 

R. Hirsch assumes that the two dimensions finding expression in this duality are of equal importance, and that they complement each other and take each other into consideration. In view of this, R. Hirsch sees a direct connection between each of the tablets and the keruv above it.

 

The tablets constitute a single unit: on one side are the commandments between man and God, while on the other side are the commandments between man and his fellow. The two types of commandments are absolutely equal; the two tablets are necessary and take each other into account. The two keruvim, which represent above the ark what the tablets symbolize inside the ark, appear together as the chariot of God's Shekhina on earth. On the one hand, the Torah describes the community as a single unit, while on the other hand, it describes it as composed of many individuals, and therefore there are two keruvim.

Therefore, the commandments between man and his fellow constitute a fulfillment of "And their faces shall look one to another." This is like the wings of the keruvim, which overspread the entire community that keeps the Torah. The commandments between man and God constitute a fulfillment of "Toward the kaporet shall the faces of the keruvim be." In this way the wholeness of the Torah is maintained, with its varied contents.

 

This strong connection between the tablets and the keruvim only strengthens and deepens our understanding of the relationship between the ark and the kaporet and the keruvim,[1] with the ark representing the Written Law, while the Oral Law was given over from between the keruvim. The stronger the connection that we see between the tablets and the keruvim, the more we strengthen the connection between the Written Law and the Oral Law as a single entity, the one connected to the other and stemming from it. This is in addition to the representation of the commandments between man and his fellow and man and God inside and outside the ark.

 

Rabbeinu Bachaye and the Netziv offer a different understanding of the idea of two keruvim. Rabbeinu Bachaye says as follows:

 

That which it says in the command: "And you shall make two (shenayim) keruvim of gold" (Shemot 25:18) – shenayim, and not shenei – because shenei implies equivalence, e.g., the two (shenei) tablets of the testimony, the two (shenei) sheep, the two (shenei) goats. Therefore, it had to say shenayim, because they are different from each other, the one male and the other female. Later it says, "From between the two (shenei) keruvim," and "And he made two (shenei) keruvim of gold (37:7), to allude to their equivalence in gold and uniformity.

According to the plain sense, two keruvim, male and female, come to teach how precious Israel is to God, like the love of a man for a woman. So too, Chazal expounded in tractate Yoma (54a): "R. Katina said: Whenever Israel came up on a pilgrim festival, the parokhet would be removed for them and the keruvim were shown to them, whose bodies were intertwisted with one another, and they would be thus addressed: Look! You are beloved before God as the love between man and woman. And it is written also (I Melakhim 7:36): 'According to the space of each, with loyot [wreaths round about].' Rabba bar Sheila said: Even as a man embracing his companion."

One must contemplate this statement of theirs, for the keruvim were in this form as an example to testify to the great cleaving between the Holy One, blessed be He, and Israel without any intermediary. For He, may He be exalted, alone leads them, and there is no strange god with Him (Devarim 32:12), like the rest of the nations to whom He assigned heavenly officers. It is possible that one of the keruvim was in the form of an adult, while the second was in the form of a young child, like what Yechezkel saw (Yechezkel 10:14): "The first face was the face of a keruv, and the second face was the face of a man." And our Rabbis, of blessed memory, expounded (Sukka 5b): "The face of a keruv is the same as that of a man! Rather, one has a large face and the other a small face." This would testify to [God's] love for Israel, like the love of a father for his son, which is strong love. But He wanted to use a symbol of the highest possible physical cleaving that cannot be by way of an intermediary. It is strongest if it is from youth, as the verse states (Mishlei 5:18): "And rejoice with the wife of your youth." All this is that we should know and understand that His cleaving to us is a great and strong cleaving without any intermediary.

Since His cleaving to the rest of the nations is only by way of intermediaries, when He wished to inform us in the Torah that His cleaving to us is without any intermediary, it was only possible to inform us about this by way of this symbol. Another reason is that we should stir ourselves up in our prayers and all other service and not place any intermediary between the Holy One, blessed be He, and us. For this reason, it was placed in the innermost chamber in the place of the Shekhina, it being that towards which all turn in prayer. (Shemot 25:18)

 

            The essence of Rabbeinu Bachaye's answer is that the form of the keruvim testifies to the strong cleaving between God and Israel, without any intermediary, for God alone leads them, there being no other god with Him. That it to say, it is precisely the two keruvim, one male and the other female, that attests to the most direct and intimate connection between God and Israel, without any intermediary whatsoever.

 

            In the continuation he raises the possibility that one keruv was in the form of an adult, whereas the other keruv was in the form of a young child, as in Yechezkel's vision, thus testifying that God's love of Israel is as strong as a father's love for his son. But He wished to symbolize ultimate physical cleaving that cannot be by way of an intermediary. The intention behind all of this is to teach us that God cleaves to us in an exceedingly strong way without any intermediary.

 

            There are two very novel points in Rabbeinu Bachaye's position:

 

·           First, and here he follows the gemara in Yoma 54b, Israel is represented, as it were, by one of the keruvim in the Holy of Holies. In contrast to the simple understanding that it is exclusively the Divine presence that is represented in the Holy of Holies, according to this understanding, even in the Holy of Holies, the innermost and holiest section of the Temple, representation is given to the people of Israel.

·           Second, and this too follows from the gemara in Yoma, the two keruvim found in the Holy of Holies symbolize unmediated cleaving and love – direct cleaving, without intermediary, both according to the symbol of male and female and according to the symbol of father and son.

 

This too emphasizes that the heart of the Temple is not only the presence of God, but the very connection, relationship, and intimacy between God and the people of Israel.

 

The Netziv cites Rabbeinu Bachaye and adds to his idea:

 

Afterwards, I found that Rabbeinu Bachaye wrote as follows: To teach us that the love between Israel and their Father in heaven, which will be explained in the adjacent passage, is the love between one who bestows bounty and one upon who bounty is bestowed. For it is the nature of things that the bestower yearns to bestow with love on the bestowed upon, and the bestowed upon always lifts his eyes to the bestower. So the Holy One, blessed be He, yearns to lovingly bestow blessing upon Israel at all times. As Chazal said in Bereishit Rabba (20, 15): The Holy One, blessed be He, yearns only for Israel, as it is stated: "And his desire is to me" (Shir Ha-Shirim 7:11), and the eyes of Israel are lifted up only to the Holy One, blessed be He." (Shemot 25:18)

 

            Rabbeinu Bachaye, as he is cited by the Netziv, emphasizes that it is the nature of the world that the bestower yearns to bestow love on the bestowed upon, and that the bestowed upon lifts his eyes up at all times to the bestower. So God yearns at all times to bestow blessing with love on Israel and the eyes of Israel are lifted up only to God.

 

            According to this, the keruvim, which symbolize the bestower and the bestowed upon, establish two main focuses in the heart of the Mikdash, and therefore there are two keruvim. The desire to bestow, to do good, to provide on the part of God, and the absolute dependence of Israel on God – in a deep sense, these represent the primary objectives of the Mikdash in general. On the one hand, the Mikdash reveals to us the presence of the Shekhina, providence, and its effect on the entire world from the site where the world was created. At the same time, this reality fashions Israel's dependency upon God, the deep recognition that its entire existence depends upon God's presence in the world.

 

            In the continuation, the Netziv relates to the difference between the keruvim in the Mishkan, where the keruvim faced each other, and the keruvim in the First Temple, where the keruvim faced inwards (in connection with the gemara in Bava Batra 99a). Each set expressed a different aspect of the matter, even during the period of the First Temple, when there were both the original keruvim on the kaporet, and the keruvim Shelomo added, which faced inwards.

 

The Two keruvim Correspond to the two holy Names: the Tetragrammaton and Elokim

 

            The following exposition is found in Midrash Tanchuma:

 

Two keruvim – the Mishkan corresponded to the creation of the world. The two keruvim on the ark of the Testimony corresponded to the two holy names, the Tetragrammaton and Elokim. (Bereishit 2)

 

            According to this midrash, the keruvim represent God's governance in this world, which finds expression in the two Divine names, the Tetragrammaton and Elokim.

 

            The name Elokim is commonly identified with God's appearance in nature and with the attribute of justice, and the Tetragrammaton with God's appearance through revelation and with the attribute of mercy. Since the ark and the keruvim represent God's presence in this world, and since these two aspects are different, complementary ways that God reveals Himself in the world, the keruvim express the different manners of Divine revelation.[2]

 

The Two Keruvim Correspond to Heaven and earth

 

            We read in Bamidbar Rabba (4:13) as follows:

 

He made the two keruvim, which are precious, corresponding to heaven and earth, in which was found the seat of the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is stated: "One keruv on the one end" (Shemot 25:19). Just as heaven opens it treasure to the land, as it is stated:  "The Lord shall open to you His good treasure, the heaven" (Devarim 28:12), so too the Shekhina is set above the two keruvim that are set on the one side and on the other side, and that face each other, as it is stated: "And their faces shall look one to another," corresponding to the throne of glory, which corresponds to the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is stated: "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth" (Tehillim 50:2).

 

adding Keruvim

 

            The Mekhilta brings another halakhic ramification of the fact that the Torah commands that there be specifically two keruvim:

 

"Gods of silver and gods of gold" (Shemot 20:20). Why was this stated? Since it says: "And you shall make two keruvim of gold" (Shemot 25:18) – I might say: I shall make four. Therefore, the verse states: "God of silver and gods of gold." If you add to the two, they are like gods of gold. (Shemot 20:20)

 

In other words, you must make two keruvim, but you may not add to them.

 

            In view of this law, the commentators (ad loc.) discuss the matter of the keruvim added by Shelomo in the first Temple and suggest many explanations:

 

            The Chizkuni explains:

 

Those fashioned by Shelomo (I Melakhim 6:23-24) were not on the kaporet. (Shemot 25:19, s.v. min ha-kaporet ta'asu)

 

In other words, the prohibition to add keruvim is only on the kaporet, but there is no prohibition to add keruvim on the floor of the Holy of Holies.

 

            The Or Ha-Chayyim in his commentary to Parashat Teruma relates to the changes introduced by Shelomo in the house of God:

 

Now with a little consideration of the matter, there is no difficulty whatsoever. For one must understand that Shelomo did not fashion the house or the vessels in accordance with what he considered to be splendor, but rather at the command of a prophet. And even the prophet said that he did not speak words of prophecy, but rather words of tradition, as it is written in I Divrei Ha-Yamim (28:11-19): "Then David gave to Shelomo his son the pattern of the Ulam… and the pattern of all that he had by the spirit… All this, said he, is put in writing by the hand of the Lord who instructed me, all the works of this pattern." And it is further written (Rashi, ad loc.): That he had by the spirit, as Shemuel the Seer showed Him. And [the Sages] of blessed memory, said in Midrash Shemuel (15, 3): "R. Yirmiya said in the name of R. Shimon: The Holy One, blessed be He, handed over the Temple to Moshe while he was standing, and Moshe handed it over to Yehoshua while he was standing… Yehoshua handed it over the elders while they were standing. As it is written (Yehoshua 24:1): 'And Yehoshua gathered… and they stood themselves….' The elders handed it over to the prophets while they were standing; the prophets handed it over to David while he was standing; and David to Shelomo. And it says: 'All this, said he, is put in writing' – teaching that it was given for exposition. 'By the hand of the Lord' – teaching that it was taught by tradition. 'Who instructed me' – teaching that it was given by way of the holy spirit." You see that whatever Shelomo did in the Temple was a law given to Moshe at Sinai, and it was all written in a book, open to those who expound the Torah with the holy spirit. And similarly you will find that Rashi wrote in his commentary to Divrei Ha-Yamim (ibid. v. 19), as follows: "All this Shemuel expounded from the Torah by way of the holy spirit, as we have learned: 'The Temple Mount was five hundred cubits by five hundred cubits, etc.'" Presumably, there is an allusion to all this in the Torah to those who understand the holy spirit. According to this, that which is written (Shemot 25:9): "And so shall you make it," for future generations – refers to those things regarding which the opposite is not stated in the Torah to those who understand the holy spirit. In such things they should act in accordance with what is stated regarding the Mishkan in the wilderness. But as for things that were stated in the Torah regarding the permanent Temple, there is no contradiction from the verse, "And so shall you make it," for there is room to apply it to the other specifics regarding which there was no law [given to Moshe]. Understand this.

 

            The Or ha-Chayyim notes the fact that David received all the specifics of the pattern of the Temple from God – "All this, said he, is put in writing by the hand of the Lord who instructed me." Thus, Shelomo did nothing on his own initiative, as he received all his instructions from David.   In addition, the scroll regarding the Temple was given by God to Moshe, and from Moshe to Yehoshua, and that same Divine scroll was later given to David and to Shelomo.[3]

 

            The Chatam Sofer also deals with the question of how it was possible to make changes in the Temple in comparison to the Mishkan. He writes as follows in his commentary to the Torah:

 

"According to all that I show you, the pattern of the Mishkan, and the pattern of all its vessels, even so shall you make it" (Shemot 25:9) – for future generations. So explained Rashi. And the Ramban asked: But surely King Shelomo changed the altar and did not fashion it according to its pattern. In my opinion, the question can be reversed: Why was it necessary to say, "Even so shall you make it" – for future generations? Would it have entered our minds to change the pattern which the Holy One, blessed be He, showed Moshe our Master in a most precise manner? And more study is needed regarding the building in Shilo and the permanent Temple – who authorized this? Surely the Holy One, blessed be He, showed Moshe our Master a Mishkan made of boards and curtains. And even though it was built at the command of a prophet, as it is written: "All this, said he, is put in writing by the hand of the Lord who instructed me," and regarding the Second Temple there was Chaggai, Zekharya and Malakhi, and the future building was shown to Yechezkel – nevertheless, who granted us permission to believe these prophets to introduce these changes? See end of chapter Ha-Nechenakim (Sanhedrin 89b).

But God has illuminated my eyes, for "Even so shall you make it," for future generations – even though we learn from this a stringency in the last chapter of Shavu'ot (76a) that for future generations we require a king, a prophet, a High Priest and the Urim and Tumim, nevertheless, it seems to me that this verse comes essentially to teach a leniency, that we can change the building and the vessels each time, based on what God (blessed be He) shows the prophets of the generation. While regarding the rest of the Torah's commandments we do not listen to a prophet to make any changes whatsoever, nevertheless, this commandment regarding the building of the Temple and its vessels was given from the outset on condition that it would change based on a vision. This is what it says: "According to all that I show you, even so shall you make it," for future generations, based on the vision that I will show the prophets of those generations. From here we derive an allowance to make changes based on written instructions, including the change in the altar made by king Shelomo. But that regarding which He did not show a change must be made according to the pattern of the first vision which was shown to Moshe our Master on the mountain. Thus, the words of Rashi are correct and the objection raised by the Ramban is answered. (Shemot 25)

 

            There is nothing in the words of the Chatam Sofer that contradicts the exposition found in the Mekhilta that forbids adding to the keruvim on the kaporet. Therefore, the Torah emphasizes that there must be two keruvim, and no more.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)



[1] We dealt at length with the relationship between the ark, the kaporet and the keruvim at the end of last year's series of shiurim.

[2] R. Kasher, who brings this midrash in Parashat Teruma (no. 130), notes that this idea is expressed at length in the words of Philo. He brings in the name of Pa'ane'ach Raza that the Torah is made up of the attributes of justice and mercy, the Written Law expressing the attribute of mercy and the Oral Law expressing the attribute of justice.

[3] The Midrash Ha-Gadol on Shemot 25:23 says that according to a tradition going back to Moshe, there were to be ten tables, ten candelabras, and ten lavers. And so it says: "All this is put in writing by the hand of the Lord."