Parshas Teruma-Torah Or-The mystical meaning of the Keruvim and becoming a brother to G-d

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Parshas Terumah


Mi Yitencha Ke’ach Li …”

[Torah Or p.158[1]]

This week’s Parsha discusses the Kapores, which was the covering that was placed over the Aron. The Kapores consisted of the figures of two Cherubs that were placed at opposite ends of the Kapores. These figures were called the Keruvim. The entire Kapores, including the Keruvim, was made of gold. Many statements of the Sages are associated with the Keruvim. The Sages [Chagiga 13b] state that the Keruvim had the faces of children, one of a male and one of a female.[2] The Keruvim would miraculously appear in different positions. The wings of the Keruvim, which reached 80 centimeters from the ground, would move upwards during the times of prayer, similar to a flying position.[3] The Talmud[4] states that when the Jewish people would visit during the three Festivals, they would be shown the two Keruvim hugging in a marital position to express the love of Hashem for the Jewish people. When the Jewish people fulfilled Hashem’s will, the Keruvim faced each other, symbolizing the love of Hashem for us, similar to the love of a husband for a wife. When the Jewish people disobeyed Hashem, the Keruvim turned their backs on each other.[5] Hence the Keruvim were not a mere sculpture of gold, but contained actual life and movement that represented the very relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. In this Mamar, the Alter Rebbe delves into the spiritual and Kabbalistic meanings behind the Keruvim. The Keruvim in essence served as a medium between the Jewish people and the Torah. It was due to the Keruvim that the Jewish people were called “brothers to Hashem,” as they were elevated to such a high level through the Keruvim that they could be called spiritual brothers. Even in exile, it is possible to attain this spiritual state of brotherhood through the learning of Torah.  The Alter Rebbe explains that even those that are unable to learn Torah on a constant basis due to their occupation in business are nevertheless able to reach a state of “brotherhood” through their service of prayer.


Explorations of the Mamar:

1.      What did the Keruvim signify?

2.      Why was the Jewish people called “brothers to Hashem” in the times of the Temple?

3.      How can we attain the spiritual state of “brotherhood” even today, in exile?

4.      How can a working Jew reach higher spiritual revelations than one who learns Torah for his occupation?


Brothers to Hashem:

The verse states Mi Yitencha Ke’ach Li. This verse represents the request of Knesses Yisrael to Hashem during the times of exile. During the times of the Temple, the Jewish people were called Achim of Hashem, brothers of Hashem, as the verse states, Lemaan Achaiy Vereiay and Lemaan Beis Hashem Elokeinu. From this verse, we learn that we are only called brothers of Hashem during times of the Temple. Now, however, during exile, we are no longer called “brothers”. It is due to this that the verse states, Mi Yitencha Ke’ach Li, “If only that you would be given as a brother to me”. The meaning of being “brothers” to Hashem remains to be understood. What does this term “brother” represent? Why did we have this title during the times of the Temple, why did we lose it during the exile, and how do we gain it back?


The Keruvim:

The above meaning of the term “brothers” can be understood through the Keruvim. The verse states, “You shall make two Keruvim, one Keruv from this end and another Keruv from the other end.” What is the meaning behind these Keruvim? The Gemara[6] states that on the supernal chariot there were four images: the images of a man, a Keruv, an eagle, and a lion. The Gemara questions, “Is not the face of a man and the face of a Keruv the same?” The Gemara replies that the face of a man refers to an adult face, while the face of a Keruv is the face of a child. What is the meaning of these faces, and how can one use physical connotations when discussing Hashem, who has no figure or physical relation?


The meaning of the “face of man”

The term “Adam,” “Man” of the supernal chariot, refers to the Torah, as the Torah is Chochmah, wisdom, and the main advantage of man over other creatures is his wisdom. In the spiritual worlds, this level of Torah is found in the level of Chochmah of Atzilus, which contains a revelation of Hashem’s infinite light, the Or Ein Sof. For the Torah to descend and come to a level that it can relate to creations in the world of Beriyah, it must go through a series of Tzimtzumim, contractions.


The contractions performed by the Keruvim:

The abovementioned contractions that were necessary for the Torah to descend and reach a level relevant to man occurred through the Keruvim. About this, the Sages state, “Hashem contracted His presence between the poles of the Aron,” as from there Hashem would speak to Moshe. The Keruvim drew down the Atzilus wisdom of the Torah and brought it to the level of Beriyah. This is similar to the wisdom of an adult that has been contracted to be understood even by the intellect of a child. It is for this reason that the Keruv is called a “small face”, or the “face of a child”, as it represents the wisdom of the Torah as it descends to a level that can be understood by lower-level creations. This purpose, however, was fulfilled by only one of the Keruvim. The other Keruv served a different purpose altogether.


Elevating the heartfelt prayers of the Jewish people:

The purpose of the first Keruv was to bring the Torah down below. This descent, however, did not happen on its own and required initiation from below, from the heartfelt prayers of the Jewish people during their recital of Shema. These prayers would serve as the Isarusa Delisata that would cause the descent of the Torah, the Isarusa Delieila. The purpose of the second Keruv was to elevate the heartfelt prayers of the Jewish people from below to Atzilus.


The wings of the Keruvim:

The Keruvim possessed wings that were spread upwards towards the Heavens. The Zohar states that there were three times a day when the Keruvim would elevate their wings. This took place during each of the three prayers, Shacharis, Mincha, and Maariv. The prayers of the Jewish people, which were saturated with love and fear of Hashem, acted as the spiritual wings to elevate the Keruvim and have them “fly” to Atzilus. It is for this reason that the Keruvim had wings. The purpose of this elevation of the Keruvim was for them to receive from the G-dliness of Atzilus. Throughout the day, the Keruvim would bring down the Divine light of Atzilus, the Torah as it is found in Atzilus, into the worlds of Beriyah and below. During the three prayer services, they would return to Atzilus to receive the Divine light that they would later bring down. When the Keruvim were elevated to Atzilus, they would face each other, like a man facing his fellow brother. This represented the unity of the Keruvim above in Atzilus. This elevation of the Keruvim did not only raise their own level, but also raised the level that the Jewish souls would receive from above. Although the Jewish souls regularly received a contracted form of the light of the Torah, as it was brought down through the Keruvim, during this period of time the Jewish souls would receive from the Torah of Atzilus itself, without the contractions performed by the Keruvim. This is why we were called “brothers”. We were called “brothers of the level of Z”a”, as both the Jewish souls and the level of Z”a of Atzilus received from the level of Chochmah of Atzilus.


The level of brother during exile:

In exile, as the Keruvim have been hidden, we no longer experience this elevation, and hence are no longer called brothers of Z”a of Atzilus. This then is the request of Knesses Yisrael: Mi Yitencha Ke’ach Li, “Would it be that you would once again give me the ability to become a brother.” This request of Knesses Yisrael was fulfilled by Hashem and hence even today in exile we are able to receive from the level of Chochmah of Atzilus and be called brothers of Z”a. This is achieved through learning Torah. The Sages state that from the time the Temple was destroyed, Hashem has been found within the four cubits of Halacha. When one learns Halacha, he comprehends Hashem’s wisdom, His Chochmah of Atzilus, and can hence once again be considered a brother of Z”a, who also receives from Chochmah. Nevertheless, this level can only be reached by one whose constant occupation is Torah learning, the Yoshev Ohel. However, a working Jew, who is unable to invest his days and nights in Torah learning due to his business dealings [i.e. Baal Esek], is unable to be reach this state of brotherhood through his learning. Nevertheless it can be accomplished through other methods.


The working Jew can also be a “Brother”:

The above level of Ke’ach Li, “Brother”, can also be achieved by the working Jew who is unable to learn Torah all day. This is accomplished through the heartfelt prayers of Shema that he recites. When a Jew works and deals with the physical world, he refines the Divine sparks found within it. These sparks are subsequently elevated above through the heartfelt prayer of Shema. When these sparks are received above, they reciprocate a great revelation below to the soul of the working Jew. These revelations are even greater than those received by the Yoshev Ohel, as the learning Jew receives from Chochmah of Atzilus and is thus only called a brother of Z”a. However, the working Jew who prays, receives from the level of Kesser, which is the root of the Torah and Chochmah of Atzilus. The working Jew is therefore called a “brother” to Chochmah of Atzilus, as they now both receive from Kesser. It is for this reason that Zevulun comes before Yissachar. Nevertheless, also the working Jew needs to establish times to learn Torah, as he must also draw down the light in an orderly fashion, in the order of the worlds.  In this sense as well, the learning of the working Jew is higher than the learning of the Yoshev Ohel as it comes through more Iskafya, self-subjugation, and discipline.


A parable:

There was a king who had two sons that he sent out to govern two different provinces within his kingdom. One son was sent to a province where the citizens were loyal subjects and law-abiding citizens. The king would never have any issues of rebellion with these citizens and enjoyed their constant loyalty, which was expressed through his son, the governor, bringing him presents and gifts from his subjects. This delighted the king and made him very pleased with his son, the governor, and his province. The second son, however, did not have such luck and was sent to a rebellious province. The locals did not care for the king or his monarchy and acted in ways of rebelliousness and mutiny. It goes without saying that the king never received any gifts from the subjects of this province. The son was given the most difficult task of taming these subjects and turning them into law-abiding citizens. After the son began to toil, the fruits of his labor began coming forth, and a number of subjects of this province began to love the king and send him gifts as well. When the king discovered that he was being sent gifts also from this province, he became overjoyed and was filled with more excitement than he ever felt from the gifts from the first province.


The Avoda of the Yoshev Ohel is constantly pleasant and desirable before Hashem. However, it comes without any involvement with the worldly affairs that tend to challenge one’s service of G-d. It is similar to the gifts of the first province. The working Jew, however, is involved in mundane matters and does not have much time to give towards Him. However, when he does, that gift is so pleasant before Hashem that it causes even greater pleasure to Him than the learning of the Yoshev Ohel, as it had to overcome the barriers and challenges faced by involvement in the materialistic world.



Lessons of the Mamar:

·         Hashem’s love for the Jewish people knows no bounds. Hashem established the Keruvim in the Holy of Holies to remind us of our relationship with Him.

·         Even one who is unable to learn Torah on a constant basis, due to his preoccupation with providing his family with a living, is nevertheless able to reach heights in his relationship with Hashem that can even surpass that of the Torah learner. Nevertheless, even he must have set times for learning Torah.





[1] Many of the explanations of this Mamar were derived from the original Mamar of Mi Yitecha Keach that was recited by Admur in 1811 and printed in Sefer Hamamarim in 1811.

[2] Rabbeinu Bechayeh Teruma 25

[3] Brought down in the Zohar

[4] Yuma 54/1

[5] Baba Basra 99a; Yalkut Shimoni Melachim Remez 281

[6] Chagiga 13b


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