Haftarah Parshat Terumah (1 Kings 5:26-6:13)
February 21, 2015 / 2 Adar 5775
The construction of the Temple in Jerusalem was King Solomon’s greatest achievement. Its construction was parallel to the sanctuary in the desert. Much of this week’s haftarah relates intricate details of the measurements of its holy chambers. In one verse its measurements were recorded as: “And the house which King Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high.” (6:2) Later on in the chapter, the measurements were given as follows: “The interior of the shrine (d’vir) was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide and twenty cubits high”. (6:20)
As you probably have noticed there is a discrepancy over the measurement of the height of the sanctuary, the first verse measuring it as thirty cubits while the second verse measures it as twenty cubits. On a visit to the countryside, this inconsistency was pointed out to Rabbi Hanina in the following conversations recorded in the Talmud: “Rabbi Hanina [once] went out to the country, [and] a contradiction between [the following] verses was pointed out to him. It is written: ‘And the house which King Solomon built for the Lord, was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide and thirty cubits high” while it is [also] written: ‘The interior of the shrine (d’vir) was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide and twenty cubits high’! He replied to them: ‘[The last mentioned verse] reckons from the edge of the Cherubim upwards.’ What does [this measurement] teach us? It teaches us this: [The space] below (which was taken up by the Ark of the Covenant) [was] as [that] above. As [the space] above served no [material] purpose. So too [the space] below served no [material] purpose. [The Ark miraculously took up no space.] This supports Rabbi Levi; for Rabbi Levi and others say, Rabbi Yohanan said: ‘We have this as a tradition from our fathers [that] the place of the Ark and the Cherubim is not included in the measured [space].’ So, indeed, it has been taught: The Ark which Moses made had a free space of ten cubits on every side.” (Baba Batra 98b-99a)
This dialogue notes the miraculous nature of the Ark which contained the words of the revelation at Sinai. It was contained in space but took up no space. Nahmanides alludes to this idea in his introduction to Parshat Terumah: “Since you (the Jewish people) are holy, you deserve to have a sanctuary in which My Presence (God’s) can dwell amongst you… therefore I am commanding you regarding a Sanctuary… and the main item in the Sanctuary where My Presence will dwell is the Ark.” In other words, the Torah is a portable portal for Divine revelation. That makes the study of Torah the Jewish means for meeting God and there is nothing more miraculous than that.