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Today is June 25, 2019 -

Torah Portion Terumah

A Heart of Gold? No – Better Yet A Heart of Acacia Wood!

This week we read of the Ark of the Covenant that contained the Ten Commandments. It was made of acacia wood. We are told to “overlay it with pure gold – overlay it inside and out…” (Exodus 25:10-11). A classic explanation of why it was to be coated both inside and out with that precious metal comes from the Talmud, “Raba said, A scholar whose inside is not like his outside is not a true scholar.” (Yoma 72a) That is a statement about the necessity for integrity in our lives, certainly a characteristic to be desired. However we could also ask why the Ark was not made of pure gold. Why use acacia wood at all? Shouldn’t our insides, our hearts be precious and pure like gold? Don’t we compliment people by saying that they have a “heart of gold”? Here is an explanation from Rabbi Yaacov Haber “We must understand that as holy as we can become on the outside, and on the inside, we nevertheless remain, and should remain human beings! Our core is not gold, but wood, which represents out humanness…The humanness within us is to be treasured. It is our job to sanctify it…” Rabbi Haber emphasizes the difference between wood and gold. Wood is like our humanness because it comes from a natural living tree. Gold, a precious and solid metal, is never animated with life. I don’t suppose I will go around saying that kind, generous and understanding people have a “heart of acacia wood.” I might get some strange looks if I said so. However, I hope we all will have hearts that are human, showing kindness, compassion, and openness to others from the deepest recesses of our selves.