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ב"ה

IS THE TORAH ETERNAL?

Thursday, 15 February, 2024 - 9:09 pm

Sam was a single guy living at home with his father and working in the family business.

When he found out he was going to inherit a fortune when his sickly father will die, he decided he needed a wife with whom to share his fortune.

One evening at an investment meeting he spotted a woman whose natural beauty grabbed his attention.

"I may look like just a plain, ordinary man," he said to her, "but in just a short while, my father will die, and I'll inherit 30 million dollars."

Impressed, the woman obtained his business card.

Three days later... she became his stepmother.

The holiest article in the Tabernacle that the Jewish people constructed in the desert was the Ark, which housed the Tablets of the Ten Commandments. In this week's portion Terumah, the Torah commands the Ark to be made of acacia wood and to be covered within and without with gold.

To fulfill this stipulation the Jews made three boxes, three arks, tucked into each other. The larger visible box was made of pure gold. Inside it, they placed a box of acacia wood. Then a second golden box was made, and it was put inside the wooden one. Thus, the middle wooden box was covered with gold inside and out.

But why did they need to build three arks to fulfill this condition? Why could they not build one ark of wood and plate it inside and out with gold?

An understanding of the nature of these substances will explain this apparent enigma.

Aristotle once asked his students: Who is the greatest teacher, who teaches his pupils the most vital lessons for life, yet in the end it turns out that he single-handedly kills all of his students?

His answer, of course, was Time. There is no teacher-like time. And yet time is also what causes us to age and fade away.

Time attacks most substances. Its ravages can be seen everywhere. Colors fade; metals rust; fibers rot. Man, himself is one of the chief victims of the ravages of time. It robs him of his youth; it saps him of his strength; and in the end, it steals his very life from him.

When we are young, we do not realize what a thief time is; how it takes from us seconds and minutes, days and years.

Then one day we look at ourselves in the mirror and discover his theft. We note how the hairs --or what's left of them-- are beginning to turn to silver, that wrinkles and furrows appear on our faces, and bags under our eyes.

This is also true in the realm of ideas. They, too, are transient. They may last a decade, a century, even a millennium or more, but eventually, they become rusty, antiquated, and even obsolete.

Gold is one of the rare exceptions to this rule. It is durable and strong. It resists time and decay. Gold is resilient and strong.

The largest gold treasure ever found in Israel was discovered by chance off the shore of the ancient port city of Caesarea.

At least 2,000 gold coins dating back over 1,000 years were found 12 meters underwater by a group of scuba divers, who quickly reported the discovery to their diving club manager, who then called in Israel Antiquities Authority officials.

Antiquities Authority divers, using metal detectors, went back to the site along with the original divers, and uncovered six kilograms worth of golden coins, which had been exposed due to winter storms. “The gold coins are in excellent condition, and despite remaining at the bottom of the sea for over 1,000 years, they did not need any conservation lab treatment,” Robert Cole, a coin expert at the Antiquities Authority said.

Most philosophies and theologies are also victims of time. What has been so powerful yesteryear becomes irrelevant today. Even in science, what was sacred in science in the past is reduced to primitiveness today. What we thought we knew for certain is revealed to be far more complex and mysterious.

But there are some truths and principles which, like gold, are not subject to the onslaught of time.

Which is why King David compares the teachings of the Torah to gold. "More to be desired are they than gold." Its doctrines have withstood the most concentrated assault of centuries of testing and attack. Time has had not the same impact on the Torah as it had on endless ideas, ideologies, cultures, traditions, and empires.

2000 years ago, we got caught up in the civilization of ancient Greece, in the beauty, culture, philosophy, and art of the day. And the obvious question was, is Torah still relevant?

250 years ago, we were swept away by the European Enlightenment, with its promise of liberty and freedom for all, and the celebration of the individual search for identity. What place, asked many, does the Torah have in such a benign world?

150 years ago, we were excited by the Industrial Revolution, which seemed to make the Torah appear backward. Then came the Russian Communist Revolution, and millions believed that faith and religion were positively primitive.

In our generation with its satellites and space shuttles, television and technology, computers, cyberspace, and iPhones, young people question whether Torah still speaks to them.

But the Torah is like gold. it may be submerged under a sea, concealed for many years in a person’s life, but it never fades and never even loses its glitter, glitz, and glow. Revolutions may come and go but revelation is eternal. The voice of Sinai continues to proclaim eternal truths that never become passé or irrelevant. Respect the Divine image in each person, honor Your Parents, revere them, and look after them in their old age. Live moral lives; do not tamper with the sacred fiber of family life.

Dedicate one day every week and keep that day holy.

Are these ideas and values dated? Are these commandments tired, stale, or irrelevant? On the contrary. They speak to us now as perhaps never before. The G-dly voice has lost none of its strength, none of its majesty. Torah is truth and truth is forever.

It was, therefore, proper that the Ark which housed the Tablets of the Law be made of gold, to symbolize the enduring and eternal relevance of the Torah as the manual of the Creator for His universe.

For as long as anyone could remember, there was a clock mounted high up on the tallest building in the town. As people would go about their business throughout the day, they would periodically glance upwards, and then automatically check their watches. Sometimes there would be an inconsistency, and then they would reset their watches to the correct time.

But times change. A murmur of discontent was heard in an element of the population.

“Why can’t the clock be lowered down, at eye level, more accessible?” “The clock is so high it’s a pain in the neck to always have to look up at it. Why can’t the clock be lowered down, at eye level, more accessible?”

“What if the clock is wrong? It’s practically impossible to change it. Now, if it were installed on a lower building, it would be so much easier to fix.”

The locals were vocal, and the vocals were local. A town meeting was called; and a decision was made. The clock was lowered.

Then a funny thing started happening. When people noticed a discrepancy between the town clock and their watches, more often than not they would now adjust the time . . . on the town clock. “After all, I know that I have the right time.” Then someone else would come by and readjust the clock . . . Within a short period, the clock had been fiddled with so often that it broke down. The consensus was that it was no longer relevant, not worth fixing and the clock was consigned to the trash heap.

This is the power of the Torah. Sometimes we look at it and it seems so tall, so aloof, so beyond ordinary life. We are tempted to “lower it,” to compromise its standards, to change its laws, seemingly to make it more accessible to the modern age. We do not realize that by doing so we undermine its potency, relevance, and eternity. It is a tall clock indeed, showing us the right time and the right of way, and in its tallness and sublimity, it still ticks away in every age and milieu.

This is the Power of the Ark of Torah and Judaism: It is as old as it gets, and it is as new as it gets. Just like its source: G-d.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

Comments on: IS THE TORAH ETERNAL?
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