The Ark, the Kapporet, and the Keruvim - One Vessels / Two Vessels / Two That Are One (Part II)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy

 

Mikdash

 

Lecture 136: the Ark, the kaporet and the Keruvim –

one vessel/ two vessels/ Two that are one (Part II)

Rav Yitzchak Levi

 

 

ARE THE ARK AND THE KAPORET ONE VESSEL OR TWO?

 

            In this shiur, we shall discuss the question whether the ark, the kaporet and the keruvim are one vessel, two separate vessels, or two vessels that are one.

 

            In order to answer this question, we shall first consider the various verses that mention these vessels and see whether we may draw from them any conclusions concerning the matter at hand.

 

            1. In God's initial command regarding the Mishkan, the ark is the first vessel which Israel is commanded to make:

 

And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and shall make upon it a rim of gold round about. And you shall cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in its four corners, and two rings shall be on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. And you shall make poles of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried therewith. The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I shall give you. And you shall make a kaporet of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And you shall make two keruvim of gold, of beaten work shall you make them, at the two ends of the kaporet. And make one keruv on the one end, and the other keruv on the other end: of the kaporet shall you make the keruvim on the two ends of it. And the keruvim shall stretch out their wings on high, overspreading the kaporet with their wings, and their faces shall look one at another; toward the kaporet shall the faces of the keruvim be. And you shall put the kaporet above, upon the ark; and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I shall give you. (Shemot 25:10-21)

 

            When discussing the rest of the holy vessels, each vessel and each part of the structure has its own section, which is generally set apart both at the beginning and at the end by a parasha setuma or petucha. This is true about the table (Shemot 25:23-30), the candlestick (ibid. 25:31-40), the boards (ibid. 26:15-30), the burnt-offering altar (ibid. 27:1-8), the courtyard (ibid. 27:9-19), and the incense altar (ibid. 30:1-10). From this perspective – assuming that the parshiot petuchot and setumot express thematic division or subdivision – the ark, the kaporet, and the keruvim are discussed not in two separate sections, but rather in one section. This is true both about the command and about the execution (Shemot 37:1-9).

 

            In the section itself, however, there is a clear separation and a correspondence between its two parts (verses 10-16 as opposed to verses 18-22), as we demonstrated in the previous shiur. The distinction is especially clear in light of the fact that the verse regarding the fashioning of the ark is formulated: "And they shall make an ark of shittim wood," and the verse regarding the fashioning of the kaporet is formulated: "And you shall make a kaporet of pure gold." In the execution (Shemot 37:1, 6), the ark is fashioned by Betzalel: "And Betzalel made the ark of shittim wood," and regarding the fashioning of the kaporet, it says: "And he made the kaporet of pure gold."

 

            Therefore, even though we are dealing with one section that comprises a single entity, there is a clear distinction between its two parts: the ark, on the one hand, and the kaporet and the keruvim, on the other.

 

            2. When these vessels are next mentioned in connection with the fashioning of the parokhet, the Torah states:

 

And you shall hang up the parokhet under the clasps, that you may bring in there within the parokhet the ark of the Testimony. And the parokhet shall be for you as a division between the holy place and the most holy. And you shall put the kaporet upon the ark of the Testimony in the most holy place. (Shemot 26:33-34)

 

The Torah seems to be describing the order in which the vessels were to be brought into the Holy of Holies after the parokhet would be hung. First, the ark of the Testimony was to be brought within the parokhet, and afterwards the kaporet was to be put upon the ark of the Testimony.

 

            Perhaps, however, this was not the Torah’s point here. Regarding the execution of the command, there the Torah states:

 

And you shall put in it the ark of the Testimony, and hang the parokhet before the ark. (Shemot 40:3)

 

There, the Torah seems to be saying that first the ark was to be put in its place, without any mention being made of the kaporet, and afterwards note is taken of the parokhet that protects the ark.

 

            In an earlier shiur dealing with the location of the vessels, we discussed the relationship between the ark and the parokhet. In that context, we focused more on the relationship between the ark and the parokhet and less on the relationship between the ark and the kaporet, but conclusions may be drawn regarding the issue presently under discussion as well.

 

            There, we brought the viewpoints of the Ramban, the Or ha-Chayyim, and the Netziv on the matter at hand. Let us briefly review their positions and understand their significance for our issue.

 

            The Ramban (Shemot 26:33; 40:3) understands that this section does not deal with the order in which the vessels were to be brought into the Holy of Holies, but rather it teaches about the fashioning of the Mishkan itself. Accordingly, the fact that the kaporet is mentioned after the parokhet does not mean that this is the order in which they were brought in. The Ramban's view is supported by the fact that in the actual execution of the Mishkan's erection, it says:

 

And he took and put the Testimony into the ark, and set the poles on the ark, and put the kaporet above upon the ark. And he brought the ark into the Mishkan, and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the ark of the Testimony, as the Lord commanded Moshe. (Shemot 40:20-21)

 

In other words, first the Testimony was put into the ark, then the poles were set in the ark, then the kaporet was put upon the ark, then the ark was brought into the Mishkan, and finally the parokhet was set to screen the ark.

 

It is interesting that in God's command to Moshe regarding the setting up of the Mishkan, Scripture mentions the ark of the Testimony and the parokhet, but not the kaporet. The Ramban argues that it is for the sake of brevity that the kaporet is not mentioned.

 

            The Or ha-Chayyim explains (Shemot 26:33) that in Parashat Teruma, Scripture wishes to complete its description of the parokhet and the fact that it separates between the Holy and the Holy of Holies, and as a direct result of this it mentions the hanging of the parokhet before the bringing in of the ark. But in Parashat Pekudei, the Torah describes what happened in chronological order, and therefore the ark is mentioned before the parokhet.

 

            The Netziv relates to the Ramban's viewpoint and says:[1]

 

"And you shall put the kaporet upon the ark of the Testimony in the most holy place" (Shemot 26:34) – And in the execution it is written in reverse order, first: "And he put the kaporet above upon the ark" (ibid. 4:20), and afterwards it is written: "And he brought the ark into the Mishkan" (ibid. v. 21). The Ramban already noted this, but did not offer a correct explanation.

In truth, we must be very precise about the wording of the verse: "And you shall put the covering above upon the ark" (ibid. 25:21) – this "above" seems to be superfluous, for surely it cannot rest on the ark in any other way. And furthermore, why are there two verses regarding the placement of the kaporet? And furthermore, why does it say above "upon the ark" with no further specification, and here it says "upon the ark of the Testimony"? And a further difficulty, according to the plain sense of the verse that the kaporet is only placed [upon the ark] in the Holy of Holies, it should have said first that the kaporet was to be brought inside. It should have read: "And you shall bring the kaporet within the parokhet, and you shall put it upon the ark of the Testimony."

From all this, Moshe learned that when he would bring the ark inside, he should bring the kaporet with it. Not that it should be placed in precise manner so that it should be fit for testimony, but rather that the kaporet should be placed somehow upon the ark and the two should be brought in together. About this placement, it says earlier: "And you shall put the covering above upon the ark." It does not say "upon the ark of the Testimony," even though the Testimony was already placed inside, as I wrote above from the fact that it says: "And you shall put into the ark the Testimony [which I shall give you]." Nevertheless, it was not yet called "the ark of the Testimony," until it was placed in the Holy of Holies.

For this reason, it says: "upon the ark" – that he should not bring them in together with [the kaporet] tied on to the side.

"Above" – That he should not bring in the ark in such a way that its walls are at the top and the bottom, with the opening on the side, and the kaporet rests on the upper wall. For this reason, Scripture spells out "above" – that even with the first placement, it should be above over the opening the way it stands. This explains the earlier verse. And here it says a second time that he should place the kaporet upon "the ark of the Testimony" as is fitting in the Holy of Holies. And in Parashat Pekudei (Shemot 40:20) in the account of the execution, Scripture mentions only the first placement. And since it says there: "And he screened the ark of the Testimony," we know that he placed the kaporet in perfect manner to the point that it was called "the ark of the Testimony." It turns out that all the verses are in their proper order. He first hung the parokhet without spreading it out. He then arranged the poles of the ark that they should protrude toward the east. Afterwards, he placed the kaporet upon it without setting it in precise fashion, and he brought them in together. He then arranged the kaporet in precise fashion, and then he rolled down the parokhet. (Shemot 26:34)

 

            The Netziv raises several questions:

 

            1) What is added by the word "above" in the description of how the kaporet was to be placed upon the ark? How else can the kaporet be placed upon the ark?

 

            2) Why is the matter of the placement of the kaporet upon the ark repeated? In Shemot 25:21, it says: "And you shall put the kaporet above, upon the ark; and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I shall give you," and in Shemot 26:34, it says again: "And you shall put the kaporet upon the ark of the Testimony in the most holy place."

 

            3) It should have first stated that the kaporet was brought inside within the parokhet, and only afterwards that it was placed upon the ark.

 

            The Netziv answers that the Torah's wording taught Moshe that the kaporet should be brought into the Holy of Holies at the same time as the ark. But at that time the kaporet should not be placed upon the ark in a precise manner and in such a way that it would be fit for testimony. It is about this placement that the verse states (Shemot 25:21): "And you shall put the kaporet above upon the ark."

 

            The second placement (Shemot 26:34), "And you shall put the kaporet upon the ark of the Testimony in the most holy place," speaks of the precise placement of the kaporet on the ark in the Holy of Holies. For this reason, the ark is called here "the ark of the Testimony," in the wake of the placement of the kaporet as a fitting cover for the ark.

 

            In light of this, the Netziv summarizes the order of events as follows: Hanging the parokhet while it is rolled up at the top, placing the poles of the ark, putting the kaporet on the ark in imprecise manner and bringing the two together into the Holy of Holies, setting the kaporet upon the ark so that it should serve as a fitting cover for it, and rolling down the parokhet.

 

            The Netziv later explains that first they hung the parokhet in its place while it was rolled up to the top, then they brought in the ark and afterwards the kaporet, and finally they rolled down the parokhet so that it would separate between the Holy and the Holy of Holies.[2]

 

            Does this discussion regarding the ark and the kaporet teaches us anything about the relationship between the two of them.

 

            Perhaps it may be inferred from their separate presentation that we are dealing with two separate vessels. There is, however, also room to speak about two components of one vessel. This is especially true according to the Netziv's understanding that the ark is only called the ark of the Testimony when the kaporet is put in place above the ark.

 

            3. The third mention of the ark is in the context of the vessels that were anointed with the anointing oil, where no mention whatsoever is made of the kaporet:

 

And you shall anoint the Ohel Mo'ed with it, and the ark of the testimony. (Shemot 30:26)

 

It is reasonable to assume that the kaporet is not mentioned here for reason of brevity. When the Torah mentions the ark of the Testimony, it refers not only to the ark itself but to the kaporet as well. If this is reason, then these verses certainly imply that the kaporet is part of the ark and included in it, even if it has certain unique qualities of its own.

 

            The Netziv, faithful to his own understanding of the matter, accounts differently for the fact that no mention is made of anointing the kaporet. According to him, the ark was anointed after the tablets of the Testimony were placed therein and after the kaporet was put upon it in precise manner, for only at that point was it called "the ark of the Testimony." For this reason, the anointing of the ark was also effective for the kaporet.[3]

 

            Theoretically, it might be suggested that the kaporet is the vessel with the greatest sanctity and therefore it did not have to be anointed. According to this, it might be argued that the kaporet has independent status, apart from the ark.

 

            Thus the mention made of the ark without the kaporet can be interpreted in two opposite ways, either that the kaporet is included in the ark and is a part of it, or that the kaporet is an independent vessel that did not require anointing owing to its elevated status.

 

            4. The next time that the Torah relates to these vessels is after Betzalel is chosen to fashion the Mishkan and its various vessels:

 

The Ohel Mo'ed, and the ark of the Testimony, and the kaporet that is on it, and all the furniture of the tent. (Shemot 31:7)

 

The Ibn Ezra (ad loc.) explains that "all the furniture of the tent" includes the parokhet, the screen, the boards and the bars.

 

            The Netziv understands "the furniture of the tent" to mean its clasps, its boards, its bars, its pillars, its sockets, the parokhet, and the screen of the door. Here, mention is made of the ark of the Testimony and of the kaporet that is on it – the vessel and the vessel's cover.

 

            Since the kaporet and the keruvim are a single piece of hammered gold and they are made of a different material than that of the ark, the Torah relates to them as a unit that was added to the ark. This still does not prove that they are totally separate vessels, however, for regarding the kaporet it describes it as "the kaporet that is on it" - that is to say, on the ark. The fact that the cover has its name, "kaporet" (which includes also the keruvim) does not turn the kaporet into a totally separate vessel, but rather assigns it a place and a role in the vessel that is comprised of the ark and upon it the kaporet and the keruvim.

 

            5. These vessels are next mentioned in Moshe's command to the people of Israel regarding the building of the Mishkan:

 

The ark, and its poles,[4] with the kaporet, and the veil of the screen. (Shemot 35:12)

 

Similarly, when the vessels of the Mishkan are brought to Moshe it says:

 

The ark of the Testimony, and its poles, and the kaporet. (Shemot 39:35)

 

            The Netziv notes (in his commentary to Shemot 26:34) that the term, "the ark of the Testimony," refers to the ark after the kaporet has been properly placed upon it, and therefore it should have said here, "the ark," as we find in Shemot 35:12. The Netziv explains that the mention of "its poles" teaches that the Torah is always carried (even in galut), and therefore it says "the ark of the testimony."

 

            6. When God commands Moshe to set up the Mishkan, it says:

 

And you shall put in it the ark of the Testimony, and hang the parokhet before the ark. (Shemot 40:3)

 

Here, there is no mention of the kaporet. It is possible to argue, in the wake of the Ramban's explanation (ad loc.), that just as here the Torah was brief, saying "And you shall put in it the ark of the Testimony," and not saying, "And in the ark you shall place the Testimony," so too it was brief and did not mention the kaporet. If so, it can be said here as well that this brevity implies that the ark also includes the kaporet. This understanding certainly supports the position that we are dealing here with a single vessel.

 

            7. These vessels are mentioned for the last time in the book of Shemot, when Moshe actually sets up the Mishkan:

 

And he took and put the Testimony into the ark, and set the poles on the ark, and put the kaporet above upon the ark. And he brought the ark into the Mishkan, and set up the parokhet of the screen, and screened the ark of the Testimony; as the Lord commanded Moshe. (Shemot 40:20-21)

 

Verse 20 describes the completion of all the components connected to the ark - putting the Testimony into the ark, setting the poles on the ark, and putting the kaporet above upon the ark - whereas verse 21 describes how the ark was brought into the Mishkan and how the parokhet was set up to screen the ark of the Testimony.

 

            The fact that verse 21 describes the vessel with all its parts as the "ark" strengthens the conclusion that we are dealing here with a single vessel, and not two vessels.

 

            The Netziv explains here as well that before the ark was brought into the Holy of Holies, the kaporet was already placed upon the ark, the former's length along the latter's width. Only after the ark and the kaporet were brought into the Holy of Holies was the kaporet set upon the ark in precise manner so that it could serve as its covering in its permanent place.

 

            8. In the Torah's account of the coverings that were placed over the Mishkan's vessels before each journey in the wilderness, it says:

 

And when the camp sets forward, Aharon shall come, and his sons, and they shall take down the parokhet of the screen, and cover the ark of the Testimony with it; and they shall put on it the covering of tachash skins, and shall spread over it a cloth wholly of blue, and shall put in its poles. (Bamidbar 4:5-6)

 

Here, too, there is no separate mention of the kaporet. Apparently, "the ark of the Testimony" includes the kaporet and the keruvim.

 

SUMMARY

 

            From our analysis of the Torah's accounts regarding the commands to set up the Mishkan and the actual execution of those commands, and especially of the relationship between the ark, the kaporet, and the keruvim, we learn that in some cases the Torah spells out how the tablets of the Testimony were placed in the ark, how the poles were set on the ark, and how the kaporet was put upon the ark, whereas in other places, there is no mention of the kaporet, and presumably Scripture includes it together with the ark.

 

            The conclusion that we may draw from this is that even though the ark, the kaporet, and the keruvim are separate vessels, each of which has its own characteristics (with respect to materials, location, and function), they together constitute a single entity, and so the Torah can use the term "ark" to include also the kaporet.[5]

 

            Similarly, according to the understanding of the Netziv, the ark itself is only called the "ark of the Testimony" after the kaporet has been placed upon it. This idea strongly supports the understanding that we are dealing here with two components of a single vessel, and it is only when the two of them are found together that the ark is called "the ark of the Testimony."

 

            After having examined the verses that mention the ark and the kaporet, let us now try to answer the questions that we raised at the beginning of the previous shiur: Are we dealing here with one vessel or with two vessels?

 

THE ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF SEEING OF THE ARK AND THE KAPORET AS A SINGLE VESSEL

 

·           The two vessels appear in the same section. There is no parasha petucha or setuma separating between the two halves of the command.

 

·           In the concluding verses of the initial command (Shemot 25:21-22), the Torah treats the two vessels as a single entity, stating that God meets and speaks with Moshe "from above the kaporet, from between the two keruvim which are upon the ark of the Testimony."

 

·           According to the Netziv, the ark is only called the ark of the Testimony when the kaporet and the keruvim rest above it.

 

·           In various places, the Torah mentions only the ark, but the actual reference is also to the kaporet and the keruvim. The term "ark" is an inclusive term that relates to the ark, the kaporet, and the keruvim as a single entity.

 

·           Simple logic dictates that the ark should not be open and revealed, but rather covered. The kaporet has the precise measurements of the ark, and it constitutes a fitting cover for it.

 

·           Nowhere do we find that the kaporet has any independent use apart from the ark, and therefore the kaporet does not stand on its own.

 

·           It stands to reason that the place where God meets with Moshe from between the two keruvim should be directly above the tablets and the book of the Torah. The spiritual significance of this encounter is a coming together of the Oral Torah and commandments that were given to Moshe in an ongoing manner from above the kaporet, and the Written Torah that had been given from the outset in its complete form and now rests inside the ark.

 

·           It is of utmost importance to see a strong and inner connection between the Written Torah and the Oral Law.

 

M.D. Cassuto, in his commentary to the book of Shemot, relates to the relationship between the ark, the kaporet, and the keruvim. He understands that we are dealing with a single entity:

 

From all that was stated above, we clearly see how great was the significance attached to the kaporet, and why the "most holy place" was also called "the room of the kaporet" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 28:11).

Nevertheless, it is not to be assumed, as several exegetes have done, that the kaporet was considered an independent object, separate from the ark. There is a close connection between the ark and the kaporet; they are like two components of one thing, and cannot exist apart. Without the kaporet, the ark would remain open at the top, and the tables uncovered, unless we assume that the ark had another cover, something which is not stated in the text and seems unlikely; while without the ark the kaporet would lack a base, and the throne a footstool. Although each part has its own significance, yet they are jointly a single object. Understandably, therefore, the entire composite structure, the ark with the kaporet upon it, is called in many passages simply "ark". We can also comprehend why the same paragraph deals here with both parts, commencing with the ark, continuing with the kaporet and reverting to the ark at the end: And you shall put the kaporet on top of the ark – to rest thereon and to close it – and to the ark – inside it – you shall put, as stated in v. 16, the Testimony that I shall give you – a repetition intended to emphasize here the fact that the kaporet and the wings of the keruvim protect the tablets of the Testimony. We should also note the recurrence of the verb "natan" [“give”] signifying: I shall give you the Testimony, and you shall give [i.e. place] it inside the ark. (Shemot 25:22)

 

            Cassuto first relates to a very practical point: Without the kaporet that covers the ark, the ark would remain open and the tablets would be revealed, and this stands against reason; on the other hand, without the ark, the kaporet would have no base.

 

            This is not merely a technical point, but rather an essential point that expresses the fact that the two vessels are connected to one another and together constitute one combined unit. Each of the vessels has independent importance and standing, but nevertheless they are combined into a single entity.

 

            Cassuto notes the fact that in the initial command regarding the ark in Parashat Teruma, the Torah opens the section with the ark, continues with the kaporet, and then goes back in the end to the ark.

 

            The Torah's repetition of the fact that the kaporet was put above upon the ark, and then afterwards "and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I shall give you," comes to emphasize that the kaporet and the wings of the keruvim cover the tablets of the Testimony.

 

THE ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF SEEING THE ARK AND THE KAPORET AS TWO DIFFERENT VESSELS

 

·           The ark and kaporet were made from different materials. In God's initial command to build the ark, it says: "And they shall make an ark of shittim wood," and regarding the kaporet it says: "And you shall make a kaporet of pure gold," and so too regarding the keruvim.

 

·           Each vessel had a different function:

 

o   The ark was a box containing various objects.

o   The kaporet was a cover to the container, and above it were the two keruvim.

 

·           The ark was rectangular in shape, the kaporet, being a cover for the ark, was also a rectangle, and above it were the keruvim which were rounded and which faced each other toward the center.

 

·           In keeping with its shape, the primary function of the ark was to contain the tablets of the covenant. The function of the keruvim was that between them God would meet with Moshe. In addition, the expression, "God of the hosts that sits upon the keruvim," alludes to their role as God's throne of glory.

 

·           If the kaporet served merely as a cover for the ark, why does the Torah spell out its dimensions? Surely they were identical with those of the ark! The noting of the kaporet's dimensions and location – “above upon the ark” – emphasizes the fact that the kaporet was separate from the ark.

 

·           There is no term that denotes the ark and the kaporet as a single vessel.

 

·           In Divrei Ha-yamim (28:11) we find:

 

Then David gave to Shlomo his son the pattern of the porch [of the Temple], and of the houses thereof, and of the treasuries thereof, and of the upper rooms thereof, and of the inner chambers thereof, and of the place of the kaporet.

 

The Holy of Holies is called here "the place of the kaporet;" it leaves its mark on the entire chamber. It is interesting that in this context there is no mention of the ark.[6]

 

Menachem Horn attempts to prove that the ark and the keruvim are two separate vessels.[7] He begins by describing the essence of the ark as a container for the two tablets of the covenant, on the one hand, and the site of God's seat, a royal throne, on the other.[8] If the ark serves as a throne, why is it shaped like a box, and why is it called an ark, and not a throne?

 

In light of this question, he tries to draw a clear separation between the two vessels, each vessel having its own function: The ark is designed to contain the tablets, whereas the kaporet and the keruvim serve as God's royal throne.

 

Here are proofs for his assertion:

 

·           In Shlomo's Mikdash, these vessels stood apart - the keruvim he built, on the one hand, and the ark of the covenant that was brought into the Holy of Holies, on the other.

 

·           In the Torah's command in the book of Devarim (10:1 and on), mention is made of a wooden ark, without any gold, poles, rim, or keruvim.

 

·           The ark during the period of the prophets lacked a kaporet and keruvim.

 

·           The prophet Yechezkel received a vision of the chariot and the keruvim, but there is mention of the ark in his prophecy.

 

·           The passage in Parashat Teruma is comprised of two sections, even though they are not marked as such by the Mesora.

 

Let us briefly relate to Prof. Horn's arguments:

If indeed the ark's function is to contain the tablets, whereas the keruvim serve as the Shekhina's throne, does this difference in function dictate that they be seen as separate vessels?

 

On the face of it, the expression, "the ark of the Lord, God of the hosts, that sits upon the keruvim," supports the understanding that we are dealing with a single vessel, and that sitting upon the keruvim includes sitting upon the ark as a single entity.

 

In Shlomo's Mikdash, the keruvim added by Shelomo do indeed stand as a separate vessel, but when the ark is brought into the Holy of Holies, it is covered by the kaporet and the keruvim. This is what the Radak says in his commentary (ad loc.):

 

The keruvim that were fashioned by Betzalel stood at the two ends of the kaporet on the ark, and covered the ark as at first. But the wings of these keruvim were high above the ark, for the keruvim were five cubits high. (I Melakhim 8:6)

 

            It is hard to imagine that the ark that was brought into the Holy of Holies was brought in open without a kaporet and without keruvim.

 

            Shlomo's keruvim were indeed an integral part of the building itself, and therefore they are described in the book of Melakhim in a chapter that deals with the structure of the Temple. The very command teaches that there is such a thing as keruvim that stand independently. But it does not imply that there is a fundamental separation between the ark, on the one hand, and the kaporet and the keruvim, on the other.

 

            The argument that during the period of the prophets the ark was not covered by the kaporet and keruvim is an argument that requires proof. The fact that there is no mention of a kaporet or the keruvim in those cases where the ark is mentioned is not sufficient evidence, as it may be argued that here as well Scripture uses the term "ark" to refer to the entire complex of ark, kaporet, and keruvim.

 

            Why Yechezkel makes no mention of the ark is a separate question. It is possible to suggest an answer that is similar to what was said by the prophet Yirmiyahu:

 

And it shall come to pass when you multiply and increase in the land, in those days, says the Lord, they shall say no more, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord;” nor shall it come to mind; nor shall they remember it; nor shall they miss it; nor shall that be done any more. At that time, they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered to it, in the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem; nor shall they walk any more after the stubbornness of their evil heart. (Yirmiyahu 3:16-17)

 

            According to Yirmiyahu, all of Jerusalem will serve as God's throne, and this reality may very well serve as a substitute for the resting of the Shekhina in the Mishkan in the Holy of Holies.

 

            It is possible that also according to Yechezkel, with the great increase in the size of the Temple mount (five hundred reeds by five hundred reeds, that is to say 3000 cubits by 3000 cubits, or a kilometer and a half by a kilometer and a calf), all of Jerusalem will turn into God's throne, as in the words of Yirmiyahu, and at that time the ark of God will no longer have special significance.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 



[1] We have brought this section of the Netziv's commentary which was not cited in our shiur on the location of the vessels and which deals directly with the relationship between the ark and the kaporet.

[2] At this stage we shall not relate to the poles.

[3]  As we have learned in tractate Para (12:10): "If the kettle was sprinkled upon, it is the same as if the lid also was sprinkled upon" – that is to say, when a kettle is sprinkled upon, the kettle's lid also becomes purified with that sprinkling.

[4] There is room to examine when the Torah mentions the poles of the ark and when it does not. Clearly, when the Torah describes the vessels in brief manner, it does not mention the poles. Generally, it mentions the poles together with the ark and before the kaporet. This order is understandable when we consider the fact that the poles are the poles of the ark with which it and the kaporet above it are carried. For this reason, the poles are usually mentioned immediately after the ark, and then the kaporet that is upon the ark is mentioned after them.

[5] Nothing similar is found with respect to the rest of the vessels of the Mishkan, but only in connection with the kaporet and the keruvim.

[6] After we define each of these vessels – the ark and the kaporet – another question arises: What is the relationship between them? Is one vessel more important than the other? We shall address this issue in a later shiur.

[7] Menachem Horn, "Ha-Aron ve-ha-Keruvim," Eretz Yisrael 5, pp. 83-89.

[8] The expression "Who sits upon the keruvim," which is found in several places in the words of the prophets (I Shemuel 4:4; II Shemuel 6:2; II Melakhim 19:15; Tehilim 80:2, 99:1), supports this understanding of the role of the ark as a royal throne.