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Why weren’t the poles removed when the Ark wasn’t traveling?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » History » The Holy Temples » Its Vessels | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Moses was commanded to attach rings to the corners of the Ark. Then G-d directed him: “And you shall make poles of acacia wood and you shall overlay them with gold. You shall bring the poles into the rings on the sides of the Ark, to carry the Ark with them. The poles of the Ark shall be in the rings; they shall not be removed” (Exodus 25:13-15). Even when the Jews were camped for a lengthy stay, and even when the ark reached its final destination in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, the poles were to remain lodged within these rings which were affixed to the Ark. 

Why weren’t the poles removed when the Ark wasn’t traveling? What are we to learn from the fact that the holiest artifact in the world was always ready to travel at a moment’s notice? 

To understand this, we must first understand the uniqueness of the Tabernacle and the special function which it served. Unlike the Temples, which were stationary in Jerusalem, the Tabernacle was mobile and was carried around throughout the desert—“that great and awesome desert, [in which were] snakes, vipers and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water” (Deut. 8:15). On the spiritual plane, the desert represents a total wasteland, a place where Torah – which is compared to life-sustaining waters – isn’t found, and therefore the natural habitat for all sorts of spiritually dangerous influences and diseases. 

Often, the person who, G-d forbid, finds himself in a spiritual desert is oblivious to the toxicity of his environment, and is unaware of the existence of healthy lands which are blessed with streams of the purest water. It is the obligation of the Kohanim, G-d’s servants, to pick themselves up, take the Ark and the Divine Presence, trek through the desert and bring the quenching waters of the Torah to the doorstep of the lost Jew. And once the person has tasted the sweet waters, there’s no turning back to the desert routine...

The Kohen would certainly rather spend his time swimming in the refreshing waters of the Torah, but it is his duty to approach his fellow Jew, no matter where he may be, and revive his soul.

This is why the rings were never removed from the Ark. The Torah must always be ready to be rushed to the assistance of a thirsty Jew. The scholar should never consider himself above running into the desert to save the Jew who is dying from spiritual thirst.


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Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Plural form of Kohain. Priests of G-d. This title belongs to the male descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses. The primary function of the Kohain was to serve in the Holy Temple. Today the Kohain is still revered and it is his function to recite the Priestly Blessings on certain occasions.
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
Mobile sanctuary which traveled with the Jews in the desert, containing the Ark with the Tablets, and the sacrificial altars. When the Jews entered Israel, it was erected in the city of Shiloh where it remained for more than 300 years. It was buried when the permanent Holy Temple was erected in Jerusalem.
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.