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Can you give me some basic info about the Ark which contained the Tablets?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


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


– The ark was actually comprised of three open-topped boxes, two made of gold and one made of acacia wood. The wooden box was placed within the larger gold one, and the smaller gold box was placed within the wooden one. Thus, the wooden box was completely plated with gold. The Ark was two and a half cubits (approx. 47 inches) long, a cubit and a half (28 inches) wide, and a cubit and a half high*. Attached to the Ark were four (according to others, eight) golden rings, which held the staves which were used to carry the Ark.

– Covering the Ark was the kaporet, a three-inch thick board made of pure gold.  The kaporet was made of a large piece of gold which was hammered in its centered until its two ends protruded upwards. These two ends were then fashioned into the keruvim (Cherubs), the winged images of a young boy and girl.

– The Ark contained the second tablets, as well as the fragments of the shattered first tablets.** One of the Torah scrolls which was written by Moses was also placed in the Ark (or according to some, it was placed on a plank which was attached to the Ark).

– The Ark was always carried by shoulder. Whenever the Jews would wage battle against their enemies, the Ark would accompany them to the battlefield, ensuring their victory.

– When the Ark was placed in the Holy of Holies, an incredible miracle occurred. Although the Ark had precise measurements, it took up no space. The Holy of Holies was twenty cubits by twenty cubits and the Ark laid in the center of the room. However, the distance from each end of the Ark to the wall of the room measured exactly ten cubits!1 ***

– When King Solomon built the Holy Temple, he prophetically envisioned its eventual destruction. He therefore constructed concealed passageways beneath the Temple Mount, which would serve as a hiding place for the Ark. Several decades before the destruction of the First Temple, King Josiah commanded that the Ark be hidden in these tunnels, and there it remains until it will resurface in the time of the Third Temple which will soon be constructed by Moshiach.

*It has been suggested that the reason why all the Ark’s measurements were in half numbers – unlike all the other Tabernacle utensils, which were all crafted using complete numbers – is to teach a valuable lesson to those who are the personification of the Ark; those who encompass within their mind the holy words of the Torah, the scholars.
The scholar must always recognize that though he may be very knowledgeable, he isn’t complete. Torah, the wisdom of the infinite G-d, is infinite. Even the greatest scholar has merely dabbled in its endless wisdom.

**Once again this is a message for the Torah scholar. He may have a golden exterior, but inside must dwell a broken heart; a heart which isn’t proud of his accomplishments for it understands that all his skills are a gift from Above.

***This mind-blowing miracle is indicative of the nature of the Holy Temple. The Ark was a physical object which took up space; however, because it was totally one with the Divine Infinity, it rose above its own physical limitations. We are charged with task of making a “Temple” of ourselves and the entire world. We have the ability to connect with G-d and thus transcend our inherent limitations


  • 1. Talmud Tractate Megilah 10b: We have a tradition from our ancestors that the Ark took up no room. It has been taught to the same effect: 'The Ark which Moses made had an [empty] space of ten cubits on every side'. Now it is written, 'And in front of the Sanctuary was twenty cubits in length [and twenty cubits in breadth]'; and it is also written, 'And the wing of the one cherub was ten cubits and the wing of the other cherub was ten cubits'. Where then was the Ark itself? We must therefore conclude that it stood by a miracle [without occupying any room].


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Concerning the Tablets of the Law in the Ark of the Covenant....

Posted by: Judy Lyles, Danville, Va. on Nov 16, 2006

In reading Torah portions concerning the Holy Ark,

It is said to have had a pot of manna inside it,

the rod of Aaron that budded,golden ephods[added at a time when it was stolen by the Philistines],

a copy of the book of the law in a pocket on the side;and two sets of the tablets the broken set and the second set.....Am I correct in these contents and if the Ark is recovered,would these

still be found there?

Editor's Comment



Mitzvot » Holy Temple Mitzvot
History » The Holy Temples » Holy Temple Mitzvot

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.
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
[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.
Son of King David, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel in the year 836 BCE. he was the wisest man to ever live. He built the first Holy Temple and authored several books of the Bible.
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.