This week’s Parsha is Parshas Terumah. The Parsha contains the instructions that the Jewish people were given for building the Tabernacle. The first thing that they were told to build is the ark, in which the tablets and the Torah were placed. When they actually built the Tabernacle, they first built the actual building structure, and only afterwards did they build the ark. Why then is the instruction for the making the ark given even before the instruction for the building of the actual Tabernacle? Nachmanidies (Exodus 25:1) teaches us that the main desire of G-d in having the Tabernacle built was to have a place for the Divine presence to rest. The place of the Divine presence was in the ark. Therefore, it was the first item that the Jewish people were instructed about, even if it wasn’t the first one that was built.
When the Torah gives the dimensions for the ark, they are very unique in number. The measurements are two and a half cubits long, by one and a half cubits wide, by one and a half cubits high. The ark is the only utensil that had all three dimensions of its measurements end in a half. Why was this so? The Kli Yakar explains that the Torah is teaching us that the only way we can acquire Torah is if we realize and feel that we don’t know everything. The minute that a person feels that he or she already knows everything, they are no longer open to receiving the Torah. When it came to the Table, the utensil in the Tabernacle that represented physical wealth, the Kli Yakar,/i> adds, it was two cubits long, one cubit wide, and one and a half cubits high. This mix of having some dimensions with a half and some whole, is to teach a person two lessons in their attitude to earthly possessions. On the one hand the whole measurements teach that we should feel as if we have everything that we need, and be happy with it. The dimension that is a half, on the other hand, teaches us that a person should not indulge in physical pleasure to its fullest, but should control their desires, taking less than a full measure.
This idea of Torah being given only to one who realizes that they need to know more, explains why a Torah scholar is called a Talmid Chacham, (lit. a wise student) instead of just being called a Chacham, a wise man. This shows that the only way to get Torah knowledge is to realize that one has to learn more and more.