Cherubs with the faces of infants

Weekly parasha lesson sent out to the Religious Zionist Raanana community. What does the choice of infants as cherubs have to do with calling scholars talmidei chachamim?

Danny Ginsbourg

Judaism Model of Ark of the Covenanant
Model of Ark of the Covenanant

We read in our parsha (25:18-22) of the two כרובים:Cherubim, which were on the Cover of the Arc of the Torah, whose faces were ‘toward one another’; and that Hashem would speak to Moshe Rabenu ‘from between the two Cherubim’.

Our sages teach that the Cherubs had the face of infants, the word ׳כרוב׳ being derived from the Aramaic word for infant: רוביא, so that כרוב literally translates as כ:like, an infant.

Rav Meir Robman asks:’Why did Hashem choose the likeness of young children, for the Cherubim, and not the face of one of His holy host of ‘Seraphim, Ophanim and Chayot Hakodesh’?’

He answers:’To teach us how beloved in Hashem’s eyes are those who always regards themselves in their Torah studies as ‘infants’-as מתלמדים:’students’, who know ‘how much they don’t know’, and who constantly strive to learn more’.

‘This is why, in the Gemara, our sages are referred to as תלמידי חכמים: wise ‘students’, and not as חכמים ( except when they are cited, to guide us).

Their greatness is that they always regard themselves as תלמידים: students, living the injunction of Pirkei Avot:(4:1)’Who is חכם: wise? He who learns from every person’’.

Expounds the Kli Yakar: the ‘wise’ man is he ‘who חושב:thinks that he lacks knowledge, and needs to learn more’.

The 13th century sage, Rav Yediaih Bedersi says:’The תכלית: objective of knowledge- is knowing that you don’t know’!

This, adds the Kli Yakar, is why all the measurements of the Ark of the Torah in the Mishkan, are ‘broken’, to teach that, in our Torah learning, we are always ‘incomplete’, and must keep learning.

The Vilna Gaon says:’Man is called הולך:walking, because if he does not ascend, he will descend’, and this is especially true in learning Torah.

Rav Pinchas Friedman offers a more literal interpretation:’Hashem chose to speak from between the two infant-faced Cherunim, to teach us that Hashem’s Shechina resides in our midst only in the merit of our infants learning Torah’’.

The Mishne Le’Melech adds:’This is the message of the midrash on the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash:’Come see how precious are the infants learning Torah in the eyes of Hashem! The Sanhedrin went into exile, but the Shechina did not go into גלות with them..yet when the infants learning Torah went into exile, the Shechina went into גלות with them’.

And,says the Gemara(Shabbat 119:):’Jerusalem was only destroyed because the infants ceased learning Torah’, and this led to the departure of the Shechina, permitting our enemies to destroy it’.

The Sefer Chasidim draws another lesson from Hashem speaking from between the two Cherubim: ‘When two men learn Torah together, they are promised that Hashem will ‘speak’, being ‘between them’, כביכול, and will assist them in their learning.

‘True, one might be able to learn ‘better’, if he does so by himself, but, this is not Hashem’s Wish.
‘The two Cherubim ‘facing one another’, allude to the obligation of each Jew to assist others to learn Torah, and not ‘keep’ the priceless Torah ‘to himself’!

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה, ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.