The Torah (in Parashat Teruma, 25:20, and in Parashat Vayakhel, 37:9) describes the keruvim (cherubs) on the covering of the ark as having wings which spread upwards, over the ark, and as facing one another.

Rav Yisroel Dovid Harfenes, in his Duda’ei Yisrael (Parashat Teruma), suggests that the image of the keruvim symbolizes the kindness and concern that we must all show towards our fellow Jews.  The wings hovering over the ark as a protective covering represent the responsibility we must all feel for each other’s protection and well-being.  Just as the cherubs symbolically protected the ark below, we must all see ourselves as responsible for the welfare of our fellow Jews.

However, this is not enough.  The keruvim hovered over the ark, but also faced one another.  Rav Harfenes suggests that this symbolizes the personal warmth and sensitivity that must accompany our charitable endeavors and acts of kindness.  Beyond lending one another practical assistance, we must look at one another in the face, showing genuine friendship, concern and attentiveness.  Rav Harfenes draws our attention to Chazal’s comment in Masekhet Bava Batra (9b), “Whoever gives a coin to a poor person is blessed with six blessings, and one who soothes him with words is blessed with eleven blessings.”  So often, giving people our time, a warm smile, and companionship provides them with far greater assistance than a charitable donation or practical help.  As we work to spread our “wings” over one another, caring for each other and coming to each other’s side during times of need, we must also remember to turn our faces towards one another, to extend warmth and friendship and show genuine concern.

Originally posted on VBM

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