Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Adar 5762 - February 13, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Train the Child

by L. Jungerman

"`And you shall make two cherubs of gold' -- the keruvim had the face of a baby" (Rashi).

The keruvim bore the likeness of the face of a baby. We can also say that babies have the face of keruvim. Therefore, if we wish to envision how a baby should look and what are the characteristics it must have, all we need do is look at the keruvim and see their holiness.

The Torah states three characteristics of these holy figures: 1) "And the keruvim spread their wings heavenward," 2) "They spread their wings protectively over the poroches," and 3) "They faced one another."

The same marks identify the face of an innocent infant who has never sinned: wings spread upward, standing firmly with wings outstretched protectively over the Oron Hakodesh, and a face turned towards its fellow.

The keruvim were permanently attached above the Oron. They were made of one integral piece, wings uplifted towards Heaven, spread protectively over the kapores of the Oron, above the Tablets of the Torah and the Commandments, like an eagle hovering over its nest, protecting its fledglings with wings outstretched.

Babies have wings. A baby is full of vitality, bursting with aspirations that soar heavenward. But if we wish to know in which direction the wings of his aspirations are facing, the answer is: "Their wings are spread upward." They are always pointed upward, to what is above them. They seek to rise upward, always just a bit higher.

In his great wisdom, King Shlomo said: "Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upwards and the spirit of the beast goes downwards to the earth?" (Koheles 3:21). A spiritual force always aspires upwards. It feels constricted and confined between physical walls. It seeks to sever itself from its fetters and rise up, as opposed to the animal spirit which feels at home and more at ease the closer it is to earth.

"R' Chiya bar Abba from Yaffo said: the soul in man is constantly rising and falling. It seeks to exit from him" (Yalkut Tehillim 150). The Alshich HaKodosh explains: "For the soul which was hewn from under the heavenly Throne and basked in the bliss of the palaces of the King of the world, is bound inside the contaminating confines of turbid matter and yearns day and night to return to Hashem, the source of her joy." Therefore, the infant whose soul is still pure and uncontaminated, spreads its wings, so to speak, upwards, towards its spiritual source.

This mighty spiritual aspiration must not come at the expense of one's obligations "between man and man." Indeed, where are the faces of the keruvim pointed? Towards one another. The Chofetz Chaim, our latter day Kohen Godol, so to speak, a man elevated from his brethren, stressed that whenever the Torah presents an obligation to move spiritually forward, to ascend in levels of love for Hashem, fear of Hashem and adherence to Him, it prefaces that demand with a requirement of refining and improving one's traits to one's fellow man.

"Just as He is merciful, so must you be merciful. Just as He is compassionate, so must you be compassionate." For spiritual aspirations will never be realized if `the way to them is paved with stumbling blocks in the path of others.' This was one of the vital cornerstones of the mussar teachings of R' Yisroel Salanter zy'o,

Therefore, the keruvim, bearing the shape and visage of a baby, spread their wings upward, stood and canopied the aron bris -- yet faced one another.

(According to Meichal Mayim Chaim)

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