By: William Jackson
The building of the ark of the covenant is covered in Exodus 25:11 and 37:2. Interestingly, when HaShem says to build it, He states to lay it with gold starting from the inside, and then do the outside. Usually, when we are told to design or build something, like a box, we start on the exterior and leave the inside, or “finishing work”, for the end. Maybe scripture has it backwards? No, nothing in Torah was a mistake, everything means something, and the order things are addressed is part of the message.
If we look at the ark of the covenant, as a metaphor for ourselves, we might be able to have a better understanding. Maybe, it’s talking about working first on our inner self. This appears to be a message consistent within Tanakh. We certainly wouldn’t have to look all that far from the beginning of the Patriarchs to see this reoccurring blueprint.
In the beginning, Jacob was very focused on the external, to a fault. His interpretation of success was having the “birth right”, by hook or by crook. So, even though he secured it (twice Genesis 25:33, 27:35), it gave him grief. Jacob would, however, have the right relationship with HaShem in the end. There were, however, two things that allowed Jacob to work on the inside. Firstly, it was a relationship with YHVH Genesis 28:13-15, 31:3, 32:25-29 . Secondly, it was his 20 years journey of humility and growth ( Genesis 29:15 – 31:38). Even though Jacob relapsed ( Genesis 35:1-4), after repenting, HaShem continued to guide him.
Conversely, somebody like King Saul would be one who focused on the external and avoided giving his true heart to HaShem. In 1 Samuel 15 Saul rejects YHVH’s word because of public pressure. Although he apologized to YHVH, he did not truly repent. It cost him his kingdom. Also, “Saul died because of the treachery that he had committed against the Lord…” ( 1 Chronicles 10:13).
Instead of putting our efforts into gratifying our exterior, our energy is best kindled by focusing on our inner self. In Hebrew it’s called “leb” (labe) which is the inner man, mind, will or heart (1). This is the seat of the emotional and intellectual life (2). Returning to the example of the ark, let’s remember what’s in it’s center, the commandments, YHVH‘s laws ( Exodus 25:16,Exodus 25:21,Exodus 40:20,Deuteronomy 10:5,Deuteronomy 31:26,1 Kings 8:9 ). Just remember that it was Bezalel who built the ark of the covenant ( Exodus 37:1 ), but he did it through the guidance of HaShem ( Exodus 36:1). In other words we need to get on board with HaShem, in working on our own inner self. “Torah is not education, it’s transformation” (3).