Terumah by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Terumah: Enthroned Upon the Cherubim

by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

“[In the building of the Holy Ark of the Covenant,] you shall fashion two cherubim of beaten gold, and mount them at either end of the golden lid of the Ark. Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other. Use the same gold for the cherubim as you do for the lid; fasten the cherubim to the lid, so that they all become one piece. The cherubim shall have their wings spread out… their faces shall look down at the lid. …There will I, your LORD GOD, meet with [the Israelites]…and command you concerning My Torah.”

                                                                      –Exodus 25: 18-22 (adaptation mine)

I was floating in an immense sea of light: praising, praising, ever praising the Lord God, Hallelujah! Blessed be His Name…. My wings beat softly, my hands were palms-out-and-up, ready to give (we angels—we cherubim—give all we can to the Almighty). My heart—do I have a heart?—was beating so hard for my love of God, that it felt as though it would spring out of my chest. I was at peace, utter and ultimate peace, Shalom. I—

“Psst!”

I was jarred out of my reverie by that odd noise—no one had ever “psst” at me, before. I opened my eyes, shook my head free from the Vision in which I had been immersed. I opened my eyes, looked up, and saw—Myself. My twin. He was grinning at me: what sort of cherub grins? Cherubim are supposed to be praising, praising, ever praising the Lord. We….

“My name is Ketaniel, the ‘Child of God,’” said the twin. “Lonely here, isn’t it?”

I decided to put this upstart in his place, forthwith.

“We can’t be lonely,” I answered, “We are angels. Angels have no emotions; that would make us human, which we most decidedly are not.I would rather be celestial than mortal. Our job is—”

“I know all that,” said my simulacrum-twin, “for I was only recently born of heavenly aether, and Raphael, the Archangel-on-Duty that cosmic day, instructed me in what I can do, and not do. Still, I thought—”

“Angels do not think, hold opinions, or question,” I said.

“Yes, yes,” said Ketaniel, “I know all of that, too. Still, I had been hoping to be part of a larger flock of us—”

“Coming,” I corrected him, “The word for a group of us is ‘A Coming of Angels.’ And what’s so bad about there being just the two of us? We can certainly get along. And then, there’s the Maximum Honor—”

“—Of being God’s footstool,” responded the Other. “Yes, I know. Raphael told me. Still, that does seem a stodgy sort of duty, isn’t it?”

I was amazed at this one’s chutzpah.

“How about just doing as you are told?” I asked, not unkindly, “We angels do not question. That is for the Humans to do—not that it ever does them any good. Well, perhaps a little. But mostly not.”

“What’s wrong with questioning?” the Other questioned, “After all, I might have protested being part of a piece of furniture—this Ark of the Covenant, in particular—had I not been starstruck at my audience with Raphael. His voice is gentle, and he is so kind! All I did, therefore, was nod when he told me, ‘And you, Ketaniel, shall be part of God’s holiest object, and Israel’s proudest possession! You and another angel—”

“That would be me,” I said, beginning to soften to this upstart cherub, “And you are, indeed, correct, to a certain extent. The job we cherubim hold is to carry the prayers of Humanity to God Himself—we carry them on our backs.”

“Though we can hardly do that, anchored as we are to this Golden Box,” said Ketaniel, mournfully. “If I could only fly—”

“If you had the wings of an angel, you mean,” I grinned. After all, I thought, we will be linked together for Eternity, and so might as well get along.

“…So we must find something to do,” said Ketaniel, “just to occupy both the time and our minds—what minds we angels have, that is.”

“Should we not be reciting all of God’s ninety-nine Names?” I suggested.

He shrugged. “Might as well,” he said, “I’ll start: Elohim.”

“That is God’s attribute of Justice,” I said. “That one is easy. Here’s one for you: Adonoi.”

“God’s Mercy,” he smiled. “And now, you: ReBeSheh.”

“That is the acronym for ‘God, the Sovereign of the Universe,’” I said….

And so have the days, months, aeons passed, with the two of us exchanging Godly Names, asking one another questions of Torah, and bearing up a bit when we feel God’s Presence hovering over us. Ketaniel is a bit callow and can be obnoxious; that is the way of the world, and the World of Angels. But I am a match for him.

Which is all to the Good.

After all, we will be together, under God’s Grace, forever. We help to protect Humanity. 

Amen and Amen!


Rabbi David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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