Sometimes, accessories ARE included!

Since the Mishkan and its vessels were to be carried through the desert, several items, including the Shulchan and golden Mizbei’ach, had badim, staves, which would be inserted at times of transport. The Aron Kodesh had these “travel handles,” as well, but strangely, its poles remained in place continuously – even while the Ark was parked in the Mishkan. In fact, one of the formal 613 mitzvos is a prohibition against removing the rods from the Aron at any time (Sh’mos 25:15; Sefer HaChinuch, mitzvah 96). One who would dare to separate the badim from the Ark would be in violation of an egregious crime deserving of 39 lashes (Yoma 72a, Makos 22a) – no less than the punishment for eating pork! Why did the Aron Kodesh need to be fully accessorized with its “travel pack” at all times – even when it stood still in the Mishkan?

Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l explained that the Aron Kodesh was perpetually in its travel formation to teach us a valuable lesson about the mobility of the Torah housed within it. Hashem’s laws and lessons were never intended to be limited to one particular place or time. The Torah is always prepared to be “on the go,” ready to accompany the Jewish people to any location on the globe, and to remain relevant in every generation. The Aron’s ever-present badim symbolized that even while the Torah rested in the Holy of Holies, its significance would continue to travel all over the world, permeating the lives of all present and future people.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt”l invoked a similar idea to explain why the Torah was given in the desert, rather than in Eretz Yisrael. Unlike every other civilization that first settled its land before developing a system of laws, Hashem gave B’nei Yisrael the Torah decades before they entered the Land of Israel. This stark contrast demonstrated that mitzvos are not simply “the law of the land.” They preceded the land! The Torah was given in the desert – in the middle of nowhere – to show the versatility of Hashem’s guidance. It applies in all places and situations; it goes wherever we go.

Life today is vastly different from the days of Moshe Rabbeinu; and yet, the Torah continues to travel with us and remain as binding and instructive as ever.

Rabbi Yaakov Abramovitz is Assistant to the Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, presiding over its Young Marrieds Minyan, while also pursuing a PsyD in School and Clinical Child Psychology at the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..