The construction and worship of the Golden Calf by the Jewish people almost brought about their destruction, which was averted only by Moshe Rabbeinu’s strenuous intervention. Their violating the prohibition against idolatry, the second of the Ten Commandments, clearly deserved a capital response from G-d. In light of the severity of this prohibition, it seems odd that, in Parshas Terumah, G-d orders that two golden cherubim be set atop the Holy Ark, for, after the sin, why would G-d want a graven image, made from the same material as the calf was, to be prominently fixed upon the holiest object in the Tabernacle?
From this ironic twist one gains a vital insight: It is necessary at all times to distinguish between things that seem alike on the surface for in reality they are often antitheses. Opportunities in life that seem golden will sometimes be as beneficial as the cherubim and at other times be as destructive as the Golden Calf. But how is one to know the difference?
The only way to know is to follow the word of G-d. Did G-d command the construction of the Golden Calf? No. Therefore its construction doomed the Jewish people. Did G-d command the fashioning of the cherubim? Yes. Therefore their manufacture was productive.
The need to choose carefully and correctly is especially important for a newlywed couple as they stand on the threshold of fashioning their own sanctuary, their home. A chassan and kallah must use discretion in determining which features of the society around them will be allowed to enter the sanctuary that is their home, and which elements will have to be kept out and extruded should they penetrate the walls of that sanctuary. To make these distinctions they must be sensitive to the word of G-d and this is where their Torah educations will serve them well.
These decisions become more critical when children are born to the family. The cherubim, say our Sages, had the faces of children. Nurturing the sensitive neshamah of a child requires the utmost prudence, and the mother and father must be prepared with a system for making a wide range of
Immediately after describing the cherubim, G-d gives Moshe the measurements for the Shulchan, the special table that continually displayed twelve loaves of bread, which represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Every Shabbos, fresh loaves were baked to replace the old ones, which were then distributed to the kohanim — six to the shift that had served that week and six to the shift that was coming in. With only six loaves per shift to go around, the kohanim had to jockey for a bite of the bread. To a society where day-old bread is sold at half price and two-day-old bread not at all, this allowance of week-old bread does not seem like much of a delicacy. But this was no ordinary bread.
The Gemara asserts that “its removal was identical to its placement” (Menachos 29b). In other words, one week later the bread was as fresh as it had been the day it was baked. Through Divine intervention the bread retained its freshness. Herein lies another lesson offered by the parshah to a chassan and kallah. At their wedding, a couple is deeply in love with each other, passionately committed to each other. But over time, human nature is such that emotions, like bread, cool down and eventually become stale. This is the threat to every marriage — and the challenge.
Keeping a marriage fresh is only possible if the relationship contains Divine ingredients. Subjected to all sorts of influences — where they work and study, the people with whom they interact — the chassan and kallah are unlikely to remain the same people they were on the day of their wedding. Subsequently, these changes, however slight, impact upon their commitments. They therefore need to work on their relationship by learning together, experiencing together, sharing together. Even so, there are no guarantees of success. Even so, G-d’s help is required. Only Jewish law and Jewish values, which have escorted the couple to the chuppah, can provide the guidelines, insights and means to renewing and replenishing their marriage.