Dvar Torah: Parshat Terumah
In this week's parsha, the Torah describes the process of building the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary of Hashem that traveled with the Jews along their journey in the desert. One of the most important utensils described is the Aron, or ark, which housed the holy tablets. The Torah goes on to explain that the Aron should be composed of three layers, one inside the other. While the inner and outer layers were to be made of gold, the middle layer was to be made of wood. As the passuk tells us, "They shall make an ark of acacia wood... overlay it with pure gold inside and out."
The Talmud, in Masechet Yoma, explains that the Aron represents the ideal that a Jew should strive for, which is to be golden on both the inside and the outside. To not only perfect our treatment of others, but even the way we feel about them internally. However, the following question begs to be asked: If we have layers of gold on both the inside and outside of the Aron, then what's the purpose of the wood in the middle?
Rabbi Avi Weisenfeld explains that wood is unique in that it can go "both ways." On the one hand, it can grow into a magnificent tree, but on the flip side, it can also grow moldy and disgusting. In other words, there's a certain sense of uncertainty attached to wood, and a similar idea can be applied to human beings. Of course, it's crucial that we strive for greatness, to be golden inside and out, but we must also realize that we have flaws. And, not only do we lack perfection, but perfection isn't even expected of us! The idea behind the wood is that in each and every person lies the potential to "go both ways," to act in accordance with Hashem's will or against it.
While we may strive for perfection in this world, we must never forget that at the end of the day, we are human beings, and we're bound to make mistakes along the way. There's nothing wrong with being imperfect.