This week’s parsha tells of the furnishings of the Mishkan, the first being the Aron (ark), which the Torah says is plated with gold inside and out. The Gemara in Yoma 72b compares the Aron to a Torah scholar, stating: “Any Torah scholar whose interior does not correspond to his exterior is not a Torah scholar.”
Like the Aron, a Torah personality must be ‘gold-plated’ inside and out. His outward appearance of piety and scholarship must reflect accurately his internal devotion to Hashem. The Beis Halevi extended this analogy, suggesting the gold plating also symbolises people’s attitude towards the scholar.
Just as the Bnei Yisrael were to plate the Aron inside and out, similarly the nation is to support the Torah scholar on two levels: privately and publicly. The internal plating of the Aron symbolises the obligation to support scholars and their families, to ensure their private lives are stable and secure. But in addition, the people are to provide the scholars with an outer ‘gold coating’, with a becoming and respectable appearance by ensuring they can purchase proper attire and the like.
We can also apply the Beis Halevi’s analogy to the Torah itself. The mitzva to plate the Aron on both sides alludes to our obligation to fortify the Torah internally and externally. The interior gold coating symbolises the need to strengthen our commitment to our Torah and its teachings. But we also bear the obligation of coating the Torah’s exterior – doing what we can to make it seem ‘golden’ and attractive even to outsiders.