In this week’s haftorah, the Ark of the Covenant, which had been stored at the house of Avinadar since the destruction of the tabernacle in Shiloh, is transported to Jerusalem at the behest of King David, amidst a convoy of dancing and singing. Uzzah is struck dead when he touches the Ark; his fatal mistake was to reach out and steady the Ark as the oxen carrying it mistepped.
If you’re like me, you’re picturing the scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Nazis are all vapourized by the power of the Ark of the Covenant. “Nazis… I hate those guys.”
But Uzza isn’t a Nazi, and his transgression—steadying a holy object to prevent it from unceremoniously tumbling to the ground—doesn’t seem worthy of being vapourized.
A footnote to the haftorah, suggests that the “deisrespect” of touching the Ark came from a mere mortal intrinically feeling that the Ark required his assistance. Previously, the Torah describes the Ark as “carrying its carriers.”
Yet it begs the question, how did the people pack it up on the oxen in the first place without touching it? Other stories surround the Ark, which is wrought with all kinds of interesting folklore, suggests that although it had been used as a weapon to blast enemies, often the Israelites were accidentally vanquished by its powers.
So what else are we told about the Ark? It was said to be made of gilt acacia wood, adorned with two cherubim standing with wings covering an area atop the Ark known as the “Mercy Seat.” Of interest, cherubim in Hebrew usages tends to refer to winged lions (think, for example, the current Israeli heraldage), and then at some point during Christian accounts, they switch the imagry to winged human-like angels.
The Ark was built to house three sacred artifacts—the two stone tablets upon which Moses inscribed the Ten Commandemnts, the rod of Aaron, and a golden pot of manna, which sustained the Israelites during their decades of desert wandering.
According to the book of Samuel, Philistines captured the Ark and paraded it around, which struck town after town with plague until a soothsayer reccommended it be sent back to Cannan. The Ark appers to disappear from the Temple sometime around the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem in 586 BCE.
Casey (Kefira) McCarty is a published author living in Ohio. She is the Assistant Director of the Columbus Idea Foundry, a community workshop space, and is an artisan who crafts jewelry, Judaica and fine art available online and in Central Ohio galleries and boutiques. You can find her online shop at www.sinemetudesigns.etsy.com