And it came to pass, when the ark set foward,
that Mosha would say, "Rise up Eternal One, and let your enemies be
scattered; and let those who hate you flee before you. And when it
rested, he said, Return Eternal One, to the ten thousand thousands of
Yisrael" (Bemidhbar/Numbers 10:35-36)
This passage speaks of two principles.
The first is being in union with the Eternal One: when the ark set
foward. The second is that of repentance: return Eternal One. We
know this because of the words associated with the ark. When the holy
ark is in procession, Mosha would say "rise up Eternal One."
When it was no longer in procession, he would say "return Eternal
One." In his words, Mosha is equating the Divine Presence with the
aron qodhash. How do we know that the Divine Presence is
associated with the holy ark? The following verses--few among
many--provide further illumination:
"And I will speak with you from above the
covering, from between the two keruvim which are upon the ark of the
witness" (Shemoth/Exodus 25:22).
"then he heard the voice of One speaking to
him from off the covering that was upon the ark of the witness, from between
the two keruvim" (Bemidhbar/Numbers 7:89).
"that they might bring from there the ark
of hte covenant of the Eternal of hosts, who sits upon the keruvim"
(Shemuel I 4:4).
To carry the identification futher, we could
read the above pasuq as follows: "And when it came to pass that the
Divine Presence went forward, that Mosha would say, Rise up Eternal One, and
let your enemies be scattered; and let those who hate you flee before you.
And when it rested, he said, return Eternal One, to the ten thousand thousands
The two key principles here are humility and
repentance. Humility is the key to actuating the Divine Presence in
our daily lives and repentance is the key to affecting God's return to our
lives when we have strayed from the upright path.
Humility, a contrite and broken heart, a
contrite spirit--this is the quality one must have to realize the Divien
Presence in their daily life:
"For thus says the high and lofty One Who
inhabits eternity, whose name is set apart; I dwell on high and in a set apart
place, yet also with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive
the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones"
"The Eternal One is near to them who are of
a broken heart; and He saves such as are of a contrite spirit"
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
a broken and conrite heart, o God, you will not despise" (Tehillim/Psalms
The ethical treatise, "The Ways of the
Righteous" describes humility as "the root of Divine service."
It also defines the root of humility as "one's thinking of himself when
he is yet calm and tranquil and healthy and rich, that the Blessed One has
given him good of which he is not worthy... and he must do all for the sake of
heaven, not for the sake of honor, and not to flatter any man or for any
personal pleasure--but all for the sake of His great name."
Ribi Bahya ibn Paqudha, in "The Duties of
the Heart," defines humility as follows: the soul's sense of lowliness,
its acquiescence, and its lack of self-importance." He continues to
say, "It is one of the qualities of the soul and, when internalized,
comes to expression externally in the form of gentle speech, a soft voice,
meekness when angered, and restraint in taking revenge when one has the power
to exact it."
The second principle we may elucidate from the
above pasage is that of repentance. This act can be divided into two
portions. One may look at the prerequisites of repentence and one may
also look at the requirements/definitions of true repentance.
Again looking in "Duties of the Heart"
we read, "What is the essence of repentance? The meaning of
repentance is that a person rights himself to the service of the Creator, may
He be exalted, restoring what he lost of it after having deviated from it and
violated it." Ibn Paqudha continues to list seven prerequisites for
repentance: 1)one must recognize the shamefulness of their deed, 2)one must
see the wrong in his deed and its baseness, 3)one must realize that
retribution for his misdeed is inevetable, 4)one must know that his misdeed is
held against him and recorded in the book of hs demerits, and that it will not
be overlooked, forgotten, or laid aside, 5)one must be certain that repentance
is the cure for his [spiritual] illness, 6)one must make a personal accounting
of God's graces upon him, and of his own disobedience isntead of gratitude for
these favors, 7)one must exert tremendous self-restraint to abstain from a sin
to which he had grown accustomed, and h emust resolve in his heart and
innermost being to detach himself from it."
The Talmudh (Pesahim 54a) states, "Ribi
Aiva said, 'Seven things preceeded the world: Tora, repentance, paradise,
jehinnom, the throne of glory, the temple, and the name of the messiah.'"
"The Ways of the Righteous" expounds on this in the following
manner: "since the Tora preceded the universe, it was accordingly
necessary that repentance precede it. For since the Tora contains
positive and negative commandments and the punishments set forth therein, it
was patently necessary that repentance precede, so that if one sinned he would
have time to repent."
Continuing in "Ways of the Righteous,"
we see twenty fundamental points of repentance: 1)one must sieze upon teh
trait of regret, 2)the forsaking of sin, 3)sorrow, 4)sorrow and grief in deed,
5)worry, 6)shame, 7)humbling one's self with all one's heart and lowering
one's self, 8)humility in deed, 9)the breaking of desire, 10)correcting one's
deeds with the object of his abuse, 11)the searching of one's ways,
12)investigating and knowing the magnitude of each of one's transgressions,
13)the regarding of lesser transgressions as severe ones, 14)confession,
15)prayer, 16)correcting the misdeed, 17)the pursuit of acts of lovingkindness
and truth, 18)keeping one's sins constantly before him, 19)the forsaking of
one's sin, 20)turning as many as possible away from transgression.
Similarly, Ribi Bahya ibn Paqudha states,
"There are four essential elements to repentance: 1)feeling remorse for
past sins; 2)desisting from them and renouncing them; 3)confessing them and
asking forgiveness for them; 4)undertaking, in one's heart and innerost being,
not to repeat them."
Let us all take these principles to heart, so
that when we walk the upright path, that is "to do justly, love mercy,
and walk humbly with your God" (Micha 6:8), so that the Divine Presence
may fill our lives and fear dissolve before us. Let us also understand
the keys to repentance, that when we have strayed from the upright path, we
may find our way back with the help of the Almighty, as it is written:
"Return to me, and I will return to you" (Malachi 3:7).
by Shema`ryahu Esrael bar Abraham