TRAVELING WITH THE ARON
Roy S. Neuberger
There is a unique passage in this week’s Parsha.
It begins with the words we utter each time we open the Aron Kodesh to withdraw the Sefer Torah: “Vayehi binsoa ha’aron …it came to pass, when the aron journeyed forth, that Moshe said, ‘Arise, Oh G-d, so that Your enemies may be scattered and those that hate You flee from before Your countenance.’ And when it gently came to rest, he said, ‘Return, Oh G-d, to the myriads of the thousands of Israel.’” (Bamidbar 10:35-6)
There is no other such passage in the Torah. Why is it unique?
There is a machlokes in the Gemora (Shabbos 115b-116a). According to Rebbe, the two possukim which comprise this passage are in themselves a separate sefer, which means that, in fact, the “Chumash” consists of seven rather than five seforim. Like everything else in the Torah, this is not an academic, theoretical matter. Rather it is an existential question. Upon these two possukim hang matters of life and death.
My friends, the winds of war are blowing. Let’s not underestimate the danger. In the Golan and in Gaza our enemies are becoming extremely aggressive, pushing against us on every side. “All the nations surround me …. They encircle me. They also surround me…. They encircle me like bees …. (Tehillim 118) On a recent day of great jubilation in Yerushalayim, our enemies chose to intensify their hatred. On that same day, the nations descended from Esav demonstrated their solidarity with the descendants of Yishmael. We are indeed surrounded.
“Min hamaitzar … from the straits did I call upon G-d.” (Tehillim 118)
Once, long ago – during our college years – my wife and I were summer fire lookouts in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. From a mountain top we had a view stretching one hundred fifty miles in each direction. We learned there that one spark can ignite a vast forest.
Today, the world is like a dry forest. One spark is all that is needed. No one should underestimate. We are surely close to the Dawn of Redemption. Whether it will be a day “burning like an oven” or a day “with healing on its wings” (Malachi 3:19)depends on us.
“Vayehi binsoa aron…. When the Aron would travel.” How are we going to travel through life with a chance of safe passage? Are we going to walk with the Aron Kodesh or are we going to “go it alone?” Will we allow the Aron to “reside tranquilly … among the myriad thousands of Israel?” Upon this everything depends.
We have just completed the Yom Tov of Shavuos, during which we accepted the Torah, for which we prepared intensely during the seven weeks of Sefiras HaOmer. Are we going to walk with that Torah throughout history?
That is the question, maybe the only question.
What distinguishes these two possukim to such an extent that they can be considered a discrete book of the Torah? It seems that they are in a separate time and place from the surrounding passages, which describe the fateful first steps as Am Yisroeljourneyed away from Har Sinai. Those first steps have been described, with terrible clarity, as follows: like “a child running away from school.” (Ramban on Bamidbar 10:35, citing a Midrash)
The words of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch zt”l describe the spiritual state of our ancestors as they left Har Sinai: “Moshe’s will was in perfect harmony with the Will of Hashem, but this exalted quality … is the very antithesis of the low state of mind in which Moshe’s generation was still mired…. Only in the End of Days will [Moshe’s state of mind become] a national characteristic of the entire Jewish people.”
Suddenly we have these two possukim, which lift us out of this rebellious moment and carry us away from Midbar Sinai to a high vantage point from which we can view all past and future Jewish history. From this high place the Torah is going to pose the central question which will concern Am Yisroel forever: will we walk with the Aron or will we – G-d forbid! – walk alone?
Right now, after Shavuos, we are entering the “long, hot summer,” always the most dangerous time of the year for Klal Yisroel. As missiles fall on the Golan and hate-filled mobs riot in Gaza, this is the one question we must ask: will we travel with the Aron or travel alone?
I quoted above the holy words of Dovid Hamelech, but I omitted part of the possuk. Here is the complete thought: “All the nations surround me. In the Name of Hashem I cut them down.” (Tehillim 118) My friends, we are not going to survive unless we live “b’shaim Hashem.” We cannot defeat the entire world, which is pushing in on us from all sides. We must learn from Dovid Hamelech. This was how he approached Golias and this is how he approached all of life. This is our formula for survival and this is the way we will welcome his descendant, our Redeemer. There is no other way to confront the tsunami of hatred that surrounds us.
Now, at the end of history – as well as in the Midbar at the beginning of our history – if we walk with the Aron Kodesh we will live to return with the Aron Kodesh. If we walk with the Aron, then all of Hashem’s enemies – our enemies – will be scattered,“and those that hate You [will] flee from before Your Countenance.”
May Hashem soon bring these two possukim – this separate Sefer in the Chumash – to pass! May He bless us with the completion of our Journey through history, when the Aron will once again come to rest among us and we will all, as a unified nation, repeat the words of Moshe our Teacher, “Return, Oh G-d, to the myriads of the thousands of Israel.”
(*Note to editor: rights to use this picture were purchased by me in January, 2015)
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Roy Neuberger, author and public speaker, can be reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2018 by Roy S. Neuberger