Parashat Naso: Restoring the Shechina
The Torah in Parashat Naso discusses the case of a man or woman who committed a certain sin, and requires the person to confess the wrongdoing and to then “return the guilt in its principal, and add onto it a fifth” (“Ve’heshib Oto Be’rosho Va’hamishito Yosef Alav” – 5:7). According to the simple meaning of the text, this refers to the case of somebody who was entrusted with a certain item, and then, when the owner came to retrieve it, the person falsely denied, on oath, having the item in his possession. When this thief wishes to repent, he must verbally confess, and then return the stolen item and pay an additional one-fifth of its value to the owner.
However, our great Sages have uncovered for us several deeper layers of interpretation of this verse. One such explanation reads this verse as alluding to us the effects of sin and the power of repentance.
Tradition teaches us that the Shechina, the Divine Presence, hovers above one’s head. The Zohar, for example, explains on this basis the verse in Kohelet (2:14), “He’hacham Enav Be’rosho” – “The wise man, his eyes are in his head.” Of course, the Zohar comments, the eyes of all people are in their heads. However, this verse teaches that the wise person is mindful at all times of “his head,” meaning, of the Shechina which hovers over his head. His eyes are constantly turned upwards, to G-d, as he focuses his attention on the fact that he is in the Almighty’s presence, and must therefore act in an appropriate manner. Indeed, this is the reason for the common custom to cover our heads – to increase our awareness of G-d, who is present over our heads.
However, the Shechina is present over our heads only when we perform Misvot and avoid wrongdoing. The Zohar compares the human being to a candle, explaining that the Shechina situated atop a person is like the flame burning on the top of the candle. Just as the flame is sustained by the oil in the lamp, similarly, the Shechina’s presence is “sustained,” as it were, through our Misvot. And thus King Shlomo teaches us later in Kohelet (9:8), “At all times your garment shall be white, and oil shall never be lacking over your head.” We are urged to maintain our “whiteness,” our purity, at all times, so that we will never lack the “oil,” the spiritual “fuel” needed to keep G-d’s presence with us. When we sin, Heaven forbid, we diminish from the “oil,” we are unable to sustain, so-to-speak, the Shechina, and so it departs, and we are left alone and forlorn.
The process of Teshuba, repentance, has the effect of bringing the Shechina back into our lives. This is reflected in the word “Teshuba,” which may be read as “Tashub Heh” – “the Heh returns.” The letter “Heh” represents the Divine Presence, and through the process of repentance, we are able to restore G-d’s presence which we had caused to depart as a result of our misconduct.
This concept, it has been explained, is alluded to in the verse from Parashat Naso cited earlier. It teaches that by confessing and repenting for one’s wrongdoing, “Ve’heshib Ashamo Be’rosho” – he causes the Shechina, which had left him because of his guilt, to return. And thus, “Va’hamishito Yosef Alav” – “he adds the five onto himself.” Five is the numerical value of the letter Heh, which, as mentioned, represents the Shechina. And thus the verse here teaches that through repentance, we bring the “five” – the Divine Presence – back into our midst, and restore our close and special relationship with the Almighty, who mercifully forgives us for the mistake that we had made.