THE DOORS OF TESHUVAH
"I raise my eyes towards the mountains to see where my rescue will come from: my rescue will come from the Eternal, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth."
When a person examines his conscience and becomes aware of the seriousness of his sins before G-d and the disastrous moral and physical consequences, he realizes the gravity of G-d's anger. As a result, he sinks into despair and asks himself: "Where will my rescue come from?"
He asks himself where the necessary strength to change bad habits will come from. How can he do Teshuvah? And especially, how can G-d accept a Teshuvah from such a person? In fact, in Hebrew the term "where" is "MeA-in". "A-in" also means nothingness, for the existence of the concerned person is empty of all sense; he therefore cannot do Teshuvah all by himself.
To this, King David says that one must not ever sink into despair which is, by definition, the work of Satan. The doors of Teshuvah are never closed for a child of Israel, even if he is a sinner.
To prove this divine clemency, we can take King Menashe as an example. Eventhough he introduced idolatry into the Beit Hamikdash, as soon as he did Teshuvah, G-d accepted it.
The second part of our sentence is: "my rescue will come from the Eternal." In other words, instead of sinking into despair and staying apathetic, one must awaken, recognize his sins and their destructive nature, and then G-d will accept the Teshuvah.
But our sentence doesn't end there. It goes on to specify: "my rescue will come from the Eternal, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth." One can ask why did King David have to specify that G-d is the Creator of the Universe? Doesn't everyone know this already? Of course, we know it.
Nevertheless, this evidence is related to another fact: because of our sins, the Heavens and the Earth undergo transformations which threaten their existence. The existence of the Universe depends on the study of the Torah, the observance of the Mitzvot and on good deeds. The same way that the Eternal renews the Universe constantly, He also help us to "renew" ourselves through Teshuvah.
Teshuvah itself is an examination of our conscience. By nature, humans do not like to sin. Negative actions are due to the evil inclinations (Yetser Haraa). They, in addition, stop us from making a spiritual assessment that brings us closer to the Eternal. King David said that: "G-d is your Guardian, like your shadow, He is always at your right, G-d will protect from all suffering." Indeed, when a person sins, he distances himself from the Creator, but when he does Teshuvah, he is once again united with the Creator and He will protect that person against all.
Yaakov Avinu gives us a concrete example. When Abraham's servant Eliezer went to look for Rivka, he brought many gifts: ten camels, a gold ring, two gold bracelets, etc.. However, when Yaakov Avinu went to look for a wife belonging to the same family, he brought nothing with him. Nevertheless, the Midrash points out that Yaakov Avinu didn't lose hope because he knew that "(his) rescue will come from the Eternal, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth."
Meanwhile, Yaakov was desperate for two reasons.
- Firstly, according to him, Eliezer accomplished his mission because of all the lavish gifts that he gave away, showing the wealth of his Master, Abraham. On the other hand, Yaakov also came with the intention of marrying one of Laban's daughters. But he didn't bring any gifts. How would he still get his wish fulfilled?
- Secondly, he considered himself inferior, not only to his Ancestors, but also to Eliezer, Abraham's servant. The proof is that when Laban tried to kill Eliezer, Eliezer disappeared by pronouncing the Sacred Name. Thus, Eliezer saved himself and received Laban's esteem and fear, and he even freed him from idolatry. This wasn't the case for Yaakov. When Eliphaz attacked him, he was robbed of all his belongings. From that moment on, Laban knew that Yaakov was vulnerable. He had no longer any reason to fear Yaakov and he could even kill him. Hence, we understand why Yaakov considered his merit inferior to that of Eliezer.
By looking over these facts and reviewing the quote in the beginning, when Yaakov Avinu says: "I raise my eyes towards the mountains...", this precisely means: towards my ancestors, because it is their merit that saved Eliezer and freed him from Laban. Why then, did Yaakov ask himself: "Where will my rescue come from?" This question becomes more relevant after Yaakov's dream at Beit El, because the Eternal tells him clearly: "I will be with you and protect you wherever you go." Should we assume that Yaakov doubted this promise?
Once again, we are at the crucial point that deals with examining our conscience: when a person suffers, he must analyze his acts and find the source of his problems. Just as Eliezer, Yaakov Avinu could have also pronounced the Sacred name to save himself from Eliphaz, but he didn't do that. His priority wasn't to save himself from Eliphaz but rather to find the source of his troubles: he wanted to understand, why Eliphaz attacked him and deprived him of his possessions. This incident happened because of his spiritual inferiority.
Eventhough Yaakov could have protected himself by pronouncing the Sacred Name just as Eliezer did, he didn't do so. He wanted to prepare his descendants for an itinerary free of hindrances. For this, instead of sinking in despair, one has to proceed to a spiritual assessment.
"Where will my rescue come from?" As we have already said, "where" is also nothingness. When we recognize the distance between ourselves and our Ancestors, we become aware of our vanity. Also, in "nothingness" (MeA-in), the same letters are used as in "Me-ani" (of me). When comparing these two definitions, we conclude: "of me", rescue is nothingness. In other words, the rescue that I can bring myself is nothing, this is why I must count on G-d's help.
Eventhough Yaakov Avinu was poor, he could still marry Laban's daughters. Yet, Laban cherished wealth. So, a poor person who wants to get married but has no means to do so must have faith in G-d. G-d knows how to come to this person's rescue.
Eliezer was saved by pronouncing the Sacred Name, but Yaakov Avinu was saved physically without even pronouncing this Name. It is true that Eliphaz deprived him of his possessions, but he did let him live, despite Esau's objections.
G-d may take a person's wealth in order to save this person's soul, as the following adage says: "Charity will save from death." (Utzedaka Taatsil Memavet)