ונתת את הכפורת על הארון מלמעלה ואל הארון תתן את העדות אשר אתן אליך.
“And you shall place the kaporas on the Ark, above it, and inside the Ark you shall place the Testaments that I will give you.”
Rashi asks: “Why does the verse repeat itself, after it already said in a previous verse that the Testaments (which refer to the Luchos tablets) shall be placed in the Ark? Perhaps it is telling us that the Testaments should be placed inside the Ark first, before it is covered by the kaporas (the cover of the Ark), and only then should the kaporas be placed upon the Ark, as mentioned in this verse.”
Rashi’s comment is difficult to understand. How would the Luchos be placed inside the Ark after the kaporas was already covering it? It’s not possible to put the Luchos inside after the Ark would be covered by the kaporas, so what is Rashi telling us?
We can explain Rashi’s words as follows: Usually, when a person wants to fit something with a cover, he would temporarily place the cover on the item in order to see if the size is right, and then adjust it if necessary. When it came to the holy Ark, Hashem didn’t want the kaporas to be on the Ark even for a short time to be tried on for size. Instead, Hashem wanted the Ark to be made, and then the Luchos placed inside, and only then should the kaporas be placed over it. In fact, it even seems from the verses that Hashem wanted the Jewish people to begin working on making the kaporas only after the Luchos were already inside the Ark.
Why indeed was it so important to put the Luchos inside the Ark before the Ark would be covered even temporarily? There is a symbolic message here that must be well understood.
The gates of repentance are always open, and Hashem is always willing to accept our tshuva (repentance). However, in order for a person’s tshuva to be of lasting benefit, he must base it on Torah learning. Otherwise, the person may slip right back to his old habits despite having sincerely repented. When a person learns Torah, he is able to hold onto his commitments, as it says: “I created the evil inclination and I created the Torah as its antidote.” Our sages also advise us: “If the evil one (the yetzer hara) approaches you, pull him into the Bais Midrash (study hall).” All this shows us that if a person wants to maintain his spiritual commitments without reverting to past misbehaviors, he should learn Torah.
This important message can be found in the verse. The word kaporas has the same root as the word kapparah – atonement. If a person desires atonement and sincerely wants to do tshuva, he first has to place the Luchos – the Torah – inside his heart. Only afterwards can he work on the kaporas – on doing tshuva. This is the type of sincere tshuva regarding which the holy Rambam said: “A person should repent with such sincerity that the One who knows all that is hidden should testify that he will no longer revert to his previous foolishness!” This seems like a very difficult condition to doing tshuva, but if the tshuva is combined with Torah study, then it is indeed possible.
This time of the year, at the completion of the “Shovavim” weeks, is a time most appropriate for doing tshuva. It is of utmost importance to remember that we must do tshuva with increased Torah study; otherwise, the tshuva may not last. The yetzer hara is very cunning and he never gives up! He repeatedly tries to pull the person back to his old habits. The Rebbe R’ Elimelech famously wrote that if someone wants to perfect himself in a certain middah (attribute) he should focus on that particular middah for forty consecutive days, until it becomes a part of his personality. Therefore, someone who wants to do tshuva should commit to an additional study session for forty consecutive days. The six weeks of Shovavim are a most opportune time for this.
The letters of the word “תרומה” spell “תורה – מ”, which means the Torah that was taught in forty days (the numerical value of the letter מ). It can also mean that one should commit to more Torah learning for forty days, until he becomes attached to his learning and merits doing a completely sincere tshuva.