Pinny Arnon

‘Achas Shaalti Me’es Hashem’: The One Thing We Are All Praying For

Rosh Hashana is one week away. The Book of Life is opened, and the year ahead will be determined by the inscription that we earn through our prayers and deeds. So what will you be praying for in 5784? Heatlh perhaps, and sustenance, and love, and happiness, and peace? The recovery of an ailing loved one? The victory of your preferred candidates or party? The end of disease, and poverty, and hate? The reconciliation of internecine and international conflict?

Throughout this month of Elul, and on through Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, we recite Psalm 27 daily. In it, King David teaches us the single most important thing that we are to ask from God at this time of the Days of Awe. The Psalm begins with David’s statement of remarkable fearlessness in the face of life’s daunting threats and challenges:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; from whom shall I be frightened? When evildoers draw near to me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies against me -they stumbled and fell. If a camp encamps against me, my heart shall not fear; if a war should rise up against me, in this I trust” (Psalms 27:1-3).

What is it that instills this extraordinary confidence in David and frees him from all fear even as his adversaries surround him? We find the answer in the subsequent verse:

“Achas shaalti me’es A-donai osa avakeish shivti b’veis A-donai kol yimei chayai lachazos b’noam A-donai u’l’vaker b’heichalo/One [thing] I ask of the Lord, this I seek – that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to see the pleasantness of the Lord and to visit His Temple” (Psalms 27:4).

The simple understanding of the verse is that David asks God for “one thing.” However, he then proceeds to list a number of things: that he should dwell in God’s house, that he should see the pleasantness of God, and that he should be able to visit His Temple each morning. The Chassidic masters explain that if we read the verse more literally, we will understand its deeper secret and discover the key to David’s peace and calm in spite of the warfare around him.

“Achas shaalti me’es A-donai/One I ask from God.” It is not one thing that David asks from God, but rather he asks God for “achas/one.” He is requesting that God bestow on him the consciousness of complete oneness. With this consciousness, nothing worries David. With this consciousness, he will then be able to “dwell in the house of the Lord” all of his days, because wherever he may be, he knows that it is all the place of God’s dwelling. He will be able to constantly “see the pleasantness of God,” and he will be able to “visit God’s Temple” each day because He is forever in God’s presence.

Peace, and the transcendence of all fear and struggle, are possible when we become aware that the enemy forces clashing within us and around us are not truly enemies, and are not truly separate at all. The Godly and animal aspects of our being are not, in fact, opposites, because there are no opposites, and there is no opposition at all. There is only One. The goal is therefore not to overcome, to conquer, or to vanquish. It is rather to unify. It is to recognize that we are all inter-included, and to lose ourselves – and thereby find ourselves – in the uncompounded infinity that is hidden within our core.

– Excerpted from Pnei Hashem, an introduction to the deepest depths of the human experience based on the esoteric teachings of Torah.

About the Author
Pinny Arnon is an award-winning writer in the secular world who was introduced to the wellsprings of Torah as a young adult. After decades of study and frequent interaction with some of the most renowned Rabbis of the generation, Arnon has been encouraged to focus his clear and incisive writing style on the explication of the inner depths of Torah.
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