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Judaism: Divrei Azriel: Divisiveness; A Reason to Cry

This week's articles are by Yechezkel Gorelik and Yosef Shmuel Venouziou.
Published: Friday, July 12, 2013 11:01 AM


Divisivenss in the Desert and Beyond

By Yecheskel Gorelik

Among the Ashkenazi communities throughout Klal Yisrael there is a prevelant minhag to read the verse “Eicha esah levadi tarchecem umasachem verivchem” (Devarim 1:12) in the tune that is reserved for Lamentations, Megilat Eicha. This seemingly portrays Bnei Yisrael, the Jews, in a negative light. which presents a difficulty since the contrary seems to be correct, as they were doing something incredibly positive. Instead of ceaselessly fighting and squabbling among themselves, they would instead present their personal grievances to Moshe and allow him to resolve everything. Furthermore, whenever there are disagreements the plaintiffs are encouraged and even mandated to go to a rabbi or courts, beit din, to solve the dispute.

The Seforno provides us with a tremendously insightful explanation to this question. Moshe did not bemoan the fact that Bnei Yisrael brought all of their disputes to him, but rather the overwhelming and seemingly infinite amount of disputes they actually had. Klal Yisrael, through their constant bickering, failed to properly internalize their real purpose in the desert, the midbar. It was meant to prepare them for their ultimate goal, entering Eretz Yisrael. It was a place that was meant to fuse an internal sort of togetherness, but instead became a bastion for strife and discontent.  Moshe was dismayed over the fact that Klal Yisrael focused upon insignificant worries and complaints that caused them to lose sight of the big picture.

In a similar vein, Rashi comments that Moshe proclaimed and rebuked B’nei Yisrael for their blatant lack of good interpersonal relations, bein adam l’chaveiro. Tarchecem, Rashi explains, refers to the notion that Klal Yisrael was very difficult to deal with, especially with regards to legal proceedings. If, for example, a litigant realized that his opponent had the upper hand, he would do everything in his power to try to prevent him from prevailing. He would claim that he had more witnesses or demand more judges to serve on the court. Furthermore, Rashi states the word masachem indicates that B’nei Yisrael were always distrustful and suspicious of Moshe. They consistently questioned his motives. According to Rashi and the Seforno’s interpretation of the verse, it is easily understood as to why we read it with the tune of Megilat Eicha.

This lack of bein adam l’chaveiro is something that has plagued Klal Yisrael throughout the generations. Human beings are not programmed to be robots. Individuals think differently as Hebrew sayings attest:  “eilu ve’eilu divrei Elokim chayim” and “shivim panim leTorah” are ideals. However, more often than not, machlokot -disputes - that have started for the sake of Heaven - le’shem Shamayim - have quickly spiraled into the exact opposite. Unfortunately this problem has not just affected the layman. Even Torah giants have not and are currently not immune to this problem. The Netziv in his introduction to Sefer Breshit discusses those who lived in the generation in which the second Beit Hamikdash was destroyed. He says, “The pious, the righteous, and those that were steeped in Torah study were not upright in their interactions with others. Because of the sinat chinam they had in their hearts towards one another, they suspected those who served Hashem differently to be Tzedukim or Apikorsim. This ultimately led to the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash.” We unfortunately do not have to look very far to see this sad reality.

It is therefore incumbent upon all of us to rise up to the challenge and remove baseless hatred, sinat chinam, from our midst. We must try to display and internally feel a sense of pursuing and loving peace, ohev shalom verodef shalom. May we merit seeing the Beit Hamikdash rebuilt speedily in our days and never have to hear the pasuk “Eicha esah levadi” to the tune of Megilat Eicha ever again.

A Reason to Cry

Yosef Shmuel Venouziou

A story I’ve heard many times over the years… in 1967 with the reunification of Yerushalayim, when the soldiers of the paratrooper brigade reached the Kotel, all the observant soldiers began to cry. Amongst them stood a secular soldier who was also crying. One of the observant soldiers turned to him and asked, “I know why we’re crying, but why are you crying?”

To which he replied, “I see all of you crying and I grasp that there is something meaningful and great going on here, and I have no clue what it is.” As we approach Tisha B’Av, the Fast of the Ninth of Av, perhaps we can apply this as a paradigm for the way we view our mourning for the Temple, the Beit HaMikdash. Something which I once heard said, and which has stuck with me, is that if we are not able to cry over the destruction itself, and that the Shechina, God's presence,  currently has no earthly dwelling place, then maybe we can mourn the fact that we have no idea what we are truly missing and what the world was like when the Beit HaMikdash still stood.

However, if we take a moment to contemplate, perhaps we can lend further gravity to what it is that we are truly mourning. For, in truth, what is it that we are mourning? Is it the physical structure itself?  As one of my rabbanim, Rabbi Benzion Klatzko, likes to point out, nowhere in the Torah is Judaism referred to as a religion. However, throughout, there are references to the fact that what we have with Hashem is a relationship. We often see the reference to the fact that we are His children, "k’Av l’banim", and that he is our King, "Avinu Malkeinu". Further we see from Shir Hashirim and Yedid Nefesh that we, the Jewish people are considered his bride (and are familiar with the concept that Matan Torah was our chupah).

So what are we mourning? We are mourning he fact that our relationship is not the same as what it once was.

We are mourning the fact that we have been exiled, and that Hashem likewise has sent His Shechina into exile with us.

And hence, we are also mourning the fact that our Father, our King, our Beloved, also cries on a daily basis because He has had to punish us and because He cannot be with us as He would like (Massechet Berachot 3a).

The fact of the matter is that our relative comfort allows us to regularly forget the gravity of this reality and its repercussions. In Eicha, among other gruesome accounts, it is recounted how starving mothers ate of the flesh of their own children. While this creates a vivid and horrible image, it is still difficult to truly conceptualize what such an existence would be like.

Even if we try look at the world today, with the genocide and civil wars going on across the world, it’s difficult. Perhaps it is because of how busy we are with hectic our schedules. Perhaps when we focus on the amount of agony and pain being endured it’s too much for us, and perhaps it’s because we don’t always have our priorities straight. Living in Israel, we know that at a certain point, with all the difficulties and tragedies, a common coping mechanism becomes desensitization. Fully contemplating the pain on a regular basis would be too much. So obviously mourning constantly on a daily basis would be too much. And hence Chazal instituted specific times that we should.

Unless, B'ezrat HaShem, Moshiach comes beforehand, Tisha B’Av will be this Tuesday. The Talmud states “All who do not rebuild the Temple in their days; it is as if the Temple was destroyed in their days...”(Talmud Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1).  There are those who have the custom of rising every night to recite Tikkun Chatzot (tachanunim and tehillim) to join Hashem in mourning the destruction of His Temple and the exile of His children.

While it would be quite a lot to take on such a task, I once heard a suggestion from a talmid chacham by the name of David Sacks, who said that if we, in any case, happen to get up at some point in the middle of the night, perhaps we could take at least a single moment, or even thirty seconds, to sit on the floor, tell Hashem that we miss Him and offer a request in our own words that the Beit HaMikdash be rebuilt and that we be allowed to come home.

One of our biggest challenges today is to have true faith, emunah, and to remember that not only does everything happen for a reason, but that everything happens for the good in the long run. Despite the fact that the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, Am Yisrael has been allowed to live and is given the ability to bring about its rebuilding. The Ben Ish Chai explains that the name of this month is “Av” because when the redemption comes it will be the father of all months.

For where there is the most darkness, there is the most potential for light. May we merit experiencing that light with the arrival of the Mashiach and the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash, speedily in our days.