The Eye of Giants

Speaking of things unseen.

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch,

Aryeh Hirsch
Aryeh Hirsch
"Patzu alayich pihem" ("They jeered at you," Eicha, 2:16). Rava explained in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: In the previous chapter of Eicha, all the verses are in alphabetical order. But in this chapter, the letter peh (literally meaning "mouth") precedes the ayin (meaning "eye"). This is
The Hebrew initials of the first four words of the Megilah (aleph, yud, veit, heh) spell out "eivah".
because the Meraglim (the spies of the desert generation; Bamidbar chapters 13, 14) put their mouths before their eyes, speaking of things they had not seen (Sanhedrin 104b).

This idea of "what is seen" forms a prominent basis for the expositions of three prominent rabbis in their treatments of parshat Devarim and Tisha B'Av.

Rabbi Yitzchak Weinberg, the Talner Rebbe, uses the verse, "May the Lord Almighty grant you increase and multiply you as the stars of Heaven," (Devarim 1:10) to point out the positive and negative aspects of a large populace. If people work to counter their innate egoism, and come to respect the ideas of others, humbly learning the good from every idea and way of doing things, then multitudes are truly "the blessing of Moses" (Devarim 1:11). But if the opposite occurs, and every individual insists on speaking (peh) his own opinion as the only truth, judging only by what his own eyes (ayin) see, then manipulators and propagandists lead only to divisiveness (machloket).

This is seen in the opening of Megilat Eicha: "How has the city of Jerusalem sunk so low, to sit in solitude? The city that had such multitudes of people?" The Talner Rebbe quotes the Zohar: The Hebrew initials of the first four words of the Megilah (aleph, yud, veit, heh) spell out eivah, hatred, the infamous sinat chinam which caused the destructions and exiles.

This, the Rebbe sees, is the reason Kamtza is mentioned along with Bar Kamtza in the Gemara's story of the Churban of the Second Temple (Gitin 55b). Seemingly, Kamtza was not guilty; he actually did nothing in the story. But that's the problem: had Kamtza (whose name means "locust" in Aramaic; see Onkelos on Bamidbar 13:33) been a true friend, and not simply a fellow reveler and party-goer (a locust-like mega-consumer, who gives his peh, mouth, primacy over his ayin), he would have influenced the owner of the party hall to show love to Bar Kamtza, and the tragedy of the Destruction might have been averted.

Rabbi Matis Weinberg also addresses the idea of seeing the perspective of others. Using the verse, "Moshe began to explain the Torah" (Devarim 1:5) to the Jews, Rabbi Weinberg points out what the Jews told Moses in reply (as explained in Rashi, verse 14): "You answered me that my plan to replace me with a multitude of teachers and judges was good. But you should have told me: No
Rabbi Matis Weinberg also addresses the idea of seeing the perspective of others.
Moses, we don't want any substitutes, we want to learn directly from you, because 'you felt pain and suffered to acquire Torah.'"

This is surprising, says Rabbi Weinberg. Moses does not stress that it is better to hear Torah from him because Moses talked directly to God and went up to the heights of Sinai. No, Moshe Rabbeinu was the ideal teacher because of the pain that he suffered in order to make Torah his own. Torah seen through the eyes of the Rebbe, the teacher, is authentic Torah because of the tza'ar, the pain, that he went through to acquire it, to make it his own.

Moreover, Rabbi Weinberg connects this to an idea that recurs throughout parshat Devarim and also in the story of the spies (Meraglim) as narrated in parshat Shlach. The culminating argument of the Meraglim, to really put fear into the people, was that they had seen the giants, the Anakim and Refaim, in the land of Israel. These were the same giants that Moses killed in parshat Devarim (1:4) and who appear in Devarim 2:10-11; 2:20-21; and 3:11. Rabbi Weinberg notes that these giants were the fallen angels that had caused the Flood in Genesis (6:2-7). These angels were not only not human, they were inhumane and evil. And it was their basic inhumanity to which Moshe stood in sharp contrast.

"Moshe min haToreh min ayin?" Where is Moshe hinted at in the very beginning of the Torah? Beshegam (numerically, in Gematria, this equals 345, as does the name Moshe) "he is flesh" (Genesis 6:3; Chulin 139b); i.e., Moses is human. Moses feels pain (in acquiring Torah). It's Moses' being human that makes his Torah authentic. And the reproof that Moses delivers here to the Jewish people is: "If you overlook my pain - the pain that I suffered to acquire Torah, and the pain which you people put me through for the last forty years in this Desert - then you are Refaim, you are no better than the inhuman giants whom we, the Jewish people, are to eradicate." Moreover, Rabbi Weinberg stresses, it is their shared humanity that allows Moses to teach the Jews Torah and to give tochachah (reproof).

All this becomes important as we approach Tisha B'Av. We will certainly mourn the destructions of two Temples and our long exile, which includes the Inquisition and the Holocaust. But, as Rabbi Shabtai Sabato of Beit El pointed out this week, we also will cry over the churban of Gush Katif. In their inhumanity and eivah (hatred), the perpetrators of this crime "put their mouths before their eyes." Rabbi Sabato noted that the Left ignores all evidence of the negative results of their 15-year reign of "peace." Actually, anyone with an eye in his head can see that there has been not one good result of all this "peace" rubbish. But no matter. The Left's "mouth is first," as they lead with their lunatic ideas, and not with eyes and brains; no matter what destruction they cause, they will not see it with their eyes. "Vaniye b'eineinu kachagavim" (Bamidbar 13:33): they view themselves as destructive locusts, chomping away at the flesh of their own brothers and, ultimately, of themselves and their land, as they turn it into a nightmare, a "land that devours its inhabitants." (Bamidbar 13:32)

We also will cry over the churban of Gush Katif.

The Talner Rebbe quotes the Chozeh MiLublin (the Seer of Lublin) that although many bad historical occurrences happened on Tisha B'Av, it is not a day "made only for punishments." Unlike Pesach, when every 15th day of Nissan is a day of inherent freedom, or Yom Kippur, a day which of itself brings Divine forgiveness, Tisha B'Av's evils leave no residue of evil on the day. Thus, one day, all our fast days that commemorate destruction and exile will become calendar days of happiness and joy. This will occur, of course, when sinat chinam is replaced by ahavat chinam, love of the chein (grace, beauty) of every other Jew, with respect for others and acceptance of the other fellow's point of view.

And things aren't all negative. The Divine plan has already placed us in Eretz Yisrael, with the physical rebuilding of the Land and a substantial kibbutz galuyot (ingathering of the exiles). May we soon merit the final Divine chesed (kindness) of the unification of all Jewish hearts, the rebuilding of Gush Katif, and the Final Redemption.

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