Hope within destruction and rebuke

Steven Genack

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק

I have written in the past about an idea expressed by my first cousin, Rabbi Yakov Nagen (Genack), that the weekly portion has direct relevance to the time in which it falls and to our personal lives. I personally felt this when my father-in-law was in from Israel on parsha Yitro, and he offered many opinions to advance my situation. 

One need not look long and hard to understand the relevance of parsha Devarim to the time in which we find ourselves right now. 

Parsha Devarim is about tochacha, rebuke, and as we approach Tisha B’Av, the ultimate day of mourning, we are filled with the theme of tochacha, as the prophets warned us of the Temple destruction based on our ways.

However, within destruction and rebuke there always lies hope and redemption. 

My uncle, Rabbi Genack, points out that we know Megillat Eicha concludes with words of redemption: “Turn us back to You, O LORD, and we will be restored; Renew our days as of old” (Lamentations 5:21), and kinot end with words of nechama as well.

Rav Soloveichik zt”l explained that nichum avelim is not just a fulfillment of chesed and the mitzvah of ve'ahavta lere'ach kamocha, but rather it is a kiyum in the avelut itself, because avelut requires nechama.

On a metaphysical level, what greater joy is there to know that avelus requires nechama.

Furthermore, our sages tell us that despite the sadness and pain associated with the 9th of Av, this is the birthday of Moshiach, our future redeemer (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 2:4).

Also, Isaiah (1:16-17) consoles us in this week’s haftarah, by telling us, “cease to do evil and learn to do good,” advice to hasten the redemption. 

My late relative, Rav Avrohom Genechovsky zt”l, points out a wonderous idea that can in fact be the key to metaken the sin of sinat chinam that led to the destruction of the second temple. 

It says in Pirkei Avot (5:5), “Ten miracles were wrought for our ancestors in the Beis HaMikdash… and one of them was when the people stood, they were crowded together, yet when they prostrated themselves, they had ample space.” Rav Avrohom explained the nature of this nes. He said that the miracle happened because each person was willing to prostrate and bend for their fellow man thus creating ample space for everyone to fit, surely a lesson to learn from to build camaraderie and friendship with others at this time and a way to implant for our nation the potential for nissim to materialize.

We may say that the extra nechama given to us is the notion of the twenty-one-day period we were given from Rosh Hashana throughSukkot to correspond to the three weeks of mourning. We must indeed mourn and be full of feelings of regret but are then given days to be totally forgiven for our misdeeds. What greater nechama is there than that?

We began the article with Rabbi Nagen (Genack) and it's worthy to finish with a statement of the rabbis he quotes in one of his books that can certainly serve as words of hope and inspiration. The Gemera (Sanhedrin 98a) brings down the story of one who asked, “When will Moshiach come?” and he was answered, “Today.” The questioner waited until the evening and was disappointed when the redemption didn’t materialize. Then they explained to him, “Indeed it will come today, if you hearken unto the voice of G-d.”