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Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz

Contributing Editor: Daniel Dadusc

Devarim

Volume XIV, No. 43
4 Av 5760
August 5, 2000


Today's Learning:
Sukkah 5:8 / Beitzah 1:1
Orach Chaim 310:4-6
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Nedarim 17
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Kiddushin 23

This Shabbat is known as "Shabbat Chazon" after the first word of the haftarah, which begins "Chazon Yishayahu" / "The vision of Yishayahu (Isaiah)." At first glance, this way of referring to the Shabbat before Tishah B'Av is similar to the way that next Shabbat is known as "Shabbat Nachamu," after the first word of that week's haftarah.

However, R' Tzadok Hakohen of Lublin z"l (1823-1900) points out that they may not be the same. When we call the Shabbat after Tishah B'Av "Shabbat Nachamu," we are not only identifying the haftarah, but also its theme, "Nechamah" / "consolation." This is certainly an appropriate theme to have on our minds during the period after the Fast. The name "Chazon," on the other hand, appears to be nothing more than the first word of the haftarah, informing us that the words that follow are the vision of the prophet Yishayahu. The theme of the haftarah, however, is not "visions," but rather the destruction of Yerushalayim, which the prophet says will result from the people's sins.

In fact, however, says R' Tzadok, the name "Shabbat Chazon" does describe one aspect of the Shabbat before Tishah B'Av. Surprisingly, that aspect is one of consolation, not of mourning. He explains as follows:

One of our greatest losses as a result of the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash was the end of the period of prophecy. This is described in the Book of Eichah (which is read on Tishah B'Av) in the verse (2:9), "Prophets could find no vision ("chazon") from G-d." However, we are promised that in the days of Mashiach (Yoel 3:1), "I will pour My spirit on every person, and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your elderly will dream dreams, your teenagers will see visions." This promise is the beginning of our consolation.

The gemara says that when the gentiles who destroyed the Bet Hamikdash entered the Holy-of-Holies, they found the keruvim hugging each other. How can this be? asks R' Yom Tov ben Avraham Alsevilli ("Ritva"; 14th century). Are we not taught that when the Jews did the will of G-d, the keruvim faced each other, but when G-d was displeased with His people, the keruvim miraculously turned their backs on each other? How could the keruvim be facing each other at the very moment when the Bet Hamikdash was burning to the ground?!

The answer, explains R' Tzadok, is found in the midrash which states that Mashiach was born on the day on which the Temple was destroyed. For centuries, the prophets warned Bnei Yisrael that their sins would cause the Temple's destruction, but the people did not listen. When the Temple began to burn, however, the prophets' message hit home, and Bnei Yisrael did begin to repent. It was too late to save the Bet Hamikdash -- the decree had been signed and executed -- but at that moment the seeds of rebuilding were planted and Mashiach was born. To show Hashem's acceptance of these faint stirrings of repentance, the keruvim turned toward each other as in earlier times of favor.

In fact, continues R' Tzadok, on every Tishah B'Av a person is born who can be Mashiach if his generation so merits. In this sense, every Tishah B'Av is a day of consolation, and it is this small consolation that we observe on the Shabbat preceding Tishah B'Av, as well.

Why? Because Chazal teach that all the blessings of the coming week derive from our observance of Shabbat. This is why, for example, we bless the new moon on the Shabbat preceding Rosh Chodesh ("Shabbat Mevarchim"), for the blessings of the coming month derive from the blessings of the Shabbat which precedes it. If Mashiach is to be born on Tishah B'Av of any given year, that blessing will come from the preceding Shabbat, and it is therefore fitting that the name which we give that Shabbat alludes to one aspect of that consolation, the return of chazon / visions. (Pri Tzaddik, Devarim section 13)

********

"Also these are for the wise; showing favoritism in judgement is not good." (Mishlei/Proverbs 24:23)

Rabbenu Yonah z"l (13th century; Spain) introduces our parashah with the above verse from Mishlei. He explains that at first glance, much of Sefer Devarim appears repetitive, but this is for a reason. Although Moshe had rebuked Bnei Yisrael throughout the 40 years that he lead them, they were eager to hear more reproof in order to constantly improve themselves. As King Shlomo wrote elsewhere (Mishlei 9:8), "Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you."

"Showing favoritism in judgement is not good." Many people use their last days, a time of judgment, to appease their opponents. Moshe, however, did not do so; until the very end he fulfilled his obligation as a leader to rebuke his people for their wrongdoings. (Drushei Rabbenu Yonah Al Ha'Torah)

How can Mishlei say, "Showing favoritism in judgement is not good," implying that it is not recommended, but is permissible? As quoted above, our parashah states explicitly that showing favoritism in judgment is prohibited.

R' Baruch Halevi Epstein z"l (Russia; died 1940) suggests that Shlomo Hamelech is not referring to showing favoritism. Rather, the verse from Mishlei should be translated literally, "Recognizing faces in judgement is not good." What does this mean? Rambam writes that judges are permitted to take into account the facial expressions and other demeanor of the parties in judging their truthfulness. While this is permitted, says Mishlei, it is unreliable and "not good." (Tosefet Berachah)

********

"With me, as well, Hashem became angry because of you, saying: 'You, too, shall not come there'." (1:37)

Following, as it does, a verse that says that Kalev behaved differently than the other spies, this verse suggests that Moshe did not enter Eretz Yisrael because of the sin of the spies. How so?

R' Chaim ben Attar z"l (the "Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh"; died 1743) explains: Chazal say that the night when the Jewish people cried over the spies' report was Tishah B'Av. Hashem said, "You cried tonight for no reason! I will give you a reason to cry on this night in the future." This is why the Bet Hamikdash was destroyed on the Ninth of Av.

The Sages also teach that if Moshe had entered Eretz Yisrael, he would have built the Bet Hamikdash, and it would have stood forever. It follows, then, that Hashem's promise that He would give the Jewish people a reason to cry on Tishah B'Av, the result of the sin of the spies, prevented Moshe from entering the land. (Ohr Hachaim)

Moshe was punished so severely because he could have sanctified G-d's Name just a little more by talking to the rock and drawing out water than by hitting the rock to accomplish the same result. Says R' Reuven Dessler z"l (father of the author of Michtav M'Eliyahu): The difference between the sanctification of G-d's Name which occurred and that which might have occurred is so subtle that it is imperceptible to us. Yet we all have opportunities to commit the same sin. If a person has a certain talent or has the ability to study Torah, and he does not use that gift to the fullest, he is lessening the potential for G-d's Name to be sanctified. We see from Moshe's case that a person is punished not only for his sins, but also for his unfinished or un- perfected deeds. (Kitvei Ha'Saba Mi'Kelm Ve'talmidav p.554)

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Tishah B'Av

The gemara teaches that one is obligated to bless Hashem for the bad just as he does for the good. If so, asks R' Joseph B. Soloveitchik z"l, what right do we have to mourn on Tishah B'Av? What right do we have to recite kinot with its repeated question, "Eichah?" / "Why?" "How?"

The answer, says R' Soloveitchik, is that we have permission to ask these questions because Hashem Himself instructed the prophet Yirmiyah to ask them. Where did Yirmiyah ask these questions? In the book of Eichah. This is why we preface our own recitation of Kinot by reading Eichah, as if to say, "We would never complain on our own, but we are only following in the footsteps of the prophet."

After we read the other megillot (Shir Hashirim, Ruth, and Kohelet) we recite kaddish, but there is no kaddish after Eichah. This is because Eichah and the kinot are one unit, for the reason just explained.

Why then don't we recite Eichah in the morning? R' Soloveitchik explains that the morning's haftarah takes the place of Eichah. A review of the haftarah, which was also written by the prophet Yirmiyah, reveals that it too is full of questions, and it is the fact that the prophet asked these questions which allows us to ask our own questions.

R' Soloveitchik observes further: Virtually every haftarah ends with words of consolation, but the haftarah for Tishah B'Av morning does not. Why? Because if it did, we would not be able to say kinot afterward. It is only because we are riding on the coat-tails of Yirmiyah, so-to-speak, that we are able to say kinot.

There is another reason why we cannot conclude this haftarah with consolation. The Sages say, "Do not console a mourner when his dead still lies before him." On Tishah B'Av morning, our sorrow is (hopefully) so intense that it is as if the Temple is in flames before our eyes and all the victims of all the pogroms in Jewish history lie before us. Under such circumstances, there can be no consolation.

(From a taped shiur delivered in Boston on Tishah B'Av 5739 / 1979)

Sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Jacob S. Edeson in honor of the birth of their grandson Dovid Levy and the second birthday of their grandson Max Ezra


Copyright © 2000 by Shlomo Katz and Project Genesis, Inc.
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further studyand discussion of Torah topics ("lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah"), andyour letters are appreciated. Web archives at Project Genesis start with 5758 (1997) and may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.Text archives from 1990 through the presentmay be retrieved from http://www.acoast.com/~sehc/hamaayan/. Donationsto HaMaayan are tax-deductible.

 
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