Ve’eschanan 5778

RABBI NOAM KUTOFF

 

Sin>Punishment>Comfort

The Midrash says, “in that which they sinned so they were punished and with that they will be comforted.” The Midrash then proceeds to list off the many ways they sinned: with their head, ears, nose etc.

The Etz Yosef explains that there is a natural progression from sin to punishment to Nechama, consolation. The punishment came Middah K’neged Middah. Bnei Yisrael sinned with their head, נתנה ראש ונשובה מצרים; therefore, they were punished with on their heads, כל ראש לחלי. This caused them to realize their sin and do Teshuva for it. When one does Teshuva Me’ahavah, it causes the Aveiros to be transformed into Ze’chuyos; therefore, they will be comforted, ויעבור מלכם לפניהם וה׳ בראשם.

Double Sin>Double Punishment>Double Comfort

The Midrash concludes that Klal Yisrael sinned doubly, חטא חטאה ירושלים, and they were punished doubly, כי לקתה מיד ה׳ כפליים בכל חטאותיה. And they were doubly comforted, נחמו נחמו עמי יאמר אלוקכם. The Meforshim ask, what is the nature of a double sin? It does not indicate simply that Bnei Yisrael sinned twice. How does Hashem punish twice as much as an Aveira? Lastly, how does the progression of sin, punishment, and Nechama apply to a ‘double’ sin?

Double Sin

The Nefesh HaChaim (2,12) Ruach Chaim (3,2) explain the Tza’ar of Hashem in every Cheit with a Mashal. A boy in his drunken stupor falls and breaks his neck. The boy is unaware of his condition but his father is greatly pained by the peril to his son’s life. The doctors save the boy with painful bandages.  The son awakens and cries because of the agonizing pain. This is also a source of pain to the father.  When a person does an Aveira, he causes tremendous damage and upheaval in Shamayim, to the point that he can cut himself off from his spiritual source. Hashem, with an immense amount of mercy, sends punishments to be Mesaken the Aveira. The pain this causes the person is an additional source of pain to Hashem. This is hinted at in the aforementioned Pasuk: they were punished doubly בכל חטאותיה B’chol Chatoseha, in all of their sins, not ככל חטאותיה, like all their sins. In each Aveira there is a double Cheit; therefore they are punished doubly for it.

Double Punishment

The Gemara (Taanis 2a) says that only three keys are not given over to an emissary. The Ra’avad points out even though the punishment of Reshaim is also done by Hashem, “Hashem has opened up His storage and taken out His weapons of anger” (Yirmiyahu 50:25). Yet it is not a “key” retained by Hashem exclusively, as he commonly punishes the wicked through Malachim. On special occasions such as Makas Bechoros, Ona’as Devorim, one who degrades a Tzadik, or the aforementioned Pasuk in Yirmiyahu that describes paying back Bavel for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the future Geulah, Hashem himself repays the wicked. The Parashat Drochim (23) explains that to be punished by a Malach is more demeaning, as is the rule Hakol L’fi Hamivayesh. On the other hand, the punishment inflicted by Hashem himself is with a stronger expression of wrath.

The Pasuk says, “From up high he sent fire in my cities” (Eicha 1:13), i.e., a punishment via messengers. The Midrash says if we would have been worthy we would read אש תמיד תוקד על המזבח, “a constant fire burning on the Mizbeach.” Instead, we must read ממרום שלח אש, “from the heavens He sent fire.” From the first Pasuk we learn that even though we had fire from Shamayim on the Mizbeach, there is a Mitzvah to put our own fire, as a sign of our endearment to Hashem. This is followed by the second Pasuk that says we are so degraded that we are punished by messengers.

The Gemara (Yoma 54b) says when the non-Jews came into the Heichal, they found the Keruvim embracing one another. They then proceeded to publicly display the images so as to humiliate Bnei Yisrael. The Meforshim ask, why at the time of Churban, when Klal Yisrael deserved punishments, were the Keruvim facing each other, which is a sign of closeness to the Shechina?

The Parashat Drochim explains with a Midrash that even when Bnei Yisrael are undeserving, the Shechina does not leave them. סלה כל אבירי ה׳ בקרבי קרא עלי מועד לשבר בחורי, “Trampled my strong ones (tzdikim) Hashem is in my midst, he called it a Moed to break my young men” (Eicha 1:15). The Pasuk is answering the question, “How is it that when Hashem kills the Tzadikim, the Shechina is still close?”  It must be that even though we are not doing the will of Hashem, He is still among us, because קרא עלי מועד לשבר בחורי, “He called it a Moed to break my young men.”

The Keruvim facing each other at the time of the Churban was a sign of the Shechina’s closeness. Hashem came close to punish Bnei Yisrael with Misas Tzadikim. Due to Bnei Yisrael’s special status as children of Hashem, their Aveira is doubled, bringing both punishments from Malachim that is degrading and from Hashem with an outpouring of wrath.

Double Comfort

However, the Parashat Drochim finishes his explanation with the following Midrash. Hashem says to Klal Yisrael, “Ingrates the sons of ingrates! I said, כה אמר ה׳ גאלכם קדוש ישראל למענכם שלחתי בבלה, ‘for your sake I (Hashem) was sent to Bavel’ (Yeshaya 43:14) and you say ‘He called it a Moed’”?  Bnei Yisrael explain the closeness of the Keruvim by accusing Hashem of rejoicing in our downfall. In fact, the reason for the intertwined Keruvim was to show that when we are sent into exile, Hashem “exiles Himself” together with us, to show the non-Jewish nations that He did not and will not trade away His nation. The punishment must be inflicted with an outpouring of wrath because of Hashem’s closeness. However, his closeness is a result of our special status, for which Hashem will never leave us, even in Galus.

Collective Consciousness

Rav Chaim Volozhiner says there is a Gezeira that those who passed away will be forgotten after twelve months. That we continue to mourn Yerushalayim after all these years is a clear proof that Yerushalayim is still alive. All who mourn Yerushalayim (presently) see it in its happiness (Taanis 30b). Even as we mourn Yerushalayim, we are comforted by the fact that it lives on in the collective consciousness of Klal Yisrael.

Aveilus of Yerushalayim

There is a Mitzvah to honor and respect one’s parents and teachers. The reason given is not that they need our respect, but for us. In order for us to gain from them, we must use the medium of Kavod. However, to continue to gain from what is no longer there, we must mourn their loss. It has been explained that this is the reason why Aveilus for a parent is stricter then for a child r”l, even though losing a parent is Derech HaOlam, the normal way of the world, and a child is not. A person’s Yesod, foundation, in life are the previous generations. He looks to his past to build his future. When his past has been lost, he must reclaim it through mourning.

But Yerushalayim is not dead! Our Aveilus of Yerushalayim does more than guide us based on the memory of our glorious past. The Shelah writes that when one mourns Yerushalayim and the Tza’ar of the Shechina properly, he is in fact building Yerushalayim. It is because even the actual building of the Beis HaMikdash does not push off Shabbos that our mourning on Tisha B’Av is pushed off until Sunday. On the day of the Churban, Moshiach was born. This is a Remez, hint, that it is through our mourning of its destruction that we will be Zoche to its rebuilding.

Nefesh HaChaim (1,4) says the main purpose of the Beis HaMikdash was not to have the Shechina dwell in it. The main purpose of the Beis HaMikdash was for each person to make of himself a Beis HaMikdash, so that the Shechina would reside within him. When Bnei Yisrael destroyed the Beis HaMikdash of themselves, by making themselves unfit for the Shechina, then it was a matter of course that the building of the Beis HaMikdash would be destroyed. Our mourning of the Beis HaMikdash brings us to live with its memory as a guiding light. This  is its rebuilding, for when we are built up, so will be the Beis HaMikdash.

Rav Yaakov, Magid of Vilna, said that people have a hard time mourning Yerushalayim not because Yerushalayim is dead, but because we have become dead to it! The double Nechama, born of our Aveilus, is that Yerushalayim and Hashem’s presence are alive and well within the Jewish nation, and we are also alive in the process of the re-building of Yerushalayim.

Double Sin>Double Punishment>Double Comfort

Due to our place as the nation of Hashem’s children, Klal Yisrael caused a double Cheit. We were punished with a double tiered punishment by Hashem in meting out our punishment with an outpouring of wrath. But this is in fact the first step of our survival and Nechama – Hashem’s presence in our midst. Through our being “alive” to the Tza’ar of the Shechina in Galus, we build ourselves into the Beis HaMikdash we were meant to be. This process will culminate with the building of the third Beis HaMikdash. It will then become clear that there was never anything to mourn for, as it was all Le’tov.

מה יתאונן אדם חי – What should a man who is alive complain about? (Eicha 3:39). The Gemara (Kiddushin 80b) explains the Pasuk as meaning, “It is enough that he is alive!” Maadanei Shmuel cites Rav Elya Lopian, quoting Rav Itzel Petersburg, saying, “Imagine a rich man who is on the road with millions of dollars to invest. He gets held up by robbers and they take his fortune and beat him to within an inch of death. When he wakes up in the hospital he starts crying. Someone comes over to him and asks, “What are you crying about? At least you’re alive!” Although this is the image that comes to mind, it is not the meaning of the Pasuk. The proper lesson would be that instead of making off with his fortune, they merely took a few bills from his wallet, and he escaped all harm. The value of being alive, and what we can do with life, surmounts all other losses.

The Pasuk in Eicha finishes, גבר על חטאו. Rashi comments, all he has to mourn over are his own Aveiros, as they are the cause of all his misery. The three weeks of Puruniyos, culminating in Tisha B’Av, are followed by seven weeks of Nechama, which are followed by two Haftorahs of Teshuva. The entire process has roots in the first three weeks and culminates with Teshuva, and finally the third Beis HaMikdash.