Dvrei Torah

  • July 24, 2015

    I wanted to share portions of the following thought on Parshat Devarim from Rav Eliakim Koenigsberg, Rosh Yeshiva at YU.

    Parshas Devorim is always read the Shabbos before Tisha B'Av. Many think it is because of the posuk "eichaesal'vadi" which is read in the tune of Eicha. But there is also an important conceptual connection between the parsha and Tisha B'Av.                                                                 

    In his rebuke of Bnei Yisrael, Moshe Rabbeinu focuses much of his attention on the sin of the spies. At first glance, the sin of the spies lay in the fact that the spies and the people refused to trust that Hashem would be able to keep his promise to take them into Eretz Yisrael and defeat the nations living there. But in this week's parsha the Torah adds another dimension to the story. In describing how the people asked him to send spies, Moshe says, "Va'tikrivuneilaykulchem - and all of you approached me." Rashi comments, "kulchem, b'irbuviyah" - the word kulchem implies they came as a mixed-up, confused throng of people. They didn't come in an organized fashion, with the leaders in front, followed by the elders, and then the younger people. Rather, everyone came together, as one mass, with each one pushing the other.

    This highlighted an even bigger problem - the people felt that they had to take charge. But the question is: who is running the show? Is it my intelligence, my insight, my effort, that enables me to accomplish? Or are my efforts just a vehicle to enable Hashem to bring me success? The difference is subtle, but critical. This was the underlying mistake of Bnei Yisrael. It wasn't the fact that they sent spies; it was the way they went about sending the spies. They lost perspective. They forgot that Hashem is the One who is really in control. So they pushed their way to Moshe to demand action.

    "You cried an unnecessary cry; so I will establish a cry for generations" (Ta'anis 29a). Chazal tell us that the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash on Tisha B'Av was a response to the crying of Bnei Yisrael upon hearing the report of the spies. The loss of the Beis HaMikdash is not just a punishment for the sin of the spies, but is also the result of the same improper perspective that led to the sin in the first place. Since the Beis HaMikdash is the primary dwelling of the Shechina in this world, the Beis HaMikdash should naturally be a place where a person achieves absolute clarity in his perspective on life. In the shadow of the Beis HaMikdash all selfish motivations should disappear. A person should appreciate that "life is not about me," and he should accept to serve Hashem as fully as possible.

    And yet, during the first Beis HaMikdashKlal Yisrael engaged in murder and immorality, both of which stem from a self-centered attitude. They served avodahzarah even in the Beis HaMikdash itself. What greater act of hubris against Hashem can there be! The second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of sinaschinam - baseless hatred (Yoma9b). The Vilna Gaon writes (Even Shleimah 3:2) that the cause of sinaschinam is a lack of bitachon in Hakadosh Boruch Hu. A person who believes that he has to get ahead of others in order to succeed in life will naturally feel jealousy and hatred toward those he perceives as his competitors.

    When Klal Yisrael fails to appreciate the gift of the Beis HaMikdash and engages in behavior that runs counter to everything the Beis HaMikdash stands for, if we get too wrapped up in ourselves and we forget the lesson of the spies, then Hakadosh Boruch Hu has no choice but to remove the Beis HaMikdash, to take extreme measures to help us regain the proper perspective. May the day of Tisha B'Av give us the clarity of vision to serve Hashem properly, and in that merit may we see the rebuilding of the Beis Ha Mikdash speedily in our days.