Perashat Debarim 5777
Perashat Debarim 5777Friday, July 28, 2017
Every year Perashat Debarim is read on the Shabbat preceding Tish'a B'Ab. Therefore it follows that there must be a strong connection between our perasha and the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and Jerusalem, as described in Megillat Eikha, The Book of Lamentations, which we read on Tish'a B'Ab. Among the parallels between the two texts is the use of the word "Eikha", a rare rendition of the word "How".
In this week's perasha, Moshe asks Hashem, "Eikha esa levadi...", "How can I alone (carry your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels?)". (Debarim 1:12) As the Perasha continues, Moshe reminds the nation of Israel about the episode of the Meraglim, the scouts who were sent to survey the land and came back with a negative report that demoralized the people and caused them to doubt Hashem's ability to help them conquer the mighty Cana'anites. The people were so convinced that they would be doomed if they ventured into the Land of Israel, that the Torah tells us that "the people wept that night" (Bemidbar 14:1). The Talmud, in Ta'anit 29, says that G-d then declared, "They indulged in weeping without a cause; I will establish [this night] for them [as a time of] weeping throughout the generations". Our tradition teaches us that this night was Tish'a B'Ab, the date when both the Temples were destined to be destroyed, and when many other tragedies eventually took place throughout Jewish history. Through this explanation, we see a direct correlation between the sin of the Meraglim and the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash.
However, in Yoma 21b, the Talmud says that the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed because of Sinat Hinam, baseless hatred between Jews. What then is the real cause of the destruction? Is it the episode of the Meraglim in the desert or the baseless hatred between the Jews?
Perhaps we can explain that these two seemingly opposing reasons for the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash are actually one and the same. The very act of sending the twelve scouts, one from each tribe, stemmed from the distrust between tribes. Each tribe wanted to send their own delegate because no one trusted the other. This baseless hatred was the root of the problem that eventually led to the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. It is interesting to note that the second time scouts were sent to see the Land of Israel, under Yehoshua's leadership, only two were needed.
What quarrels then is Moshe Rabbenu referring to when he asks "Eikha esa levadi...", "How can I alone (carry your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels)?" Don Yisshak Abravanel comments that Moshe is referring to the internal wars and disputes and baseless hatred between the members of the nation of Israel that were expressed in the episode of the scouts.
The prophet Yirmiyahu expresses this notion as well in the opening verse of Megillat Eikha: "Eikha yash'eva badad?", "How does she sit in solitude?". Why is she, the nation of Israel, sitting in solitude? The answer is that when there is hatred between people, each one sits in solitude, by themselves.
Our sages teach us that the way to rectify the sin of Sinat Hinam is with Ahavat Hinam, loving others freely without judgement. In these days, when we mourn the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, let us strengthen ourselves in this respect, first beginning at home, and then extending to our coworkers and acquaintances, especially those who may be from a different community or denomination.
Finally, we should take note of the beautiful prayer of the No'am Elimelekh, R. Elimelekh of Liszensk: "Please save us from the envy of one another, and let no envy for others come into our hearts, nor our envy of others. Rather, let our hearts see the virtues of our friends, and not their faults. Let us speak to each other in a way that is seemly and worthy before You, and let no hatred emerge in us towards another, G-d forbid."
May 31 2020
Sivan 8 5780