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23 Tammuz 5763 - July 23, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
A Thought for the Three Weeks

By HaRav Avrohom Baharan zt"l

We are now in the Three Weeks when we mourn the destruction and loss of the Beis Hamikdash. The more we understand the value of what was lost, the stronger is our longing for our redemption. There are many facets of this loss, but I want to focus on one aspect, and to demonstrate how we are attempting to replace our loss until the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdosh, let it be bimheiroh veyomeinu, speedily, in our times.

The Midrash Tanchuma in parshas Ki Sovo says: Tzofoh Moshe beruach hakodesh vero'oh sheBeis Hamikdash osid leheichoreiv vehabikurim asidim lehiposeik -- Moshe Rabbenu saw with ruach hakodesh that the Beis Hamikdash will one day be destroyed and that the mitzvah of bikkurim, bringing in the first fruits, will be canceled. Omad vehiskeen leYisroel sheyihiyu mispallelim sheloshoh pe'omim bechol yom -- As a result he established three daily prayers.

There is a question here: The service in the Beis Hamikdash includes many elements -- what about the different sacrifices, the incense, the candles? Why does the Midrash only mention Moshe Rabbenu's concern about bringing bikkurim? Why then, was tefillah chosen to replace bikkurim, and not to take the place of other components of the actual service, the avodoh?

From this we see the importance attached to the lesson of the bikkurim in the Beis Hamikdosh. All parts of the avodoh were of course very exalted but the bikkurim had a special lesson in that they emphasized that every Jew is equal in worth to everyone else.

How so? With the other korbonos, an ordinary Jew cannot bring them to the mizbeiach -- only a Kohen is allowed to bring them to the mizbeiach, and bringing them to the mizbeiach is part of the avodoh. The only offering that a Jew can himself bring to the mizbeiach is bikkurim. In the mitzvah of bringing the first fruits, each head of a household brings his own offering, by himself, to the mizbeiach, and in this way performs what is otherwise the job of the Kohen -- the owner brings his first fruits in the basket and puts it next to the mizbeiach.

With bikkurim each Jew feels his own individual identity without being a part of the crowd, because he does it by himself. Here we comprehend the first part of the Midrash about the special quality of the first fruit offering and how, in its absence we lost a bit of our unique relationship with Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

Now we will explain where tefilloh comes in to fill the void created by the absence of bikkurim. Davening as a necessity for the human soul. Davening is the chariot on which our personal requests rise up to Hashem. It is our direct line to Hashem; our source of comfort in times of distress.

As Dovid Hamelech wrote in Tehillim (65:3): Shomei'ah tefillah odecha kol bosor yovo'u -- You hear prayer; unto You all flesh come. Dovid Hamelech is teaching us here that, "all are equal before Him in prayer" (Shemos Rabbah 21:4). Prayer equalizes all men and places them on the same level.

How does this take place? When a person davens, he must conduct himself as if the Shechinah is immediately in front of him (Sanhedrin 22a). When he is davening, he sets up a partition between himself and his surroundings, in order to better unite with his Maker. Through this union of man with his Creator, he reveals and expresses his own uniqueness. When he sees Hashem in front of him he forgets the world and is truly immersed in himself.

When else can he fully share his inner self with others? A person's inner self is just that -- it is inside. When he cannot bring the first fruits since there is no Holy Sanctuary, there is also an inability to express his inner self. This, in turn, causes loneliness.

One of the ways to ease loneliness is to first learn to be acquainted with your inner self. Joining a group won't help. Loneliness is not a craving for companionship but a longing for self-revelation, a desire to maximize one's potential and develop one's talents. The best way to accomplish this is through actions. The opposite of loneliness is therefore not companionship but rather creativity and self- expression.

A connection with Hakodosh Boruch Hu reduces the feeling of being alone, thereby causing the person to be more independent. When we subjugate ourselves to Hakodosh Boruch Hu we free ourselves from subservience. As it says in the Kuzari: Avodas haBorei hi hacheirus ha'amitis -- Service to Hashem is the true freedom. The free person can express his essence through his own capacities.

In the time of the Beis Hamikdash the Children of Israel stood next to each other in its Chotzer, where it was extremely crowded. However, when they bowed down, even though they prostrated themselves there was plenty of room for everyone. This was of course a miracle. It gave each one his own place without anyone else interfering. Just as those who at any time stand crowded -- omdim tzefufim --in the midst of a community of people, can also reach a level of mishtachavim revochim: they can prostrate themselves and still have room, not only physically but also emotionally.

So, just as the bikkurim is the offering of the individual and vital for the Jew's personal self- expression, so the tefillos are a substitute forum of self- expression. Our tefillos today are the outpouring of our souls -- until the time when we will be redeemed with the building of the third Beis Hamikdash -- it should be quickly in our time, Omen.

From the Hebrew sefer of HaRav Avrohom Baharan, Society and its Influences.

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