Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Av 5763 - August 5, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The Key to Redemption: A Droshoh for Shabbos Nachamu

by HaRav Eliyohu Ze'ev Cochin, zt'l

One Parshah, Two Messages?

More than eighteen centuries have now passed since our exile from our land and the destruction of our Mikdosh, to which we are still prevented from ascending. Hashem's Hand is still outstretched against us; each day's curse is greater than that of the day before. We assume that this is all because our tefillos are not wholehearted and genuine. Were we all to pray to Hashem with all our hearts and were those prayers to be accompanied by tears -- a sure indication that prayer is truly from the heart, for tears cannot be shed if only one's lips move, without conviction, and in addition, "all the gates are closed except for the gates of tears" (Bovo Metzia 59) -- we would by now certainly have gone up to our land and been redeemed forever.

The parshah that we read every Shabbos Nachamu however, seems to contradict this. Moshe Rabbenu, who was equal in stature to all of bnei Yisroel, prayed and beseeched Hashem in tears: "And I begged Hashem at that time . . . `I will please pass over and see the good land . . .' But Hashem told him, `Enough . . . Do not speak to Me any more about this matter' " (Devorim 3:23-6). It is logical to argue that if Hashem did not accede to Moshe's prayers, why should He listen to ours?

Another point that we must understand is the gemora (Bovo Metzia 30) which says, "Yerushalayim was only destroyed because they ruled according to the Torah's law." It is hard to understand this -- should they have followed gentile laws?

A further problem is that we read the same parshah -- "When you beget children and grandchildren . . ." (Devorim 4:25), on both Tisha B'Av and on Shabbos Nachamu. I would have thought that we should be reading the second parshah of Tochochoh on Tisha B'Av, for every one of the ninety-eight curses it contains -- and more -- have befallen us. The curse, "And Hashem will make your sufferings wondrous" (28:59), which Chazal tell us refers to the deaths of righteous men, has been fulfilled with particular severity in recent times, with several of the world's greatest geonim and tzaddikim dying in hunger, misery and destitution. "When you beget children . . ." on the other hand, is suited to Shabbos Nachamu, for we hope to have fine offspring and all our efforts are directed to this goal. Those whom Hashem merits with children whose paths in life are pleasing to both Hashem and their fellow men, are among the happiest people in the world.

Our Own Efforts

I offer the following thoughts to explain these points. In an account of the life of Napoleon the First, Emperor of the French, I read that he once happened to be in the city of Posen on erev Tisha B'Av. Renowned geonim and tzaddikim lived there and all the city's Jews lived upright lives and observed every law in the Shulchan Oruch meticulously.

When Napoleon saw that the shops were closed and that everyone was going to the synagogues in mourning, he asked what the people were doing and why? Someone who spoke French explained that this was the day on which our Temple was destroyed and that the Sages had instituted it as day of mourning and remembrance, for on this bitter day we were exiled, our Temple was destroyed and tens of thousands of Jews were slaughtered in sanctification of Hashem's Name. Napoleon expressed his interest in seeing what the Jews did inside the synagogue. Together with his aides, he entered and saw everyone sitting on the floor, lamenting and crying.

Napoleon declared, "While I approve of your custom of having an annual remembrance of the land of your ancestors that you were exiled from, so that their offspring do not forget their roots, be aware that your salvation and tranquility will not come from this alone. Your sitting on the ground will not bring your ultimate redemption. It is merely momentary comfort, to give outward expression to the grief in your hearts. It would be better for you to take concrete steps that will be effective according to the natural order of things, like your ancestor Jacob did when he divided his household upon encountering his brother Esav. He readied himself to make peaceful overtures at first, then he prayed, begging G-d to grant him success in all his endeavors. If the gifts he tendered would be of no avail, he was prepared to go like a warrior in full strength to fight, relying on G-d to assist him."

This is the meaning of Chazal's statement that, "Every generation in which the Beis Hamikdosh is not rebuilt, is deemed as though it was destroyed therein." Each and every Jew is obliged to be a builder, rectifying whatever he can and consulting wise men as to how Tzion, Yerushalayim and Yiddishkeit may all be rebuilt together. We are not supposed to just sit and lament and rely totally on Hashem to bring Moshiach.

So long as we fail to rouse ourselves collectively, to build [our] souls and to rectify the shortcoming that caused our exile to begin with, healing the wound that festers deeply among us -- causeless hatred -- then all our waiting until now will have been in vain and we shall have to wait until the very latest date by which Moshiach will have to have arrived.

And in that eventuality too, we will already have repented, for we follow the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua, who says, "If they don't do teshuvoh then Hakodosh Boruch Hu will place a king over them whose decrees are worse than those of Homon and he will put them back on the right path" (Sanhedrin 97).

Achieving Unity

It is our duty to offer encouragement to ourselves individually and to our nation as a whole, rather than everyone embarking on his own initiative, following his own understanding, ideas and wishes. Our salvation will come about through broad discussion. Our nation's leaders and all the different groupings in Klal Yisroel should unite and not budge from the idea of Tzion and Yerushalayim. All the steps they take would then be firmly rooted in Torah and in our faith, and Yehuda would then certainly be saved and Klal Yisroel would dwell safely in Eretz Yisroel.

From the story of Megillas Esther, this is what appears to have taken place then. As we reflect upon the megilloh, we are struck by the Jewish nation's powerlessness at that time. Logic would dictate that when the decree to eradicate our nation became known, the Jews should have aroused themselves and sought ways of foiling Homon's plans. Wherever Jews lived, there should have been large meetings of all the people, irrespective of groupings, to choose sensible individuals to travel to the capital and appear before the king to hear him list all his misgivings about the Jews and prove to him that the entire nation was innocent of any wrongdoing and that they had been denounced by enemies, who libeled them with having committed things that they had never done.

In fact though, we see that, "wherever the king's word and law extended there was great mourning for the Jews" (4:3) but besides this, they did nothing. Only Mordechai pursued a "natural" path in search of deliverance, besides his extensive prayers and supplications to Hashem. He aroused the people to mend their ways and to repent and serve Hashem wholeheartedly -- "the Jews affirmed and accepted upon themselves" (9:27).

No longer would they serve Hashem with uncertainty. Henceforth, everything they did would be genuine and wholehearted. They would cast off the causeless hatred that they harbored in their hearts towards each other. Now they would truly unite. Each individual would do his utmost to follow a good and straight path. When the people accepted what he said, Mordechai knew that they would ultimately be saved, as actually happened. The decree was removed and the Jews once again dwelt in safety and security. As long as the sin of causeless hatred remained deep within their hearts though, Mordechai, "cried a great and bitter cry" (4:1).

The megilloh is thus testimony that unless we uproot this scourge that has been rooted among us since we were exiled from our land, we cannot hope for an improvement. The source of this jealousy is the fact that people considered their own ideas, that they developed on their own, as being much higher than divrei Torah. They considered themselves as being wise and they cast divrei Torah away and were guided by their own ideas and evil thoughts.

This is the meaning of the gemora [quoted earlier]: "Rabbi Yochonon said, `Yerushalayim was only destroyed because they ruled according to the Torah's law.' " It is universally acknowledged that the nation's salvation and its standing are entirely dependant upon providing the youth with a good education, teaching them to remain faithful to Hashem and to observe His mitzvos and to guard and strengthen their identity, not mingling with the other nations of the world. This can be achieved when we follow Torah's path, hearken to Klal Yisroel's elders and school our children in Talmud, which is "our life and the length of our days."

The Future of the Youth

This was Avrohom Ovinu's question, "How will I know that I will inherit it?" (Bereishis 15:8). He trusted completely in Hakodosh Boruch Hu's promise to give him the land and had no doubts about His fulfilling it. What he was unsure of was whether his descendants would continue to tread in his path.

Would they always see themselves as Avrohom's descendants and trace their origins to him? Would they never veer from the straight path and take after the gentiles that were living there? Were that to happen, the land's possession by wayward, evil sons would be worth nothing to him.

When Mordechai saw the Jewish children coming out of their school, he was glad and felt comforted regarding any troubles. He knew that if the children were learning Torah and growing up with Torah, the plans of the Jewish nation's enemies would all come to naught. So long as there are youth who are faithful to their People and their Torah, none of the other nations' plotting and planning to wipe us out will be effective.

Dovid Hamelech said, "From the mouths of babies and young children, You have established strength, to stop enemies and avengers" (Tehillim 8:3). We can thus understand what would have happened had they not ensured that their children were receiving a Torah education and had instead been learning from the gentiles' ways.

This is why part of our mourning on Tisha B'Av is to read the parshah, "When you beget children and grandchildren . . . and you become corrupt and make idols and images . . . and you do what is evil in the eyes of Hashem . . . angering Him." The education of the youth was on a very low level and was disorderly. The education purveyed by the maskilim who have recently come on the scene, casting away the old type of education, of learning Torah, Nevi'im and Kesuvim and then gemora with children, is based instead on the "methods" that they themselves invent. Woe to the ears that hear how they have made our religion obsolete!

Read the sefer, Chomas Hadas, by the gaon and tzaddik, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Hacohen of Radin shlita [zt'l]. Nobody attends to putting Jewish education right, restoring it to its former state, where fine fruits were implanted within the hearts of Jewish youngsters, who are [now instead] wayward.

One Parshah, One Message

Let us reflect upon our terribly difficult times. We are surrounded by troubles that have overcome us and are unbearable. No one is concerned with strengthening Torah, particularly in our city, where thousands of Jewish children are growing up without [Torah] education. They know nothing at all about how Jews conduct themselves. In Europe, it was the responsibility of a town's rov to put right all that needed correction. The rov was the leader and everyone listened to what he said. It was therefore his responsibility to take action so that everything was run in a Torah spirit.

It is with regret that we must acknowledge the truth about ourselves [and our position]. In this land of freedom, Orthodox Rabbis are unable to rectify anything, or to arrange anything that needs correction, according to Torah, unless they have the assistance of the town's G-d fearing and important householders. Woe to us for this shame and disgrace! Boorishness increases virtually every day, while something as fundamental as raising our children to follow the good and straight path, that is pleasing to both G-d and man, is ignored and is viewed by them as an unnecessary luxury. They don't listen to those who reprove them.

The breath of children who learn Torah shields us and rescues us from all troubles and protects us from everything untoward. Especially now, when destruction is rampant wherever Jews live. Anyone who is able to, will be doing a great mitzvah by opening talmudei Torah and implanting Torah's spirit in the hearts of Jewish children so that Torah does not leave them, even when they grow up. This is the promise of the novi Yeshayoh, "And all your sons will be disciples of Hashem and your sons' peace will be great" (54:13, Brochos 64). Once there are genuine talmudei Torah, Klal Yisroel will be comforted: "I, I am your comforter . . ." Then, there will be "everlasting joy over their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them and anguish and sighs will flee" (ibid. 51:11-2).

We thus read, "When you beget children and grandchildren . . ." to comfort us on Shabbos Nachamu, because the novi has promised us that all our children will be Hashem's disciples and will observe His mitzvos. Our main comfort will be that everyone merit having fine, upright offspring. This is why Hashem did not accept Moshe Rabbenu's prayers to bring him into Eretz Yisroel. Hashem knew that Moshe Rabbenu would be unable to witness the path that the sons would take, casting off the yoke of Torah and choosing twisted paths.

A Prayer and the Response

Someone who has lived a good and pleasant life, who has borne the crown of Torah and within whose heart faith in Hashem is firmly rooted, may go anywhere and may become extremely wealthy but he will not readily take the step of throwing off the yoke of Torah and mitzvos and following a different path. Not so someone who has grown up in poverty and whose fortunes changed, making him wealthy. He is in greater danger of becoming proud and forgetting Hashem's Torah and of drifting far away, on a path that is foreign to his forbears, to the point where he forgets Klal Yisroel and his own origins.

To begin with, Hashem knew that when Klal Yisroel entered Eretz Yisroel, they would cast off the fetters of Torah, in the astonishment and sudden joy at having left slavery for freedom. They had performed crushing labor in Egypt and were now suddenly entering the Land. They were seeing its abundant stores filled with good things and its fertile and fruitful soil yielding heavy crops. Each man now lived peacefully and tranquilly under his own vine and fig tree and amassed more gold and silver each day.

Hashem knew [that the result would be] that they would forget Him and adopt the habits of the nations that were living around them. They would no longer say that Hashem had done everything for them, had taken them out of the Egyptian furnace and given them other nations' land and the fruits of other people's toil, showing His might to His nation so that they would observe His laws and guard His Torah.

Hashem thus told Moshe, "Enough . . . don't speak to Me any more about this matter . . ." -- because it won't be good for you to go into the Land and be witness to the evil of them turning from Hashem's path.

By nature, Moshe Rabbenu tended towards anger -- he said, "Let the law pierce the mountain." Several Rishonim explain that the sin of Mei Merivoh happened because he became angry and said, "Listen now, you rebels" (Bamidbor 20:10). Because of the power of his great wisdom, he also had an additional measure of anger, as the gemora says, "the Torah makes him boil" (Taanis 4). In his anger at witnessing that which Hashem knew would happen, he might harm Klal Yisroel and many might be lost, as happened after Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai came out of his cave: wherever he looked, was immediately burned (Shabbos 33).Hashem however, is slow to anger, even towards evildoers.

May the eyes of all of Klal Yisroel be opened to see the fire that burns His people and set themselves to putting it out with the water of Torah -- as the posuk says, "Hey, every thirsty person, go to the water . . ." (Yeshayoh 55:1) -- and to strengthening the talmudei Torah. Then, our true redeemer will come and we will be saved forever, omein.

HaRav Eliyohu Ze'ev Cochin zt'l was a rov in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This droshoh for Shabbos Nachamu was published in his sefer Aderes Eliyohu in 5677-1917. The sefer includes letters about him from HaRav Chaim Soloveitchik and HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.