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1 Av 5766 - July 26, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Why Was the Land Lost?

A Compendium of Remarks from Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv shlita

Part II

This is a collection of various remarks by Maran HaRav Eliashiv about the Churban. Each stands on its own.

Because They Left My Torah

It is ruled in Orach Chaim (747): "One must be extremely careful to recite birchos HaTorah." The Mishnah Berurah (par. 2) writes that one should thank Hashem for choosing us and giving us the vessel that He covets, and cites what Chazal teach us on the posuk, "`Why was the land lost?' — that no one in that generation was able to answer that question. Only HaKodosh Boruch Hu, Who knows a person's inner feelings, knew that although they were engaged in Torah study, that study wasn't important enough for them to recite a brochoh on it."

The Mishnah Berurah (ibid.) adds that Chazal reveal to us that a person is not zocheh to a son who is a talmid chochom if he is not careful to recite birchos haTorah.

Externally no difference could be discerned. We could not discern anything lacking in their Torah commitment. Even the nevi'im and chachomim were asked why the land was lost but they were unable to offer any answer. Only Hashem answered that they left My Torah— that they did not recite a brochoh before studying Torah. At that time they [still] studied Torah. They studied it diligently and fulfilled, "This book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth" (Yehoshua 1:8). The problem was that they could not possibly transmit the Torah to the coming generation. The next generation would not receive the Torah from them since they felt that in the hearts of the people trying to transmit the Torah that Torah study is not important enough. The result: spiritual deterioration of future generations.

[Collection of Teshuvos III Mili De'Agodoh p. 162]

Request of R' Yochonon ben Zakai from Caesar Aspasyanus

Concerning ma'aser sheini the Torah writes (Devorim 14:23): "So that you will learn to fear Hashem your G-d." The Tosafos (Bovo Basra 21a s.v., Ki MiTziyon) cite the Sifrei : "The significance of ma'aser sheini is its causing one to study [Torah]." Since bnei Yisroel would remain in Yerushalayim until they finished eating their ma'aser sheini and they would see everyone engaged in meleches Shomayim and avodas Hashem, they too would direct their hearts to be lesheim Shomayim and engage in Torah study."

The Torah describes the impression that Yerushalayim left on anyone visiting there. "Our feet would stand in your gates Yerushalayim" (Tehillim 122:2). When a guest would visit Yerushalayim and see how the Jews acted he would be so excited that he would stand frozen in his place, unable to move.

Chazal (Brochos 17b) teach us: "Those who live in Mechoza are hardhearted. Two times a year they see the honor of the Torah but none of them converted to Judaism." Rashi explains (ibid., s.v. Shevochoh deOraisa): "Jews would gather [in Mechoza] to hear the halochos of Pesach, and in Elul to hear the halochos of Succos." These non-Jews would see how the Jews would abandon their homes and all lusts of this world in order to convene to hear the word of Hashem. If those non-Jews were not hardhearted, what they saw would have naturally left a great impression on them. The posuk therefore tells us, "Their feet would stand"—the Jews visiting Yerushalayim were simply enchanted and unable to budge.

After Shlomoh Hamelech completed the building of the Beis Hamikdosh all of Yisroel assembled and brought up the Oron Hakodesh to Yerushalayim. The posuk writes, "And the Cohanim brought the Oron, the testimony of Hashem, to its place . . . to the Kodesh Kodoshim . . . nothing was in the Oron except the two Luchos that Moshe placed there in Chorev when Hashem made a covenant with bnei Yisroel" (Divrei HaYomim II 5:7). Why would we possibly presume that something else was put there besides the Luchos and the sefer Torah that were in the Oron?

"There were ten kedushos one higher than the other — the Heichal, the Ulom, the Ezras Cohanim, Ezras Yisroel, Ezras Noshim, the Cheil, Har Habayis, Yerushalayim, the cities surrounded by a wall and the other cities" (Yalkut Shimoni, Bamidbar ch.5, Remez 695). The posuk reveals to us that all of these tremendous levels of kedushoh stem from one source: "The Oron had only two Luchos and a sefer Torah." On that, all of our happiness depended. Where is all of our happiness? Only in this sefer Torah.

Therefore when Rabban Yochonon ben Zakai found favor in the eyes of Aspasyanus who told him: "Ask from me something and I will give it to you" (Gittin 56b), R' Yochonon ben Zakai did not request from Aspasyanus to leave the Beis Hamikdosh but he rather requested, "Give me Yavneh and its scholars," since he clearly saw that the Beis Hamikdosh did not have such a great influence any more on the life of the nation.

[Collection of Teshuvos III Mili De'Agodoh, p. 276]

Minchah of Yehuda and Yerushalayim

"R' Shimon bar Nachmani said (Bereishis Rabba 33): `How unfortunate are the reshoim who turn the middoh of rachamim to the middoh of din . . . How fortunate are the tzaddikim who turn the middoh of din to rachamim, as is written (Bereishis 8:1), `And Elokim (middoh of din) remembered Noach.' When Noach left the ark the Torah writes (Bereishis 8:20-21), `Then Noach built a mizbeiach to Hashem . . . Hashem smelled the pleasant aroma.'" From this saying of Chazal (Bereishis Rabba 34) we learn that HaKodosh Boruch Hu sensed in Noach's korbon the smell of Avrohom Ovinu who ascended from the furnace of fire, and the smell of Chananyah, Misho'el and Azaryah. This was the smell of shmad, meaning the smell of all those who endangered their lives for Hashem.

About this matter, Chazal (Vayikra Rabba 7) expound: "`And it was pleasant to Hashem the minchah of Yehuda and Yerushalayim, like the days of the world and previous years' (Malachi 3:4). Rebbe says, `Like the days of the world' — like the days of Noach, as is written, `This is like the waters of Noach for me. `And like previous years' — like the days of Hevel when there was no avodoh zorah in the world."

"In the times of Hevel" the world was clean since no avodoh zorah existed at all at that time. However, in the days of Noach the world became already a little "richer." Although the Mabul destroyed the whole inhabited area, the air was not altogether pure. Nonetheless Noach's korbon was pleasant to Hashem.

And we pray that may it be that the minchah of Yehuda and Yerushalayim should be pleasant like Noach's korbon. We pray for this since we see that because of his korbon, HaKodosh Boruch Hu said that, "Because this is like the water of Noach for me about which I swore."

[Collection of Teshuvos III Mili De'Agodoh, p. 318]

Upon Your Walls Yerushalayim

We learned (Middos 1:1): "The Cohanim guard in three places in the Beis Hamikdosh: in Beis Avtinos where they would make the incense, in the Beis HaNitzotz where they would bring fire for the mizbeiach since it was a mitzvah to bring fire from mortals, and in the Beis HaMoked where there was a large bonfire to keep the Cohanim warm."

Who was in charge of this guarding? The rovim, meaning the young Cohanim, were the guards. "Upon your walls O Yerushalayim I have assigned guards" (Yeshayohu 62:6). Torah needs strengthening and guarding so that the "the permanent fire upon the mizbeiach will not become extinguished," that the Cohanim will not become cold and will be able to daily sacrifice the temidim.

[Collection of Teshuvos III Mili De'Agodoh, p. 385]

Why Was the Second Beis Hamikdosh Destroyed?

"This teaches you that the taharoh of keilim bothered them more than bloodshed. It is not clear [how they came to consider them equivalent,] if spilling blood was cheap by them or that the taharoh of keilim was considered more severe to them. Since the gemora writes, `And also Menasheh spilt clean blood,' we understand that bloodshed was cheap by them" ( Yoma 23a).

This needs some explanation. The story (ibid.) about Rebbe Tzodok [concerning two Cohanim who were running down the ramp of the mizbeiach and one pushed the other off it] happened during the Second Beis Hamikdosh, and we learned above in the gemora, "There was neither avodoh zorah in the second Beis Hamikdosh, nor was their illicit relations, nor was there bloodshed." If so, how could the gemora possibly bring proof from Menasheh since Menasheh lived during the First Beis Hamikdosh? The Maharsha in his Chidushei Aggodos discusses this grave difficulty.

It seems to me that we can explain as follows: The gemora (Avodoh Zorah 8b) writes that a hundred and eighty years before the Beis Hamikdosh was destroyed, the Sanhedrin was exiled and resided in Chanuyos. The gemora explains that the Sanhedrin was moved because, "they saw many murderers and were unable to study Torah. They therefore decided it was preferable to go into exile so that it would not obligate them. Apparently forty years before the Churban there were many murderers— meaning there was much bloodshed.

According to what Chazal (quoted above) tell us: "In the Second Beis Hamikdosh that there was no avodoh zorah, gilui arayos and spilling of blood, why was it destroyed? They teach: "It was destroyed because of unjustified hatred." In the beginning of the Churban, which was a hundred-and-eighty years before the final Churban, the Roman kingdom took control and that marked the beginning of the Churban. At that time they were spiritually deficient because of "unjustified hatred" but they did not transgress the three primary sins. However, later on, forty years before the Churban, they were engaged also in bloodshed. Therefore the gemora does well in its citing the posuk of Menasheh since he was an example of such.

[Kuntros Halichos VeHanhogos]

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