Rabbi David Zauderer
This Sunday is a very sad day for the Jewish people. It is known as Tishah Bíav, and on this day it is customary to fast and, in general, to act as a mourner who has lost a very dear relative.
This Sunday is a very sad day for the Jewish people. It is known as Tishah Bíav, and on this day it is customary to fast and, in general, to act as a mourner who has lost a very dear relative. You see, the Jewish people once had a special place where they could go to experience the divine presence of Hashem. That place was the holy Temple in the holy city of Jerusalem. Three times a year the Jews would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to witness for themselves G-dís place of dwelling here on earth. There they would pray to G-d and unite with one another. Then they would come home, bringing with them enough of a spiritual high to take them through to the next festival, when they would once again visit the Temple. It must have been an amazing experience, but, alas, in the year 70 C.E. all that was taken away from us when the Romans destroyed the Temple and exiled our ancestors to the four corners of the earth. Now, all that remains from that beautiful place is one wall ó the Western Wall.
To bring home the feeling of what we once had and what we subsequently lost, on Tishah Bíav we read the book of Eichah (Lamentations), which was written by the prophet Jeremiah upon witnessing the destruction of the First Temple, almost five hundreds years earlier.
In the last two verses of the book of Eichah (5:21-22), Jeremiah beseeches the Almighty, "Bring us back to you, O Lord, and we shall return; renew our days as once before. For if you have rejected us entirely, your wrath has been exceedingly great upon us."
The Netziv, the renowned dean of the Yeshiva of Volozhin in the late 19th century) explains the flow of these two verses as follows: A man has a servant that rebelled against him, The master, in his wrath, strikes his servant and throws him into the dungeon. The severity of these two punishments will greatly depend on what the master intends to do with this rebellious servant in the future. If he intends to get rid of the servant, he would probably refrain from striking him too much, as that would serve no purpose, since the servant is going to be sold away to someone else. Rather, the master just strikes the servant at the time of the servantís rebellion, but after that, he places him in the dungeon to be kept there for a long time, until someone will want to buy him.
If, on the other hand, the master intends to keep his servant, (since he enjoys the service provided him by his servant, despite the servantís rebellious nature) then the punitive measures that the master will take, will be just the opposite. The servant might be thrown into the dungeon for a very short time, but he will be severely punished and smitten, so as to teach him a lesson not to behave that way in the future. So the extent to which the servant is hit, reflects the intentions of the master to keep him on in his employ.
This is what Jeremiah was saying to Hashem. "You must still love us and want us as your people, never to reject us. For if it is your intention to get rid of us, then why has your wrath been so great upon us? It is evident from the amount of suffering that you have brought upon us, that you still want us. So bring us back to you, O Lord, and we shall indeed return!"
You only hurt the one you love. If we love our children enough, then weíll show them right from wrong, even if it hurts a little. Our children would rather hear us reprimand them harshly, when they deserve it, than to have us ignore them and not say a word.
The Torah tells us that the serpent that convinced Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit was punished from then on to crawl on its belly, and to eat from the dirt of the earth. The commentaries explain this to mean that the serpent would have all its food and nourishment readily accessible at all times.
Asks the great Chassidic rabbi, Simcah Bunim of Peshischa, what kind of curse is it that all the serpentís food would come from the earth, always available without ever having to go out searching for it ó we should all be so lucky! He answers that G-d was telling the serpent, "Here, take your food and else that you need to survive, and donít ever talk to me or ask me for anything ever again!" That is the biggest curse of all.
Sometimes, G-d hits us and we donít like it. But we should try to remember the words of the prophet Jeremiah. And as the children of our Father in heaven, we should try to appreciate that itís better to hear that the answer is "no," than not to hear any answer at all.
May we all merit to see the time when Tishah Bíav shall be changed from the saddest day of the year into the happiest day of the year, with the coming of Messiah. May this come speedily and in our day, amen.
Rabbi David Zauderer is a card-carrying member of the Atlanta Scholars Kollel.
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