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SEEING IS BELIEVING

by Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Traditionally, the Shabbat before Tishah B'Av is called "Shabbat Chazon". The reason is that the Haftorah begins with the words "Chazon Yeshayahu - A vision of Isaiah."

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Traditionally, the Shabbat before Tishah B'Av is called "Shabbat Chazon". The reason is that the Haftorah begins with the words "Chazon Yeshayahu - A vision of Isaiah." However, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, a great Chassidic Rebbe of the 19th century, offered another insight into this name. Shabbat Chazon is so called because on this Shabbat the neshamah (soul) of every Jew is shown a vision of the third Beit HaMikdash (Temple).

Divine Providence has it that Parshat Devarim is read every year on the Shabbat before Tishah B'Av. Hence, there must be a connection between this special vision allotted to our souls and the reading of Parshat Devarim this week.

The Talmud in Tractate Megillah points out some of the differences between the first four books of the Torah and the book of Deuteronomy. One distinction is that Deuteronomy represents Moses' "last will and testament" to the generation that entered the land of Israel, while the first four books were said to the generation of the desert. What is the difference between these two generations? It has been explained that the "generation of the desert" was a dor de'ah, a generation of knowledge. They witnessed the miracles during the exodus, about which it is written, "Not through an angel nor through a fiery angel, rather I [Hashem] alone redeemed them." The generation of the desert witnessed the greatest revelation of G-d for all time at Mt. Sinai. Their knowledge of Hashem was based on their seeing the actions of G-d. To them, seeing was believing.

The generation that went into the land of Israel, however, had a belief in Hashem that was based on the recounting of the events that their parents witnessed. This new generation had not experienced the open Divine Providence that redeemed their ancestors from Egypt, nor were they physically present to see the revelation of G-d at Mt. Sinai. Hence, their knowledge of Hashem was based on hearing, not on seeing.

The impact that an event has on a person is much greater when they see it than when they only hear about it. When someone sees something, no matter how other-worldly it may have been, it becomes quite difficult to convince that person that the event did not occur. Hearing something, no matter how great the storyteller may be, does not have the same impact. This is the difference between the two generations. The generation of the desert saw great miracles, including the revelation at Mt. Sinai. Their belief in Hashem was complete and steadfast. The belief of the generation that went into the land of Israel was based on hearing.

Paradoxically, although the belief in Hashem of the generation of the desert was seemingly greater, there was an advantage that the generation that went into the land of Israel had over them. G-d's intent is to settle the land of Israel and metaphorically all of the world. As the Midrash says, Hashem wanted to have a dwelling place in this world. This is only accomplished through the fulfillment of mitzvot in the physical world. This was something the generation of the desert did not accomplish in full because all their physical needs were taken care of through the miracles that surrounded them in the desert.

The book of Deuteronomy thus expresses two opposite points. On the one hand, the generation that went into the land lacked the impact of seeing the miracles, as did the generation of the desert. On the other hand, they accomplished that which the generation of the desert did not - the settling of the land. This, too, is expressed in the statement of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. Shabbat Chazon occurs during the saddest days on the Jewish calendar, when we are at the highest level of mourning. Yet, it is also the day on which the third Beit HaMikdash is shown to every individual. Indeed, the third Beit HaMikdash epitomizes this concept: Although it comes after the descent of more than 1900 years of exile, it is an everlasting edifice.

All of the above is expressed in a greater fashion this year when the day of Tishah B'Av actually falls out on Shabbat. This expresses that the whole purpose of the descent is for the greater ascent that is to follow. The very day on which we would usually be mourning and abstaining from food and drink, this year it is forbidden to mourn and it is a mitzvah to eat meat and drink wine.

May we merit the coming of Mashiach now. In a play on the words of the Talmud, "Since Tishah B'Av has been pushed off, may it be pushed off completely."

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Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman is the rabbi at Congregation Anshi S'fard, Chabad Rabbi on Campus, and director of Chabad Intown.

You are invited to read more Parshat Devarim articles.

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