Tisha B'Av - Devarim-Chazon, 5788: “The Greatest Tish~Above!
“These are the words that Moshe spoke to all of Yisrael on the other side of the Yardein, opposite Suf, between Paran and between Tofel, and Lavan, and Chatzeiros, and Di-Zahav (Devarim 1:1)”.
Our Rabbis elucidate that this verse is alluding to rebuke that Moshe gave to the Jewish People for the various sins they had committed during their journey through the desert. Indeed, Rashi cites Chazal’s statement that some of the places mentioned in this verse are nowhere to be found in all of the Tanach; rather, they are allusions to the sins of the Jewish People (see Rashi on words: “Between Paran and Tofel and Lavan”) As Rabbi Yehoshua Berman articulates so well (“Reflections”), almost always, the Torah openly berates the Jewish People – and even its most illustrious leaders when necessary – for their sins. The wrongdoing is described in full detail, “no holds barred”. Why is it, then, that here we suddenly find a “cover up” going on? Why is Moshe reprimanding the Jewish People through hints? This difficulty is compounded by the fact that Rashi explains that this rebuke was deliberately given in the presence of the entire Jewish People in order that no one would later be able to say, “If I had been there I would have been able to refute the rebuke.” If that is the case, then how much more so would one expect the rebuke to be delivered in clear, open form!? Yes, Rashi deals with the issue: “Because they are words of rebuke…therefore he ‘closed’ the matter and [only] mentioned them in hints for the sake of the honor of the Jewish People.” But why “Davka” now, why is our honor defended, while all the other times in the Torah we were openly censured? for our wrongdoings in full, explicit detail? As my revered father OB”M would often repeat, quoting the “Frierdiker” Lubavitch Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, Zatza”l, “Mir Daft Leiben Mit Der Tzayt-“We have to live with the times”. We can always find guidance from the Jewish Calendar”-for example: What Parasha are we reading? when do we read it? How can the Parasha, the calendar, inform us about our experiences? Well, Parashat Devarim is always read right around Tisha Bav time. In other words, this particular rebuke, this final rebuke of Moshe which is clouded by “hints” is the rebuke we hear right at Tisha Bav time, as we contemplate our calamitous history, our long-endured collective suffering, exiles, and when we express our faith in a final redemption. Maybe the timing of this unique form of “hidden”, or “buried” rebuke reflects a foundational lesson, for us, and can provide guidance, comfort and hope in this time so laden with mourning and sadness. Thinking about this, I received an email from my good friend attorney Baruch Cohen, a mini-celebrity in the Orthodox Jewish-lawyer world (google the famous Yarmulke” story), a mensch and career notwithstanding, a “Ben Torah” – a Yeshiva boy at heart . Says “BCC”: “There is a feature article in this this week’s Mishpacha magazine about me!-check it out!” Baruch and I have shared many Divre Torah in the past (he was a regular attendee of my “TNT-Thursday Night Torah -now T.O.W.N.-Torah on Wednesday Night discussion groups) particularly in connection with the devastatingly untimely passing of his daughter Hindy OB”M. Hindy left the world about 15 years ago, and ever since, in an upward trajectory, Baruch has channeled his pain despair, doubts and anguish into an oprtunity to deepen his connection to his Yiddishkayt, his family and to others, particularly those who have suffered similarly or in other challenging ways. Reading the article (Mishpacha, Tisha Bav edition, July 18, 2018. Link: http://www.mishpacha.com/Browse/Article/10720/Whole-Broken-Vessels), a “pullout quote” highlighted under a picture of Baruch caught my attention: Says Baruch, “My pain was very real. But Hashem wanted me to have it, so I know there must have been something there for me in the experience”. And it hit me. That’s the essence of why Hashem rebuked us in such a “coded” manner. The hints at our wrongdoings were couched in the names of the places where the particular actions occurred. These “names” were codes for what happened there. “Di Zahav”-where we sinned at the golden calf. “Lavan”-where we complained about the white Manna, etc… Infusing a place with name that relates to what occurred there is a statement-the spot has unique meaning tied forever to our experience there. We have all seen a tree trunk etched with something like “Jack and Jill were here-1979”. A place I visit may actually have a different name, but for MY purposes, the name I give it connecting me and my experience to it IS its name. Because the place, the encounter, the experience has meaning for me. I recognize the importance of whatever happened there, its power, energy, force and impact. I was there for a reason. This idea itself can serve as a rebuke and a comfort all at the same time. The rebuke: “Don’t you realize that I put you in your situation for a reason? That I intend and expect you to make the best of the circumstances? and look how you messed up in that situation! Never forget-everything you do, and whatever you encounter is and should be pregnant with depth and meaning. There is a reason for every “stop and step” in your life. You are on a guided path. The Comfort: You can attain peace of mind with the knowledge that nothing is for naught, without reason. We are not just thrust onto a treadmill that continues on its own long after whoever flipped the on-switch lost interest. As Baruch Cohen said it: “My pain was very real. But Hashem wanted me to have it, so I know there must have been something there for me in the experience”. You are cared about, thought about. There is a plan. Nothing is random. Even the darkest hour-will be lit one day with an understanding of why even the worst of realities occur to us, and how good will ultimately arise from that. So Hashem, through Moshe, names the places we messed up, where we were challenged and even failed, letting us know oh so gently, that the sojourns, “stops” and “deserts” of our collective history and of our own lives, and the muddy, thorny, dry lands we all have had to and maybe still face and endure all have reasons, names, a basis, and all are part of the plan that we we will merit one day to see. This Shabbos Chazon (“Vision”), as we sit at our own Tish, may me merit to a vision of the greatest table of all-the “Tish…Above”, and see not the pain and suffering of ourselves and our people, but the beauty, grandeur and glory of our intended destiny as the divine Shechina returns to Zion, to Yerushalayim, to us!
Shabbat Shalom~A Gutte Shabbos to All!“My pain was very real. But Hashem wanted me to have it, so I know there must have been something there for me in the experience”