18 Tishrei 5782 / Friday, September 24, 2021 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
 
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Devarim: The Eye Generation    

Devarim: The Eye Generation



For a long time it has always impressed me how the Jewish people, when the summer time comes, go in the opposite direction from the rest of the world.

 



Parshat Devarim
 
 
FRIDAY NIGHT:
 
יב אֵיכָ֥ה אֶשָּׂ֖א לְבַדִּ֑י טָרְחֲכֶ֥ם וּמַשַּֽׂאֲכֶ֖ם וְרִֽיבְכֶֽם: 
 
How can I alone carry your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels? (Devarim 1:12)
 
Here we are again, approaching the end of the Three Weeks as Tisha B'Av approaches. It will come and go, and hopefully it will be the last one, which can only be the case if the third and final Temple is built this year, may it happen soon in our days. In any case, Rosh Hashanah, the Aseres Yemai Teshuvah, and Yom Kippur are now just around the corner.
 
For a long time it has always impressed me how the Jewish people, when the summer time comes, go in the opposite direction from the rest of the world. For the most part, once the warm weather rolls around, the gentile world heads for the world of leisure. Granted people have to work even in the summer time, but still, there is an atmosphere of leisure just about everywhere one goes during the summer months.
 
On the other hand, the Torah world receives the summer months in a state of national mourning. If only the Temples could have been destroyed in the winter months, when death is a common theme anyhow. Well, that's Divine Providence for you, always making sure that the Jewish people keep their priorities straight, something you have to do on a consistent basis if you want to maximize your portion in the World-to-Come.
 
Ah, right, the World-to-Come, the end-game of all of history. No one we know has been there, at least no one we know who can talk about it, so it remains to be a matter of faith. It is, without a doubt, the ultimate leisure resort, but you won't need sunscreen there, nor shades for your eyes either. It will be a place of inexperienced pleasure, to limits beyond our wildest imaginations, which will make all of our physical self-sacrifice far more worth it.
 
Alas, it is a hard sell. This is what Tisha B'Av reminds us of each year, and this is really what we are mourning. For, the Temple was not the goal, but the means, a way of staying in touch with the ultimate purpose of Torah and mitzvos. To look at and to experience the Temple was to become re-focused on the ultimate destination of the Jew, and to make physical desires secondary to our true spiritual aspirations.
 
Jewish temples are destroyed when the reverse sets into the Jewish national psyche. The Torah was given to the Jewish people to bridle our desires, to channel them in the service of G-d, to help us make physical pleasure a by-product, not an end until itself. This is what the Talmud really means when it says:
 
Had the Torah not been given to Israel, no nation or people could stand before them. As Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: "There are three who are brazen: Israel among the nations . . ." (Beitzah 25b)
 
The posuk above from this week's parshah begins with the Hebrew word "Eichah," the same word with which Lamentations begins, which is intoned on the night of Tisha B'Av. Thus, when reading this posuk, the reader does so with the same sad melody used for Eichah on Tisha B'Av.
 
Just a friendly reminder of what is coming up in the following week? Or, is there a stronger connection between Moshe's complaint in this week's parshah and Yirmiyahu's in Eichah? And, while we're at it, we might as well inquire about the connection of both to G-d's one-word question to Adam HaRishon after he ate from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: Aiyekah - spelled the exact same way as eichah.
 
 
SHABBAT DAY:
 
יב ... טָרְחֲכֶ֥ם וּמַשַּֽׂאֲכֶ֖ם וְרִֽיבְכֶֽם: 
 
. . . Contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels? (Devarim 1:12)
 
Moshe does not sound so positive here. Yes, we are G-d's chosen people and yes, we are a nation of priests. However, we also happen to be contentious, burdensome, and quarrelsome. What did he mean by all of that?
 
HOW CAN I ALONE CARRY: If I were to say, "I will do so in order to receive reward for it," I cannot do so. This is what I have already told you: Not on my own do I tell you that I am not able to bear you, but at the request of the Holy One, Blessed is He.
 
YOUR CONTENTIOUSNESS: Moshe's use of this word teaches us that the Jewish people were troublesome. If one of them saw that his opponent in a law suit was about to be victorious in the case, he would say, "I have witnesses to bring . . . further proof to adduce . . . I will add judges to you who are sitting."
 
YOUR BURDENS: This teaches that they were heretics (they treated the judges with little respect): if Moshe left his tent early, they would say, "Why does the son of Amram leave so early? Perhaps, he is not at ease at home?" If he left late, they would say, "What do you think? He is sitting and devising evil schemes against you, and is plotting against you."
 
YOUR QUARRELS: This teaches that they were always litigious (Siphre). (Rashi, Devarim 1:12)
 
 
There is one word for all this: subjectivity. Objective people are not usually burdensome people, subjective people are. They are rarely, if ever at all, contentious. Rather, they care only about one thing, and that is the best solution for a problem, or rather, the most TRUTHFUL solution for a problem. They do not speak out of two sides of their mouth, so-to-speak, claiming to be concerned only with Torah and mitzvos, while at the same time breaking them to get the best personal deal. Objective people are true B'nei Olam HaBah, people whose whole focus is on getting to the World-to-Come.
 
Thus, what Moshe Rabbeinu was reporting in this week's parshah was really a warning that bad seeds were being planted in the ground of Jewish history. Just like Yosef, when he called his brothers "spies," had really been warning them about the potential error of the future spies, so too was Moshe Rabbeinu warning the Jewish people of impending doom if they did not stop being contentious.
 
 א  אֵיכָ֣ה | יָֽשְׁבָ֣ה בָדָ֗ד הָעִיר֙ רַבָּ֣תִי עָ֔ם הָֽיְתָ֖ה כְּאַלְמָנָ֑ה רַבָּ֣תִי בַגּוֹיִ֗ם שָׂרָ֨תִי֙ בַּמְּדִינ֔וֹת הָֽיְתָ֖ה לָמַֽס: 
 
How . . . She (Jerusalem) sits in solitude . . . (Eichah 1:1)
 
יב אֵיכָ֥ה אֶשָּׂ֖א לְבַדִּ֑י ... 
 
How can I alone carry . . . (Devarim 1:12)
 
They are really one and the same question, and they mean: HOW did you become so unfocused? HOW were you able to make success in this mundane, temporary reality such a priority as to sell yourself out, and your nation as well? HOW could you let things get so bad, that they could descend to this level, leaving you so incredibly desolate? HOW could it even have been worth it?
 
HOW could you, Adam HaRishon, who had been created on such a high level of spiritual consciousness that you could talk to G-d on a personal basis, and even confuse the angels into thinking that you were G-d yourself, make such a simple error as to eat from a forbidden tree?
 
Granted, had Adam HaRishon possessed a yetzer hara internally, as we all do since his sin, it might have been understandable. As Shlomo HaMelech taught, even righteous people sin from time to time (at least in terms of what G-d expects from them). However, Adam HaRishon had been free of an internal yetzer hara, which in his time was only inside the snake itself.
 
As they say in the yeshivos: It's a kasha (difficult question)!
 
* * *
 
 
SEUDAH SHLISHIT:
 

טו  וַיִּקַּ֛ח יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֑ם