Awaiting the Arrival of Moshiach, By Rabbi Shimon Schenker

Jerusalme old city

It is said about Rav Moshe Teitelbaum zt”l, that his longing for Moshiach to come was incredibly intense.  He is quoted as saying, “If I had known in my youth that in my old age Moshiach still had not come, I would not have physically survived due to the pain (his delay) would cause me.  My soul would have left me.  However, it is only because of my trust and hope in Hashem that he will come that I have survived until today. “[1] This is the delicate emotional balance we all strive for on Tisha B’av.   On the one hand sad that we are still in exile, while at the same time looking towards the future hoping and believing that Moshiach will come.

This idea is punctuated by Chazal in the Talmud Yerushalmi Berachos[2] and Midrash Eicha Rabbah [3]that Moshiach was born on Tisha B’av.   This is not merely a description of past history.  On the contrary, the intent is that every year Tisha B’av generates a new impetus for the coming of the redemption.

While we wonder at and are inspired by the lofty spiritual level of Rabbi Teitelbaum, one must ask two questions:

  • To what extent is one’s obligation to believe Moshiach is coming? Is it enough to believe that he will come or is there also an obligation to eagerly await his arrival?
  • How does one become a person who truly believes in and awaits Moshiach’s arrival?

 

Many people are accustomed to reciting daily the version of Rambam’s 13 Principles of Faith printed in most sidurim.  There it says,

אֲנִי מַאֲמִין בֶּאֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵמָה בְּבִיאַת הַמָּשִֽׁיחַ, וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיִּתְמַהְמֵֽהַּ, עִם כָּל זֶה אֲחַכֶּה לּוֹ בְּכָל יוֹם שֶׁיָּבוֹא””

“I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah, and, though he tarry, I will eagerly await daily for his coming.”

This belief is not just a mystical concept or G-d forbid Jewish myth, it is in fact an obligation as the Gemara Shabbos 31a writes:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת שבת דף לא עמוד א

אמר רבא: בשעה שמכניסין אדם לדין אומרים לו: נשאת ונתת באמונה, קבעת עתים לתורה, עסקת בפריה ורביה, צפית לישועה

Rava said: At the moment that a person is brought before the Heavenly court, they say to him: Did you deal honestly in business? Did you have set times for learning Torah? Did you engage in producing children? Did you anticipate the salvation (coming of the Moshiach)?

Rambam  writes that this Gemara is not just an inspirational concept, rather “whoever does not believe that Moshiach will come, or one who does not eagerly await his coming is a kopher (heretic) in the prophecy and Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu”.[4]

It is clear from Rambam that it is not enough to believe that Moshiach will come but to eagerly await his arrival every day.  This is clear from the Pesikta D’Rav K’hana[5], paraphrasing from the posuk in Yoel[6] and Tzephania[7] , “Master of the Universe, when will You judge the nations of the world? Hashem answers, when you eagerly await My (and by extension, Moshiach’s) arrival.  It is said about Rav Shmuel of Salant that every day when he would pray Shemoneh Esrah, just prior to reciting the blessing of Es tzemach David, which asks for the coming of Moshiach, he would pause, then look right and then left, then continue praying.  His students finally one day asked him why he does such an odd thing when he davens.  He answered, that he knows that Moshiach will come today, and before he doesn’t want to make an unnecessary blessing, so he pauses to see if he sees Moshiach is coming before he makes the blessing.

 

Rav Azriel Tauber[8] asks, what is unique about the coming of Moshaich that it is it not enough to believe in the coming of Moshiach, why do we need to eagerly await his arrival as well?

He provides three unique approaches:

Approach #1 – Personal Growth

Rabbi Dovber Schneuri, the second Chabad Rebbe and son of Shnuer Zalman of Liadi, author of the Tanya writes that in the times of Moshaich, people will still be able to perform the commandments and learn Torah as we do now, nothing will change in terms of that.  He explains that this is because in the world as it exists currently, there are so many outside stimuli and distractions that prevent us from reaching our potential such as wars, suffering, anti-semitism.  However, when Moshiach comes, we will revert back to a time similar to Adam in the Garden living in an ideal environment enabling us to be engaged in holy actions and to reach our potential. [9]  Therefore, Rav Tauber expands, we need the times of Moshiach to be upon us in order for us to achieve our greatest spiritual heights before we go to the World to Come for eternity.

Approach #2 – World Recognition of the Creator

Even if individually we reach our potential, that still is not enough.  The ultimate goal is for all

people, despite race, creed or nationality to recognize and to coronate Hashem as the King of

the universe.  Rav Shimon Schwab, explains that we see this idea from a posuk that we say

every day in our morning prayers.  In “Yehi Kavod” we say the verse :

וְיֹאמְרוּ בַגּוֹיִם יְ-ֹוָה מָלָךְ: יְ-ֹוָה מֶלֶךְ. יְ-ֹוָה מָלָךְ. יְ-ֹוָה יִמְלֹךְ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד: יְ-ֹוָה מֶלֶךְ עוֹלָם וָעֶד. אָבְדוּ גוֹיִם מֵאַרְצוֹ:

 

“And the nations will say, Hashem was King, is King, and will be King, Hashem will be King forever more, the nations of the land will be lost”.

Rav Schwab explains that this verse doesn’t G-d forbid mean that when Moshiach comes all the nations of the world will be destroyed.  It means that when Moshiach comes, the concept of a “the other nations” which segregates and separates different kinds of people will be eradicated from the world.  Everyone in the world will be united under one common banner of serving the Master of the Universe.[10]

Accordingly, each one of us needs to desire and await the coming of Moshiach so that all beings will recognize the Creator.

Approach #3 – Inspire the generation

Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto writes that prior to the end of the days of Moshiach, before the next stage of creation, the Jewish people need to become perfected.  By Moshaich coming, it will inspire the chosen nation to spiritual greatness and will destroy sin and the evil inclination.   When people are confronted with the physical truth of a Melech Hamoshiach, it will be a spiritually overwhelming experience and they will uplifted to refocus on their spiritual growth and less on their physical and mundane needs.[11]

Based on the above approaches, Rav Tauber explains that when an individual doesn’t eagerly await the coming of Moshiach and merely knows he is coming, it is a sign that the individual is spiritually stunted.  That person is disconnected from the ultimate goal that the Creator has for our world, our people and for us as individuals.  His goal is to create a world which will crown Him King, fulfill His commandments, and eradicate evil in order to give everyone their just reward in the World to Come.  This sentiment is known widely as the pervasive attitude of the Chofetz Chaim as illustrated in the following beautiful story:

Rav Simcha Bunim Alter, the Gerrer Rebbe writes[12] that his father Rav Avraham Mordechai Alter, known as the Imre Emes met with the Chaftez Chaim at the first Kenessiah Gedolah in Vienna in 1923.  The Chofetz Chaim said to the Imrei Emes, “We say (in Kedusha of Shabbos Shacharis) to Hashem that ‘we are awaiting you’, but is this really so?  Are we really waiting? We have to feel as we are lacking and desiring this! The Chafetz Chaim then raised his hands and asked again, “Are we really waiting?”   He told the following parable, “We need to await his arrival like a father and mother who are yearning the arrival of their only son who they haven’t seen in a long time.  They know that at any minute he might arrive, so every carriage and train that passes by, they think might be his.  However, even when they realize that their son was not in the carriage or on the train, they still wait for him. “

 

So far we have seen that the levels that our Gedolim and Chazal who are so spiritually engaged have reached in terms of their connection to the Moshiach.  The question is, how can an average person begin to reach such a level and how should one direct their mind to begin to intellectually and spiritually connect with Moshiach?

 

Approach #1 – Living for Hashem

Let us turn our attention to an amazing Gemara in Bava Metziah 85b, where we learn two amazing stories about Rebbi Chiya that on the surface seem to be unrelated.

The Gemara states:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת בבא מציעא דף פה עמוד ב

אמר ליה רבי חייא לרבי חנינא: בהדי דידי קא מינצית דעבדי לתורה דלא תשתכח מישראל מאי עבידנא, אזלינא ושדינא כיתנא, וגדילנא נישבי, וציידנא טבי ומאכילנא בשרייהו ליתמי, ואריכנא מגילתא וכתבנא חמשה חומשי, וסליקנא למתא ומקרינא חמשה ינוקי בחמשה חומשי, ומתנינא שיתא ינוקי שיתא סדרי, ואמרנא להו: עד דהדרנא ואתינא – אקרו אהדדי ואתנו אהדדי, ועבדי לה לתורה דלא תשתכח מישראל. היינו דאמר רבי: כמה גדולים מעשי חייא!

[13]When R. Chanina and R. Chiya argued in Torah, R. Chanina said how do you argue with me? If Torah would be forgotten from Yisrael, I could return it through my analytical skills!

Rebbi Chiya: How do you argue with me? I ensured that Torah will never be forgotten from Yisrael!

Rebbi Chiya planted flax, and wove traps from the flax. He caught deer, fed orphans the meat and made parchments from the skin. He wrote five Chumashim and went to a city without teachers for children. He taught one Chumash to each of five children, and one order of the Mishnah to each of six other children. He told them to teach each other what each had learned. (Because everything was done for the sake of Torah, this ensured that it would never be forgotten.

אליהו הוה שכיח במתיבתא דרבי יומא חד ריש ירחא הוה נגה ליה ולא אתא א”ל מאי טעמא נגה ליה למר אמר ליה אדאוקימנא לאברהם ומשינא ידיה ומצלי ומגנינא ליה וכן ליצחק וכן ליעקב ולוקמינהו בהדי הדדי סברי תקפי ברחמי ומייתי ליה למשיח בלא זמניה א”ל ויש דוגמתן בעולם הזה אמר ליה איכא ר’ חייא ובניו גזר רבי תעניתא אחתינהו לר’ חייא ובניו אמר משיב הרוח ונשבה זיקא אמר מוריד הגשם ואתא מיטרא כי מטא למימר מחיה המתים רגש עלמא אמרי ברקיעא מאן גלי רזיא בעלמא אמרי אליהו אתיוהו לאליהו מחיוהו שתין פולסי דנורא אתא אידמי להו כדובא דנורא על בינייהו וטרדינהו

Eliyahu was regularly in Rebbi’s academy. One Rosh Chodesh he was late. He explained that he first had to wake Avraham, wash his hands, and lie him down again after he prayed. He then did the same for Yitzchak, and then the same for Yaakov.

Rebbi: Why don’t you wake them at the same time?

Eliyahu: If they would pray at the same time, this would bring Moshiach prematurely.

Rebbi: Is there anyone living today with such a power of prayer?

Eliyahu: Yes, Rebbi Chiya and his sons.

Rebbi decreed a fast. He asked Rebbi Chiya and his sons to lead the prayer. When they said ‘Mashiv ha’Ru’ach’, wind blew. When they said ‘Morid ha’Geshem’, rain fell. When they were about to conclude the Berachah ‘Mechayeh ha’Mesim’, the world shook. In Heaven, Eliyahu was lashed with fire for having revealed their power of prayer.

Eliyahu appeared to them like a bear of fire to distract them.[14]

 

The Maharsha asks, why is it that Rebbi Chiya has the power to create such powerful prayers, that he can bring the Moshiach prematurely like our forefathers?  The Maharsha explains that the key is in the first Gemara about Rebbi Chiya producing a Sefer Torah for children to be taught with.  Each and every step of the production of those Torahs and the teaching of it were completely free and unburdened from any intention except the intention to teach Torah.  After he caught the deer, he didn’t say, “Maybe I can use some parts of the deer and sell them.” Every part and detail was completely focused on the mitzvah lishma, for its own sake.  That is why Rebbi Chiya’s prayers were so powerful, his prayers were also not for himself but rather to bring about the greatest amount of honor for Hashem in this world.[15]

This is one way that we can begin to connect with longing for Moshaich.  We need to develop our prayers and longing for Moshiach such that it is not for our own benefit, and what we will gain from Hashem or Moshiach, but rather what it will do to accomplish the goals that Rav Tauber laid out earlier, to bring the greatest glory to the Creator.[16]

Rebbe Nochum of Chernobil once came to an inn in a village.  At chatzos (midnight) he got up and said Tikun Chatzos. He sat on the ground and wept and cried over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. It was so loud the owner of the inn got up as well.  The owner asked him what he was doing, he told him he davening to Hashem that the Melech Hamoshiach should come quickly.  When the Jew just sat staring at him with a blank look, the Rebbe said to him, “ Don’t you want Moshiach to come and for us all to go to Yerushalayim? He answered him, I don’t know I have to ask my wife. He came back and said, my wife said we can’t abandon our ducks, so were not interested.  The Rebbe answered back, what about when the Kosacks steal your ducks and all your possessions? He went back and asked his wife, she said, ok, daven for Moshiach that he should come and take the Kosacks to Yerushalayim. [17]

 

Approach #2 – Mourning ourselves

The Gemara in Sotah 49a writes, “From the day the Beis Hamkidash was destroyed…every day curses (klalah) increases more than the previous day.  The Ramban in Devarim [18] explains that these are the curses found in the “Tochacha”, the rebuke found in the Parsha of Ki Savo.  Rav Moshe Shapiro explains the Ramban that these curses affect every aspect of our physical day and are pervasive in our life.   It will only end when Moshaich comes and ends the current exile.  Rav Shapiro writes, “(In exile) Our lives are antithetical to what they should be in every aspect.  Man is not a man, friendship is not friendship, truth is not truth, and pleasure is not pleasure.  Nothing is the way it should be.”

Without a Beis Hamikdash and G-d’s presence being seen and felt on a daily basis, we have largely lost touch with man’s purpose and role in this world.   When we mourn on Tisha B’av, we mourn not only that we are in exile, we mourn for ourselves that we are not who we should be.  Rav Shapiro writes that Rav Chaim Vital writes in the introduction to his work Shaarei Kedusha that in his day he was witnessing individuals that were not being successful achieving “Ruach Hakodesh”.  Therefore he wrote his work to help achieve that goal.  If today someone wrote that in a sefer, we would think they are joking, but really we should be crying that we have a hard time relating to that kind of holiness.   This gives us a glimpse of what we continue to lose as long as we do not have Moshiach to end our bitter exile.   In order to really want Moshiach to come we have to want to end this reality in order to go back to an earlier time so we can experience Hakadosh Boruch Hu, see his open miracles and reach our potential as individuals as a nation and as a world.[19]

It is said about Rav Shlomo Freifeld zt”l, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Sho’or Yoshuv, that his office was adorned with pictures of Gedolim.  Once, a student in the yeshiva who was new to Judaism came into his office to speak with him.  He innocently asked Rav Freifeld who all the people on the wall are.  Rav Freifeld sharply answered him, “They are part of a long lost tribe of beings that are very rare today … they are called people.

It should be His will that we should continue to work on ourselves and Hakodosh Boruch Hu will send the Melech Hamoshiach and we too will all become “people” like those on Rav Freifeld’s wall.

Rabbi Shimon Schenker, who currently serves as Associate Principal, has been teaching in YUHSB since 2001. He began as Rebbe in the PTACH program based at YUHSB and then transitioned to become the Director of YUHSB’s Learning Center as well as a beloved Maggid Shiur.
Rabbi Schenker has a B.S. in Management Information Systems from the Sy Syms School of Business of YU, an M.S. in Jewish Education from the Azrieli Graduate School of Education of YU, a Masters in Special Education from Herbert Lehman College CUNY and Rabbinic Ordination from RIETS of YU. He is also trained in the Orton-Gillingam Reading Remediation by the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education.
Rabbi Schenker was the recipient of the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education in 2013. He delivers Halacha shiurim and teaches chassan classes in Passaic, New Jersey where he lives with wife and family.

 

[1] Zakai, Likras HaGeulah p. 88

[2] 2:4

[3] 1:51

[4]4 Hilchos Malachim 11:1

[5]5 Nepachim letter beis

[6]6 4:12

[7]7 3:8

[8]8 Pirkei Machshavah , 13 Principles p. 362

[9] Toras Chaim Parshas Vayechi

[10] Rav Schwab on Prayer

[11] Sefer Maamar Haikarim s.v. B’geulah

[12] Meir Einei Yisrael Section Three p. 680

[13] As per tranlation from http://dafyomi.co.il/bmetzia/points/bm-ps-085.htm

[14] Ibid

[15] In his commentary to the Gemara there.

[16]  See Nefesh Hachaim 2:11.  See also Sefer Matnas Chaim, Rav Matisyahu Solomon Shli”ta p. 5 who uses the concept of davening for the sake of the Creator to answer the question of why on Rosh Hashana we don’t ask for any specific items even though that is the day we are being judged for physical items.

[17] Cited in Likras Hageulah p.101

[18] 28:42 and S’forno there

[19] R’aih Emunah p. 312

Tisha Be’Av: Crying Ourselves to Awakeness, by Rabbi Elchanan Poupko

jerusalem tisha beav

I vividly remember walking into the sanctuary of a synagogue on Tish Be’Av night, upon hearing a horrible sound. Looking at the source of the sound, I saw a fully grown man, laying down on a thin mattress on the floor. He was not crying; he was sobbing. So powerfully was he crying that his entire body was moving back and forth, as if in a seizure. It shocked me. I knew that today, we were mourning the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash– two thousand years ago. The way this man was crying made it seem like something terrible was happening right now. What was making him so sad?

The Talmud (Bava Batra 60b) relays the following account, an account portraying just quite how serious the issue at hand is:

 

“When the Temple was destroyed, there multiplied in Israel those who separated themselves from eating meat and drinking wine. Rabbi Yehoshua addressed them.

 

He said to them: My children, why are you not eating meat, and why are you not drinking wine?

 

They said to him: How can we eat meat, which we would offer sacrifices on the altar, and now is desolate? How can we drink wine, which was poured out on altar, and now is desolate?

 

He said to them: If so, we shouldn’t eat bread, for grain offerings have ceased.

 

[They responded] we can eat produce.

 

[Rabbi Yehoshua said]: We should not eat produce, for the first fruits offering has ceased.

[They responded]: We can eat other fruits.

 

[Rabbi Yehoshua said]: We should not drink water, for the water libations have ceased.

 

They were silent.

 

He said to them: My children, come hear and I will say to you: It is not possible to not mourn at all, for the decree has already been decreed. But it is also impossible to mourn too much, for we do not decree a law on the community that most of the community cannot live with…Rather this is what the sages said: A person plasters his house with plaster, but he leaves a little bit unfinished…A person makes all the needs of his meal, but he leaves a little bit out…. A woman makes all of her jewelry, but she leaves a little bit off…As it says, “If I forget you Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten, If I don’t remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth. If I do not set Jerusalem at the head of my celebration.”

 

Living in the generation of destruction, many felt religious expression was no longer possible. After all, the Temple in Jerusalem epitomized religious ritual; without it, what was left?

However, the sense of loss was not just a ritual one; it was a sense of impending doom. At this point, there over one hundred thousand Jews were killed, and more than one hundred thousand taken as slaves to Rome. Religious observance of any kind, including the observance of the Sabbath, circumcision, the study of Torah, and other sacrosanct aspects of Jewish life were made illegal. Anyone caught doing any of these can be put to death immediately. Heavy taxes imposed on the Jews who remained in Israel and the economy was not the most competitive one. It did seem like the end. This is the only way to understand the Talmudic statement that follows:

“Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha said: From the day that the evil empire[Rome], which makes evil and harsh decrees against us, took over, and forces us to stop learning Torah and observing commandments, and does not allow us to celebrate the week of the son[circumcision], it would make sense for [the rabbis] to decree that we should not marry women and have children, and the descendants of Abraham would desist on their own. [But since we cannot do this] leave Israel alone, better they act without intention than with intention.”

Terrifying.

 

Rabbi Yishmael Ben Elisha, who served as the high priest at the tail end of the second Temple, saw its destruction and felt the persecution, thought it was time for national suicide.

He sincerely believed that all Jews would either be killed or be sent as slaves to Rome. Having children at this time made no sense to him. Why raise Jewish children who would never be able to live as Jews or who would be taken to Rome as slaves?!

The destruction of the Temple came to symbolize not only the destruction of ritual in Jerusalem but the destruction of the entirety of Jewish identity. Mourning that Temple, came to mean hope in the restoration of that very same identity.

 

In the early 1800s, it suddenly became difficult to observe Tisha Be’Av, it started in Germany of all places. Young Jews felt an increasing difficulty mourning on Tisha Be’Av. Accultured, assimilated, and enjoyed good lives, young Jews in Germany felt it was difficult to mourn a Temple which was in a land they no longer saw as their own.  Rabbi Samson Hirsch, addresses these young people[1] and tells them that if indeed Tisha Be’Av marks an event of the past, of the loss of a foregone form of ritual, there is indeed no reason for any meaningful mourning. Indeed we can truly move beyond the past, and anticipate our collective loss, but that is not what Tisha Be’Av is about.

 

Tisha Be’av is about recognizing we have a lost present and a potential future. It is the recognition that what we lost is impacting us today, more than yesterday. Crying on Tisha Be’Av is a wake-up call for us, a reminder that we are missing something. Today. Now. Crying on Tisha Be’Av is the recognition that worshiping God in any way that is less than at its fullest, is missing something. It recognizes our deep dissatisfaction with constant dispersion and persecution. Crying today means waking ourselves up to being able to live up to a better potential, believing that the world can be better than it is today.

 

As we approach Tisha Be’Av let us cry ourselves awake. Let us remind ourselves not to be content with the status quo. We must make sure not to accept the rampant antisemitism we live with, the way Jews are treated differently than others, our spiritual distance from Hashem, our inability to fulfill all the mitzvot the way the Torah wants us to fulfill them, and the lack of Hashem’s open and clear presence in this world. As we pray on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur:” our father our King, reign over the whole world with your glory, and be uplifted above the whole world with your honor, and appear in the splendor of your Majestic might on all the inhabitants of earth, so that everyone with a soul says:” Hashem the king of Israel, is the King and his reign is on the whole world.”

May we see the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash speedily in our days and see comfort for all that we have been through in the past two thousand years.

 

Strategies to Facilitate the Ability to Forgive, By Rabbi Elchanan Adler

[1] The notion of mechila speaks to our very humanity. The imperative to forgive, even when absolutely required, does not come easy. All the more so, when we wish to aspire for a higher standard. And yet, aspire we must. While there may be clear-cut instances where we need not forgive, as we have seen in the case of slander, and in the behavior of Sara Imeinu, too often we hide behind excuses to avoid letting go of our grievances. Not only do we ignore the model of Avraham Avinu, we easily fall into the trap of flagrant violations of biblical prohibitions of nekima and netira – vengeance and grudge-bearing. Rather than giving others the benefit of the doubt, we ascribe malicious intent without bothering to check out the facts. And then we come to Yom Kippur and expect Hashem to see the best in us. When we stand before Yom Kippur we cannot afford to fool the Ribono Shel Olam  – or ourselves.

If we genuinely want to be worthy of Hashem’s forgiveness, then it behooves us to see how we can bring ourselves to forgive. As the gemara (Rosh Hashanah 17a) says, “hama’avir al midosav ma’avirin lo al kal pesha’av – one who is less exacting and demanding toward others, will merit that Hashem will also be less exacting.”

What often stands as barrier to granting that stands in the way of granting mechila is seeing the offense for more than it really is. In explaining how one can avoid taking revenge, the Rambam (Middos 7:7) explains that for people of understanding, most slights are really trivial and need not call for retaliation. Yom Kippur is a day that reframes the priorities of life, and helps us to see things for what they are. Having a broader vision about the fragility of life and purpose of creation can inject us with a healthy dose of humility and enable us to overlook many wrongs that may seem very important in the moment but really don’t matter from the broader perspective.

Another reason why we often have a hard time forgiving others, is because we see ourselves as being masters of our own realities – in control of the events of our lives. To some extent, this attitude stems from a lack of emuna that our life’s experiences are a reflection of hashgacha pratis and are Hashem’s way of communicate messages to us. This idea is suggested by Sefer Ha’Chinuch as the basis for overcoming the urge to take revenge and bear grudges. Yom Kippur is a time that allows us to feel a natural connection with the Ribono Shel Olam and see all that happens to us – including life’s setbacks which seem to flow from other people’s conduct as merely messages from Hashem. The more we deepen our sense of emuna in hashagacha pratis, the easier it becomes to bring ourselves to genuinely forgive.

There is an additional strategy that can motivate us to move past our grudges, and extend mechila toward those who have wronged us – the ability to connect with the humanity of the one who offended us, and to recognize that, in a very real sense, we are all part of one family. The Yerushalami in Nedarim (9:4) offers a parable to illustrate how one can avoid the impulse to take revenge: Imagine someone who is cutting meat. As he cuts the meat with the knife in his right hand, he gets carried away and wounds his left hand. It is inconceivable for the left hand to take revenge against the right hand. After all, they are part of the same organism. That should be our perspective on our fellow Jews – we are part of one family.

The sense of the unity of lal Yisrael being part of one family is best symbolized by the notion of shevatim – each with a distinct path, but all as part of a larger collective, embodied by Knesses Yisrael. Indeed, in the Yom Kippur liturgy we refer repeatedly to Hashem as “machalan leshivtei Yeshurun – a forgiver of the tribes of Yeshurun”. Why is Hashem referred to by this designation? And what is this juxtaposed with the appellation “salchan le’Yisrael”?

The Meshech Chochma explains that “salchan le’yisrael” alludes to aveiros between Man and G-d – all of which are rooted in the chet ha’eigel. The second expression – “machalan le’shivtei Yeshurun” – refers to sins being Adam Lachaveiro. Why? Because every sin “bein adam lachavero” has its roots in the sin of Mechiras Yosef, carried out by the Shivtei Kah – the sons of Yaakov Avinu, who sold Yosef into slavery. The very symbol of unity – the notion of shevatim – was put to the test early in our history, and led to inter-personal strife, and almost bloodshed.

When reading the story of Mechiras Yosef, one gets the impression that all worked out in the end and lived happily ever after. However, Rabbeinu Bachyei, at the end of Parshas Vayechi, says something terrifying. He points out that while we find the brothers expressing remorse to Yosef for having wronged him, and while we find Yosef comforting them and reassuring them that all is well and that he will provide for them, we never find Yosef actually extending mechila. Somehow, there was no full closure. Therefore, says Rabbeinu Bechayei, the sin remained unresolved – and came back to haunt us centuries later in the form of the asara harugei malchus – the ten martyrs, which is also alluded to in the Yom Kippur liturgy.

Yom Kippur is also a day meant to healing that rift. There is a passage in the Machzor, just after reciting Seder Avoda that enumerates a list of halachos which characterize the day of Yom Kippur:

Yom assur achilah, yom assur bi’shesiyah, yom assur bi’rechitzah, yom assur bi’sichah, yom assur bi’tashmish ha’mittah, yom assur bi’ne’ilas ha’sandal

These are specific restrictions which are unique to Yom Kippur. Then, we continue:”Yom simas ahavah ve’rei’us, yom azivas kinah ve’sacharus- A day of establishing love and friendship; a day of forsaking jealousy and competition.

Apparently, Jewish unity is as defining an aspect of Yom Kippur as are the basic restrictions. On Yom Kippur, we parallel the angels not only in our ability to refrain from earthly pleasures, but also in our ability to epitomize shalom – as it says “oseh shalom binromav”. In explaining the basis for asking mechila before Yom Kippur, the Tur (OC 606) cites a Midrash Pirkei de’Rebbi Eliezer, which states “Mah mal’achei ha’hares beineihem kach Yisrael B’Yom HaKippurim.” The Rav also explained that reconciling with one another before Yom Kippur is necessary because the nature of the kapara extended on Yom Kippur is not an individual kapara but a collective kapara – as we say at the outset of the day, “ve’nislach le’chal adas bnei Yisrael”. In order to be worthy of that special gift of Divine forgiveness, we have to join together as one people in a spirit of genuine unity and reconciliation.

As we beseech the Ribbono Shel Olam for His forgiveness, may we all mirror that spirit of behavior in our own lives – not just looking at the technical halachic requirements, but connecting to the essence of the midos of the Ribono shel olam, the melech mochel ve’solei’ach. May we use these precious days to shed old grudges, trivialize old slights, see all that happens around us as messages from Hashem to guide us to be better people, reach out to others, love our neighbor as ourselves. In this zechus, may we all achieve reconciliation with Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and may we all be worthy of all of His blessings in the coming year – nachas and good health, prosperity and productivity in all of our endeavors.

[1]Adapted from a Shiur given by Rabbi Adler on Sep. 14, 2010 entitled “Kinus Teshuva Drasha 5771- Mechila in Human and Halachic Terms: How Can I Ever Forgive You? Can I Not?”.  The Shiur is accessible with Mekorot at http://www.yutorah.com/lectures/lecture.cfm/748933/rabbi-elchanan-adler/kinus-teshuva-drasha-5771-mechila-in-human-and-halachic-terms-how-can-i-ever-forgive-you-can-i-not-/.

Rabbi Elchanan Adler has served since 1998 as a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, where he occupies the Eva, Morris and Jack Rubin Chair in Rabbinics.

 

Creating Freedom Without Anarchy, Order Without Tyranny, By Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Nine days from now Jewish communities around the world will sit in collective mourning on Tisha b’Av, the day of Jewish tears. So many tears. For the destruction of the First and Second Temples. For the defeat of the Bar Kochba rebellion. For the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290 and Spain in 1492. For the day on which Himmler was given the go- ahead for Die Endlösung ,“The Final Solution,” that is, the extermination of the Jews of Europe.

Yet as one of the generation born after the Holocaust, whose identity was shaped in the wake of the Six Day War, I believed that Tisha b’Av and its sensibility belonged to the world of my parents and theirs. It was not ours. They were ha-zorim be-dim’a and we werebe-rinah yiktzoru. They had sown in tears so that we could reap in joy.

This has made the past three weeks very difficult indeed for Jews around the world but above all for Am Yisrael be-Medinat Yisrael. After the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers and a Palestinian teenager, rocket attacks from Hamas intensified. The result was a sustained assault of a kind no country in the world has had to face: worse than the Blitz in World War II. (At the height of the Blitz, on average 100 German missiles were launched against Britain every day. On average during the present conflict Hamas has been firing 130 missiles a day against Israel.) We felt the tears of the injured and bereaved. We felt for the Palestinians too, held hostage by Hamas, a ruthless terrorist organisation.

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Tisha Be’Av and Why We Need to Forget About the Romans, By Rabbi Elchanan Poupko

“When bad things happen to a group, its members can ask one of two questions: “What did we do wrong?” or “Who did this to us?” The entire fate of the group will depend on which it chooses.”(Lord Jonathan Sacks)

It was the great Roman empire and Titus Vespasian who destroyed the Beit Hamikdash almost two thousand years ago, except it wasn’t and it would help us a great deal to understand that they were not the ones to destroy the Beit Hamikdash.

Yes, this does refer in part to the rabbinic teaching (Talmud Bavli, Yuma 9a) that says:” why was the first Temple destroyed? Because of three things it had: idle worship, idolatry, and bloodshed. Why was the second Temple destroyed? Because of baseless hate(“sinat chinam”) that they had among them.” These words bringing Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, the great founder of the first modern day Yeshiva system, to write[1] that it is only after the Jews had destroyed the Temple’s spiritual infrastructure that God allowed Titus to come along and destroy the remaining physical representation of what the Temple was really all about.

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Tisha B’Av: A True Fast or a Peculiar Fast? By Rabbi Joel Finkelstein

The Gemara in Taanit 12b seems to say that there’s no fast like the fast of Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av then is the quintessential fast. Shmuel, or in another version, Rabbi Yirmiya bar Abba said, “There is no Public Fast in Babylonia except for Tisha B’Av alone.” How so? In what way is Tisha B’av unique, superior to other fasts? Rashi on the spot mentions two notions of stringency, not wearing shoes and starting the fast at night.
However, the Gemara in Pesachim 54b presents a debate as to whether Tisha B’Av is the only true fast (Shmuel) or that it is not a Public Fast (Rabbi Yochanan). The Gemara suggests several other possible unique features of Tisha B’Av. a. That one must fast even during its twilight time. b. That pregnant and nursing mothers must fast as they do on Yom Kippur (speak to your local MOR and doctors)  whereas they needn’t do so on other fasts. c. They considered the notion that people shouldn’t work on Tisha B’Av though that is more of a local custom. The Gemara then entertains the option (d.) that Tisha B’av is unique in that one may not even dip a finger in water (unless one is very dirty). All of this is codified into common practice today.
Rabbi Yochanan, however, said that Tisha B’Av is not a Public Fast day. The Gemara suggests two ways to understand what he meant by this. Did he mean it is not a Public Fast day in respect to not saying the prayer of Neilah as we do on Yom Kippur, or in respect to not adding the 24 blessing version of Shmoneh Esreh which was said on true Public Fast days of old? It is left unresolved. The Ramban in Toras Haadam seems to think both ideas are true.

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Wayfarer’s Inn, By Rabbi Shalom Carmy

The haftarah for Tisha B’Av is taken from Jeremiah 8:13-9:23. It begins with a description of chaos and the enemy’s advent. We hear the voice of the people seeking refuge in fortified city and the voice of God ordaining their affliction. From verse 18 the text shifts to the first person singular. According to most commentators, it is the prophet himself speaking: “Would that my head were water and my eye a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night for the dead of my people (8:23).”

The next verse continues: “Would I were a wayfarer’s inn in the desert, that I might abandon my people and go from them for they are all adulterers, an assembly of traitors etc.” Why does the prophet wish to separate himself from the Jewish people? One reason, offered by commentators, is that he cannot bear to see their suffering. Offhand this reason is supported by the previous verses in which he laments the inexhaustibleness of his grief.

However, if we look at the prophet’s wish in connection with the following verses, it appears that he is disgusted by their sinfulness. His desire to flee is not necessarily a rejection of the people, but it is surely a rejection of their corrupt society. He does not want to dwell in a community of deception.

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