Mourning for Our Ancient Perfection
WHAT ARE WE MOURNING FOR?
Yeshayah Hanavi declared, שמחו את ירושלים כל אוהביה וגילו בה, All you who loved Yerushalayim will rejoice with her, שישו אתה משוש כל המתאבלים עליה, all those who mourn for Yerushalayim will rejoice together in her happiness. (Yeshayah 66:10). So the Gemara makes a statement on that possuk: כל המתאבל על ירושלים זוכה ורואה בישועתה – Those who mourn for Yerushalayim will be rewarded that they shall see the yeshuah, the salvation, of Yerushalayim (Taanis 30b). Now, that statement needs a peirush, which we will later discuss, b’ezer Hashem.
The Rambam explains how tzadikim mourn properly for Yerushalayim. They don’t long for its restoration because they desire the happiness of living in the glorious land of zavas chalav u’dvash. That’s not what they’re mourning for. Although there is no question that at the time of the geulah, once more the land will be restored to its ancient greatness, even in physical ways, but that’s not what it means to be מתאבל על ירושלים. So what do they yearn for? The Rambam explains that they yearn to be free from shibud galuyos, from being subjected to the nations in exile.
Now, pay attention to the following words of the Rambam: “They yearn to be at liberty in their own land כדי שיעסקו בתורה וכו, so that they will be able to engage entirely in the study of the Torah and they will be zoicheh because of that to Olam Habah.” It’s an interesting statement which we will have to study.
Now, all of the ramifications of that statement are too many for us to discuss. But at least we see that when we mourn for Yerushalayim, we are doing something out of pity for ourselves. We are so sorry that we don’t have the opportunities for greatness, for perfection of character and personality, which were afforded to our nation in the days of old. And therefore, we wait and hope for the restoration, so that at that time we will have the opportunity to become as great as we possibly can, when these opportunities are once more given to us!
WE’RE MOURNING FOR PERFECTION
The Rambam says clearly: כדי שיעסקו בתורה – we yearn for the days of old so that we could engage in Torah study. Now, it doesn’t mean only Torah. All the opportunities for greatness of mind and soul which the ancient days offered to our forefathers, we yearn for those opportunities because we desire once more not to waste our lives. After all, we don’t live forever. And each person who is serious would like to make the best of himself. And such a big portion of our lives is expended on useless things because we are among the nations. And we’ll discuss that soon. And so once more, when we’re back on the soil of admas kodesh, we’ll be able to devote ourselves entirely to pursuing the function of becoming the best that we’re able to be. So what are we mourning for? For the shleimus, the opportunities for perfection, that were available in the days of old.
Now, when the Gemara states that זוכה ורואה בישועתה, that we will merit to see the salvation of Yerushalayim, it’s a hint that the more you yearn for the days of old and the opportunities that those days offered to us, so the more Hakodosh Boruch Hu is going to give you those opportunities, right now. And He will help you attain your ambitions to create yourself into the very best personality; just in the merit, in the zchus, of your mourning for the opportunities that went lost at the Churban.
Now, we’ll study this in some detail right now. In the time of the Beis Hamikdash there were three great opportunities – maybe there were more, but right now we’ll dwell on only three of them, the outstanding ones – that enabled people who were sincere, devoted and energetic, to become what they hoped, what they looked forward to in the perfection of their lives.
One was the existence of nevuah – the fact that there were nevi’im in the days of old. I’ll explain that soon. Number two was the existence of the Beis Hamikdash. And the third was that there was no dispersal, no pizur. Every Jew was in Eretz Yisroel. Now, we’ll study these three.
MOURNING FOR THE LOSS OF NEVUAH
A principle which is enunciated again and again in the Sefer Mishlei is as follows: אוזן שומעת תוכחת חיים, בקרב חכמים תלין – “The ear that listens to the reproof, the rebuke, of life will remain lodged among the wise” (Mishlei 15:31). And that’s repeated in various ways throughout the entire Sefer Mishlei. ודרך חיים, “The way of life, תוכחת מוסר, is the rebuke of instruction” (ibid., 6:23).
DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME
Now, of course, today we cannot follow that in the manner that was practiced in ancient times. Today, if we would rebuke someone and tell him what’s wrong with him, we would never see him again. Because it says אל תוכח לץ פן ישנאך, “Do not rebuke a leitz because he will hate you” (ibid., 9:8). And most people today are in the category of leitzim. We have to suspect ourselves, especially in America which is “the land of leitzanus,” of being in the category of leitzim that Mishlei was referring to. And therefore, you cannot tell people directly what is wrong with them.
In the ancient times, maggidim, preachers, used to visit the kehillos, and they spoke for hours criticizing. And the people used to delight in hearing these things. However, even that was nothing compared to the days of the nevi’im! When the navi came, he spoke with the utmost vigor to denounce anything that he saw that was wrong. Nobody – not the kings, not the talmidei chachomim, not the wealthy – no one was immune from his criticism. Now, you must know that of all the purposes of the nevi’im, the most important was הוכח תוכיח, to rebuke people for their wrongdoings. And as a result of hearing rebuke constantly, the nation was always close to the ideals of teshuvah.
However, at the end of the era of the First Beis HaMikdash, false prophets began to appear on the scene, because the people wanted other kinds of prophecy, not criticism. As Yirmiyahu tells us in sefer Eichah (2:14): נביאיך חזו לך שוא ותפל ולא גלו על עונך להשיב שבותך – “Your nevi’im – not My nevi’im, your nevi’im – they saw for you visions that were false and meaningless, ולא גילו על עונה – and they did not reveal your sins, להשיב שבותך – that would have brought back the captivity; that would have prevented the galus, ויחזו לך משאות שוא ומדוחים, Instead they saw visions for you that only helped you go astray after falsehood. However up until the days of the false nevi’im, the Am Yisroel relied on the nevi’im to guide them toward perfection in avodas Hashem.
Now, in the days when the nevi’ei ha’emes prevailed in the society of the Jewish nation, people used to flock to the navi. Although they were criticized bitterly, they still came every week to hear him. You remember when that woman was saddling her donkey to go someplace, so she was asked, “Where are you going?”, and she said, “I’m going to the navi.” So they said, מדוע את הולכת היום -”Why are you going today?, לא חודש ולא שבת היום – it’s not Rosh Chodesh and it’s not Shabbos today.” So it seems that on Rosh Chodesh and Shabbos it was understandable why she would be traveling to the navi. Everybody went to the navi! They would travel great distances – they rode on their donkeys, or they walked , and would throng to the navi every Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh.
Now remember, this story happened in the part of Eretz Yisroel that belonged to the aseres ha’shvatim. The aseres ha’shvatim was the break off from Yerushalayim. It was no longer the better element of the nation. And still, in the aseres ha’shvatim people went every Shabbos and every Rosh Chodesh to listen to the navi!
And what did the navi tell them? He didn’t tell them any jokes, anecdotes. He told them what was wrong with them! And he said it in the bitterest way. The smallest sins, were portrayed by the navi in the very worst words. That’s the system of nevuah. Nothing is considered small.
CRITICISM IS THE SUCCESS OF LIFE
Now, Shlomo Hamelech tells us, that this is the way to success in this world and the World to Come. דרך חיים, ““The way of life, תוכחת מוסר, is the rebuke of instruction.” What does life mean? Life means everything in life. It means marriage. A marriage is successful if there is somebody to tell you that you’re wrong and you’re wrong; you’re both wrong. Today, each one “knows” that he’s right and the other one is completely wrong.
But in the days when there was a navi, so they went to the navi and he told them the truth. And the navi wasn’t merely taking a guess – he knew the truth. And not only would he criticize the people who came to him, but he did it even to the people who ran away from him. He went and stood in front of the palace and he shouted into the king’s window accusations against him. And in many cases the king came out, and he was humbled. He would say, “I’m sorry. I want to to rectify my ways.”
Now, when people have somebody to criticize them, they’re going to succeed in this world. No question about it. There will be shalom in the world. People live more successfully when they know what’s wrong with them. They live longer. There’s more harmony between people when they know that they have done wrong things, and they are urged, pressed, to make atonement and ask forgiveness of each other. There’s no question that happiness and success in this world is greatly augmented, greatly increased, by the presence of a navi, a mochiach. We need criticism – and we don’t have it!
YOU DON’T KNOW YOURSELF!
There are many things in the world that are difficult to know; many things. This world is considered like darkness. כי הנה החשך יכסה ארץ, Behold, darkness covers this world (Yeshayah 60:2). And the Gemara explains that Hashem made it dark in this world so that people would not see the truth so readily. It’s not easy to see the truth in this world. But of all the things that are difficult to know, the most difficult of all is to know yourself. To recognize who you are is the thing that you know the least of all. That’s something you’ll have to study very well. To recognize yourself is the biggest of all tasks!
Here’s a man who comes in, he’s dressed like a tzadik. All day long he hangs around the shtiebelech in our neighborhood. So I asked him, “Are you married?” “No.” “How old are you?” “I’m in my thirties,” he tells me. He’s in his thirties and he’s not married?! A wasted man! Are you davuk ba’torah? Are you a gadol ba’torah? Very far from it. He’s wasting his life.
Try telling that to somebody. A man like that came in here so I said to him, “What’s going to be tachlis? What’s going to be with you?” He gave me a sad look of reproach and I never saw him again. You have to be an oheiv mussar. You have to want to hear criticism. Someone has to tell them, “Go to work! Learn a profession. You have to make a living and get married. Why should a girl want to marry a bum like you?! You’re wasting your life.” לא נברא העולם אלא לפריה ורביה – “The world was made for the purpose of having children,” the mishna says. Who’s going to tell him that? He looks around for a shtiebel where the rebbeh needs him for a minyan, and so the rebbeh keeps quiet; he doesn’t criticize him. And he wastes his life there.
There is so much criticism, even for good people. In this world we cannot succeed unless we know the truth about ourselves. That’s why we find so much failure in physical things, in all the things of this world. People are failures in business because they’re not behaving properly. They are failures in health because they’re not behaving properly. They are failures in their family lives because they’re not behaving properly. They’re unhappy; and they go to other unhappy people who are called psychologists and they pay them. It’s a waste of money because the unhappy people can’t make others happy. And therefore, what is needed is for someone to speak up and tell them what is wrong with them and what is wrong with the psychologists. That is derech chayim, the path of life! The rebuke of instruction!
WHO’S GOING TO GRAB HOLD OF THE STEERING WHEEL FOR YOU?
In this world, it is of the utmost importance that you have someone to steer you in the right direction. Otherwise, it is like a man sitting at the steering wheel of his car with his eyes closed; he can’t steer! Someone has to open your eyes for you so that you could see where you’re going in order to succeed in this life.
And the Next World is no different. A person will not have any success at all in the Next World, unless he has somebody in this world, in this life, who will set him straight. Because this world is full of so many pitfalls and so many errors. There are so many opportunities to stray away from the path of achieving a fulfillment of our purpose here. And therefore it is impossible for a man to succeed in gaining Olam Haba unless there is somebody around who will point out to him זה הדרך לכו בה, this is the road; travel in this direction. Otherwise, there are thousands of roads leading to nowhere! And everybody, everyone around us, is wandering on those roads, and their lives are being wasted.
So derech chayim, means the road of life in this world, which means happiness in every respect, and also in Olam Haba, your Chayei Olam Habah. And what is the path you must travel to succeed in life in both worlds? תוכחת מוסר, you need somebody to rebuke you with rebuke of instruction. Now, this is paramount; it’s more important than all the deeds of man, there is nothing we need more than someone to guide us, to advise us, to criticize us, to point out our faults, and to show us what we should do to correct them. There is nothing more valuable in life than that! That’s called derech chayim, it’s the way of life.
THE OLAM HABAH SHTIEBEL
So let’s say you know of a certain shtiebel where the rebbeh is going to criticize you when you come in: “Why did you come late today?” “Why did you leave early?” “Why did you talk during davenen?” “Why did you misbehave? Where’s your derech eretz?” “Where are your children?” “Are you married?” Now, of course there’s no such shtiebel. But that would be the shtiebel of success in this world, and of happiness in the World to Come.
So what did Hakodosh Boruch Hu do in the days of old? He granted our nation the greatest gift, and that was nevi’im. That was one of the great opportunities of the days of old. Nevi’im were for the purpose of setting people straight in their lives and helping them succeed in living full lives in Olam Hazeh. You remember when Shaul lost his donkeys? He went to the navi to find out where his donkeys were. In the olden days a navi gave you advice in gashmiyus. Why waste your time wandering up and down all the hills, and looking in all the valleys? The navi could just tell you, “Walk down this road and look for your donkey over there.” And even more important than your donkeys is your behavior with other people. With your wife, with your mother-in-law, with your neighbors. And your behavior toward yourself. Are you ruining your health? Are you serving Hakodosh Boruch Hu properly? Are you doing the mitzvos that Hashem commanded you? So the navi came and he was a yeshua – he was mamish a yeshua, a salvation, for the nation.
WHEN PEOPLE COULD NO LONGER TOLERATE IT
Now, we must know that for hundreds of years people tolerated the navi. It doesn’t mean that everybody always obeyed him, but they allowed him to speak. There was a case when one navi was slain. He came to criticize a king and the king was infuriated. So the king sent out somebody who secretly attacked the navi and killed him. It was a case that was never forgotten in our history. The blood of the navi was never forgotten. It’s mentioned again and again, but it was a rarity.
It was only at the end of Bayis Sheni when the people were already deteriorating that Yirmiyahu Ha’navi got a slap in the face from Pashchur the Kohen. It was an unusual thing. People couldn’t take the criticism anymore. And some of the king’s officers took Yirmiyahu Ha’navi and they threw him into a swamp where he was sinking in the quagmire, and he would soon drown in the mud. So a black man passed by, he was a black slave – here you have a black man who did a good thing – and he reported to the king that Yirmiyahu Ha’navi is drowning in the quagmire. So the king said, “Quickly, take blankets and ropes and run to save him.” So they took the blankets and ropes and they pulled him out and saved his life.
This type of thing happened at the very end because some of them showed that they didn’t want any more nevuah. So Hakodosh Boruch Hu said, “I gave you this great gift to help you in this world and the next world – it’s a derech chayim, a way of life – and now you’re becoming tired of it?! So I’m taking away that gift.” And that’s why the nevuah stopped. The Churban Beis Hamikdash was the termination of the nevuah. At the beginning of Bayis Sheni there still remained some old nevi’im who continued to live on for a little while. And when they passed away no navi ever arose again. It’s a remarkable thing; read our history – never again did anybody get up and say כה אמר השם – “So said Hashem.”
By the way, in the New Testament – of course it’s full of sheker, the whole New Testament is nothing but falsehood – but Oso Ha’ish was very careful; he knew how to guard himself. He never said כה אמר השם, not even once. He prayed to Hashem, yes, he prayed to Hashem it says. He kept the seder. He said hallel. He said hallel at the seder – it says it b’feirush in the New Testament. Many things he did. But despite all of his boasts he never said כה אמר השם. That he knew you can’t do! Because prophecy had already come to an end at the end of Bayis Rishon.
And you have to know that you should never forget the loss of nevuah! When we sit on the ground on Tishah B’Av, one of the things you are mourning is that there is no one to tell you the truth. Our fathers and mothers used to tell us a little bit when we were young; we didn’t lose everything. A father used to say something sometimes accompanied by a potch. It was a great gift, but you don’t live forever with your parents. Now that you became a big boy nobody tells you anything. The rebbi, the rosh yeshiva, doesn’t tell you anything because he wants to keep you – there are other yeshivos competing for you. So no rosh yeshiva is going to criticize his boys anymore. So it’s gone. תוכחת מוסר has gone lost. דרך חיים, what’s necessary for our lives, has gone loss! Who will tell us?
Here’s a couple that is battling. She’s battling against her husband. She’s all right, and he’s all wrong. And he of course says just the opposite – she’s all wrong and he’s all right. All over the map, everywhere, people are battling. Isn’t that a tragedy when everyone thinks he’s right? Here’s a machlokes between neighbors – they come to me and each one is sure that he’s right. Everyone thinks he’s right. Nobody is wrong! Nobody knows the truth about himself: How wrong you are! How wrong you are!
And in the days of old we had that glorious opportunity of תוכחת מוסר, of being told how wrong we were. And now we sit on the ground on Tisha B’Av and we weep. What are we weeping for? We are weeping for the shleimus, the perfection, that we once had available to us, and now it’s gone. We should weep for that!
Now, in the days of old, in order to give the words of the nevi’im more power, Hashem allowed the nevi’im to do miracles. Now these nissim weren’t just because Hakodosh Boruch Hu wanted to show miracles. It was for the purpose of upholding the authority of the navi. You remember when the navi wanted to give a poor woman some wealth? He could have brought her a bag full of golden coins. But that would be too poshut, too simple. So what did he do? He caused her jar of oil to overflow; it began overflowing into other jars. That’s what it says in this possuk. She poured from this jar into another jar, and then another one, until she filled up many jars from her one jar. Now, that’s a neis. Why was it necessary? The navi could have had gold. Hashem could have said, “Bring her gold,” and he would bring her gold. If it’s a miracle to make oil, he could have made gold too. Now, suppose the navi would have brought her a bag of gold; very good. The poor woman would have been very happy. But it wouldn’t be a demonstration of the d’var Hashem. So Hakodosh Boruch Hu gave the navi the power to do miracles. And therefore, people respected the word of the navi. And these miracles stopped by the Churban Bayis Rishon – because the nevuah stopped, and there was no need for these miracles any longer.
Now, when we sit on the floor on Tisha B’Av, we should have in mind how great was the opportunity of tochacha, of hearing criticism from mouths of the nevi’im. And we’re missing it so terribly. כל המתאבל על ירושלים, you sit and you mourn for that loss! Of course, if you’re mourning for that, then it means that’s you’re willing to hear criticism today, even not from a navi. Many years ago, a boy came over to me in the yeshiva – I was the mashgiach – and he said to me, “If you see anything wrong in me, tell me.” I almost fell off my chair. It happened only once. In my history it happened only one time. I don’t know how much he meant it, but it sounded good anyhow.
In the days of old people wanted to get better. And so if you’re really mourning for those days, so you have to be ready to hear criticism; you have to go to places where somebody will criticize you. If you can’t find a place, then you’re going to have to choose somebody in whom you have confidence and tell him, “I want you to tell me whenever you see anything wrong in me. I want you to criticize me.” Of course, you’re not going to do it. But I’m just telling you the idea; at least you should hear the idea.
THE NAVI AND THE WEATHERMAN
In the days of old we had that. And we’re mourning for that. Again and again, it must be reiterated that we have lost a great treasure that would have set us straight in our lives physically. It would have caused so much happiness in our lives. In the days of the nevi’im people would be walking around in Eretz Yisroel, and the sun is shining, and people would complain, “Oh, it’s too hot!” And the navi would say, “What do you mean ‘too hot’?! Hakodosh Boruch Hu is causing the grapes to bulge with grape juice! The figs are swelling with sweetness inside! The dates are growing big with syrup inside! All because of the sun! And you’re blaming Hashem because He’s cooking all these meals on the trees and making the fruits ready to eat?! He’s cooking for you on the tree ready to eat fruit. And you’re complaining?!” That’s how a navi would speak. Only that I suspect that people didn’t complain about the heat in those days. They knew that it was good for the plants and the trees and they loved it.
If snow fell – sometimes snow fell in Yerushalayim too – and someone would say, “The snow is nasty!” Let the navi hear such words! He would say, “Don’t you know that farmers are praying for snow? The more snow there is in the winter time, the more moisture goes into the earth, and the better the crops will be in the summertime. No question about that. And you’re complaining when you get a gift like that?!”
People would learn to be happy with the weather! Imagine, everyone learned to be happy when it was hot and happy when it was cold. Cold is very important! The earth stops producing when it’s cold. If the earth would continue producing all year round, the soil would become arid and it would lose its fertility. The cold causes earth to stop producing and rejuvenate. So we say, “Baruch Hashem, yom yom.” We’re happy with the weather every day. We’re happy with the cold. We’re happy with the heat. When it rains, you say, “Rain, rain, go away”?! “Chas v’shalom,” the navi would say, “Chas v’shalom! Didn’t you stand last Hoshana Rabbah for two or three hours and ask for rain? That’s all you were asking for: rain and rain and rain and rain. And now, when it comes, you’re unhappy with the rain?!”
THE SEVENTY ELDERS TEACH CHOVOS HALEVAVOS
And so, you have to have a navi to make you happy in this world. You know, when the Bnei Yisrael began to complain in the wilderness, ויהי העם כמתאוננים, so Moshe Rabeinu said to Hashem, “I can’t help them. I don’t know what to do.” So Hakodosh Boruch Hu told him, אספה־לי שבעים איש, Take together seventy men… and I’m going to make them into nevi’im” (Bamidbar 11:16).
Now the question is: What would the seventy men help? Would they be able to supply the people with all the things they wanted to eat? After all, they weren’t bakers and butchers. What good was it to have seventy men? They wanted better food, not nevi’im.
The answer is that the seventy men would give the people what was most important – they would give them seichel. They would scatter among the people and say speeches; they’d speak to the people. A navi is a good speaker! They would explain how good it was to have mann. They would tell a person, “Take this mann, and imagine that this mann is now a seven-layer chocolate cake. Imagine that!” And the navi would spend time explaining to them that it takes work, it takes effort of the mind, to imagine that it’s seven layer cake. And now anyone who listened well, would take a piece of mann, and bite into it, it tasted like a seven-layer chocolate cake!
When you want to feel that taste, you’ll feel that taste. If you want to be happy, you’ll be happy! You have happiness inside of you; it’s only your foolishness that doesn’t let it come out. You need a navi to teach you how to live properly, and that’s what the seventy men were for; to explain to the people how lucky they were. “Look, you have no goyim around. You’re protected, you’re safe here. You’re safer here than you’ll be at any future time in your history.” Moshe Rabeinu was the most victorious general we ever had. And we were protected all the time by the ananei hakavod. “What are you complaining about?!
That was the purpose of the seventy nevi’im. We needed seventy people who were capable of speaking to the people and teaching them how to be happy with all of the simple things in life; the bread, the water, the grass, the air, the wind. Everything! The navi taught us how to live life properly.
So the navi was a great gift in the days of old. A gift for physical happiness, for causing harmony among people, and of course, even more important, the navi was the one who showed us the path, the דרך חיים תוכחות מוסר, how to be successful to be zoicheh to chayei olam habah. No question, in the World to Come, all those tzadikim from those generations are standing in front of Hashem and saying, אודך השם כי אנפת בי – “I thank You Hashem that you were angry at me. You were angry at me and you sent the navi against me. Ahh! How lucky I am that I lived in the days when I had a navi to criticize me.”
And so today, when we mourn for that, when we mourn for what we once had, then we are promised by Hashem: זוכה ורואה בישועתה, you will be rewarded and you will see the perfection and happiness of Yerushalayim.
Now, I’m going to explain that right now in one sense. What does it mean that you’ll be rewarded and see the yeshuah of Yerushalayim? What does it mean that you’ll see the nevi’im again? Because the question arises: Didn’t Rashi sit on the ground on Tisha B’Av and mourn for Yerushalayim? And Rashi didn’t see any neviim come. The Rambam, the Rashba, all the tzadikim. And before them, all the Tannaim sat and wept for Yerushalayim, but they didn’t see the yeshuah. So it’s a question. What do the chachomim mean when they say that those who mourn what we are missing will be zoicheh to see those benefits of Yerushalayim? I want to make sure you hear the kashah.
According to some, when Moshiach comes there will be techiyas hameisim, the resurrection of the dead, as Rashi says (Sanhedrin 51b). According to this approach, all those who mourned properly for Yerushalayim will merit to be resurrected and they will see the simchah of Yerushalayim then.
But there are some problems with this approach. First of all, we don’t rule that way. The Rambam rules according to Shmuel, that in Moshiach’s time olam keminhago noheig, the world will function as it always has. Of course, it will be a world of truth — yakiru veyeidu kol yoshvei teiveil … everyone in the world will recognize the truth — and Am Yisrael will be known as Hashem’s chosen people, but everything will continue as it is today: people will live and die, just as they do today. Only some time later — we don’t know when — will there be techiyas hameisim.
Second, even according to that approach, if those who mourned the Churban arise at techiyas hameisim, and will want to experience the simchah for which they wept on Tishah B’Av, it will be too late; after techiyas hameisim they will have no bechirah, no free will, and without free will no one can perfect himself. No one can make himself better than he was. The way he died is the way he will remain after returning to life. People are mourning that they don’t have a prophet to set them straight and give them guidance in life, but if a prophet comes to help them after techiyas hameisim, it will be too late to help them.
THE SIMCHA OF YERUSHALAYIM : SIYATA DISHMAYA
So let me tell you what it means. When the Gemara says zocheh vero’eh besimchasah, that one will merit to see the joy of Yerushalayim, it doesn’t mean that they will see the simchah of Yerushalayim itself; it means that they will see the simchah that Yerushalayim could have given them. For instance, a tzaddik like Rashi mourned for Yerushalayim in a perfect manner, weeping and saying, “Oh, I mourn for the days of old when we had nevi’im who could guide us. What a glorious period that was!” Then Hashem responded, “You are looking for someone who will set you straight in life? If so, then right now I will give you what you are wishing for: You will merit that perfect guidance. I will give it to you in the form of siyata diShmaya, assistance from Heaven.” When a person yearns for a good thing with all his heart, Hashem says, “I will give it to you.” So even though no navi came to Rashi or to the other tzaddikim who sat and mourned for the Beis HaMikdash, but Hashem gave them greatness.
Rashi had such a perfection of recognizing truth, that it’s remarkable. When you study Rashi thoroughly, it becomes obvious how wise and clear headed he was in understanding character, in recognizing the ins and outs of middos, of human nature. It’s remarkable. Rashi became one of the greatest experts in chochmas hamussar, the wisdom of mussar. And that’s besides for being an expert commentator. Every word that he says is exactly suited to the situation. There is wisdom in Rashi without end. It’s remarkable! You can make a whole compendium of Rashi’s ideas that teach us wisdom and da’as Hashem.
And one of the reasons that Rashi merited all this wisdom is that he yearned for it. He hoped to Hashem: “Help me! I’m so sorry that I don’t have a rebbi who is like an navi to teach me, to guide me toward perfection.” So Hashem said, “Just because you are yearning for that, just because you are longing for the wisdom that the navi would provide, I am going to give it to you. And that yeshuah that will come in the time of the Beis Hamikdash, you’ll get it right now.”
HASHEM WILL HELP YOU SUCCEED IF YOU WANT PERFECTION
If you truly regret that you missed an opportunity for perfection, then Hashem will give it to you. If you’re sorry, “Why didn’t I have a chance to become a big lamdan,” then Hashem will help you succeed. Of course, you have to be sorry enough! You have to mean it. If you’re sorry that you are not a lamdan but you don’t open a sefer, that shows that you’re not really sorry. But if you’re sorry and you’re opening a sefer all you can, so Hashem says, “Oh, you’re really longing for it! So I’ll help you.” That’s called זוכה ורואה בישועתה.
You want to be a tzaddik? What are you doing to become a tzaddik? Are you learning Mesillas Yesharim? Do you make it your business to read sefarim that teach you the ways of tzedek and avodas Hashem? If you do that, and then you say, “Ah, if I had a navi to guide me, then it would be so much easier! I wouldn’t wander around back and forth searching for the right path,” then Hashem says, “Because you’re truly mourning Yerushalayim, I’m going to give you that yeshuah of Yerushalayim now — and you’ll succeed.”
Now there is another very similar element that we lost at the churban, that is included in this loss of nevuah. We call it the Churban Beis Hamikdash but actually it was the churban of our nation. We lost our national government which was a Torah government. We were governed by the chachmei hatorah. The Sanhedrin was l’havdil, our Parliament, l’havdil elef havdolos. People who had spent their lives in laboring in becoming great in Torah were our leaders. By the way, many of them worked as well at the same time. Rabbi Yehoshua was the Av Beis Din, but he would slip out from time to time to go make needles. He manufactured needles in his cabin. He didn’t take any money from people to be supported. Rabban Gamliel was a millionaire. Rabbi Tarfon was a millionaire. They didn’t take money from the people to support them. But they still labored all their lives in Torah, and these people, the people who lived Torah lives, they were the ones who were the leaders of our nation!
Now, when we yearn for such an opportunity of having the chachmei hatorah in charge of our people, there’s no question that Hakodosh Boruch Hu takes into account the fact that we are yearning and he gives us some benefit without the presence of these great men. So now we are learning how important it is to sit on the floor on Tisha B’Av and look back and mourn for the perfection that we could have had in the days of old – when we had the nevi’im criticizing us and the chachmei hatorah guiding us to shleimus in avodas Hashem.
THE DESTRUCTION OF DA’AS HASHEM
Now there is another element that we lost besides the nevuah, and that is the actual Beis Hamikdash. The Beis Hamikdash you must know, was an opportunity for the Jewish nation to have what we know as true knowledge. True knowledge of Hashem – called dei’ah – is something that is one of the most precious thing in the world. The Gemara (Nedarim 41) tells us דא קנית מה חסרת if you have this, if you have dei’ah, what do you lack? If you have true knowledge of Hashem, there is nothing more precious. Now, what is true knowledge of Hashem? True knowledge of Hashem means that a person is so clearly convinced of the Presence of Hashem that all he lacks is actually seeing Him. This is what we call emunah chushis, the sensory emunah. It’s when a person has gained such clarity that he feels that “I’m standing before Hakodosh Boruch Hu and Hakodosh Boruch Hu is looking at me.”
Now that takes work. It doesn’t come easily. You could be a frum Jew, but actually your head could be empty of emunah. You say words, you say “Ani ma’amin…,” but you’re very far away from it. Do you actually feel that Hashem is looking at you? That doesn’t happen by itself; you have to work on it. It’s not easy. Mesillas Yesharim says that when we’re standing in davening, it says דע לפני מי אתה עומד, Know before Whom you stand. Know! Do you know before who you’re standing? “Sure I know!” you’ll say. No, you don’t know at all. You know how to say the words, but you don’t have a y’diyah chushis; you don’t actually feel it. It’s not easy to feel that you’re standing before Somebody who is listening to you. כי אתה שומע תפלת עמך ישראל ברחמים, You, Hashem, are listening to the prayers of Am Yisrael with compassion. Hashem is standing before us and listening with compassion to us! Do we have that feeling? We have to work on it.
But when we came to the Beis HaMikdash, that was the place where we gained dei’ah, emunah chushis. When we saw how the Kohanim walked with the utmost reverence, with fear of Hashem; every detail they did with such precision exactly, l’havdil, as if they were standing in front of a king, and serving him. When the Kohen accepted the dam of the korban, he caught the blood of the animal in a vessel, and he began carrying the dam to the mizbei’ach. He walked eikev b’tzad godel; he walked slowly and carefully, with reverence, with moreh shamayim.
Anybody who was present and saw this was so impressed that he gained the full attitude of understanding that the Shechinah rested in the Beis HaMikdash. Hakodosh Boruch Hu actually dwells in the Mikdash. ושכנתי בתוך בני ישראל. We have no idea about the powerful impact of the korbanos on the minds of all the spectators. Once you came and you saw the avodas Beis HaMikdash it left an indelible impression on your mind that lasted forever! You would tell it to your grandchildren, “I was once in the Beis HaMikdash,” and you’d tell them what you saw, and they would be impressed. And even those people who didn’t come to the Beis HaMikdash for some reason – maybe they lived too very far away – but they knew that Hakodosh Boruch Hu dwelled in their midst: There is a house, a palace, a big, beautiful building where Hakodosh Boruch Hu resides!
Of course, today, we’re far away from that idea. We’re all philosophers, all chachomim, wise guys. But in those days people believed that Hakodosh Boruch Hu resided among us. Like He said, ושכנתי בתוך בני ישראל – “I will dwell among the Am Yisroel.”
In the times of the First Beis HaMikdash, the nevi’im came and told us that again and again; and every person saw for himself with his eyes how the Beis HaMikdash was the Place of the Shechinah. In those times many miracles took place in the Beis HaMikdash to demonstrate the Presence of Hashem.
And therefore, we have to understand that the Beis HaMikdash was a source of emunah chushis, a real sensory perception. And that’s why today we sit on the ground and mourn that, alas, we don’t have that opportunity anymore. And we shed tears over the loss of the Beis Hamikdash because it’s our loss! And we yearn for the opportunity to once more be able to come and witness the avodas Beis HaMikdash, and our hearts would swell with feelings of loyalty and devotion to Hashem. We’ll learn how to fear Hakodosh Boruch Hu, how to fear His Presence, when we see how the Kohanim serve Him with yirah. ושם נעבדך ביראה כימי עולם וכשנים קדמוניות.
FINISHING SHEMONAH ESREI WITH A BLAST
That’s why it’s important that every time you finish Shemoneh Esrei, you should say those words. Don’t be in a hurry. Utilize the opportunity, ושם נעבדך ביראה כימי עולם וכשנים קדמוניות, there we will serve You again with yirah, with fear, as we did in the days of old. Isn’t it a pity? You walk back three steps and you mumble these pesukim. No, don’t say it fast. ותן חלקנו בתורתך, and give us our share in Your Torah. Our share in Torah is the Beis HaMikdash. We need it to infuse us with emunah and yiras Shamayim.
It’s good to be frum, certainly. It’s good to be a m’dakdeik b’mitzvos. It’s good to be afraid of the Shulchan Aruch, absolutely. Where’s Hakodosh Boruch Hu, however? What about being afraid of Him? So you’ll say, “I’m afraid of Him.” Now, I’m sure we have yiras shamayim a little bit. But that’s not real dei’ah; that’s not real yiras shamayim.
Gedolah dei’ah, says the Gemara (Berachos 33, Sanhedrin 92) And just how great is dei’ah? “If someone has dei’ah, it’s as if the Beis HaMikdash was built in his days.” It’s a remarkable statement! If you build up dei’ah in your mind, you’re making yourself into a Beis HaMikdash, because the purpose of the Beis Hamikdash is to enable people to acquire dei’ah. That’s why, when a tzaddik passes away, we weep for him “kisreifas Beis Elokeinu,” as if the Beis HaMikdash had been burned down” (Rosh Hashanah 18b). Because this tzaddik worked and worked his whole life to feel the Presence of Hashem. He walked on the street and he said, “Hashem is looking at me.” He’s sitting at home and he’s thinking, “Hashem, I know that you’re looking at me right now.” He’s constantly reminding himself, “Hashem is looking at me.” עין רואה ואוזן שומעתHe didn’t just say it; he worked on it. He worked for years and years, and he made a Beis Hamikdash out of himself. And when he finally passes away we have to weep for him like for the Churban Beis Hamikdash.
CRYING FOR OURSELVES
And so this year, when we sit on the floor on Tisha B’Av, let’s shed a tear for ourselves. We don’t have the Beis Hamikdash anymore. Ahh! What we are losing by not having that glorious opportunity to gain the true awareness, the feeling that Hashem is right there, that was available in the days of old.
Now, there’s so much more to explain about how the Beis Hamikdash was able to plant into men’s minds an emunah that was a true and genuine feeling of awareness of Hashem. But I want to move on to the third subject now, the third loss that we suffered, because our time together is almost over.
NO GOYIM ALLOWED!
And the third subject was: פזור, the fact that we’re now scattered among the nations. The Gemara in Masichta Sanhedrin (52b) asks: What caused the friends of Korach to side with him against Moshe Rabbeinu? After all, the bnei Reuven didn’t have any hopes of becoming kohanim, they were not levi’im. So why did the bnei Reuven and others, join Korach in his machlokes? They had nothing to gain! Korach was a levi, and the levi’im were jealous that Aharon Hakohen was chosen. But the non-levi’im, why did they come?
So the Gemara explains that it was because Korach was a generous host. He entertained people. They came to his tent and he gave plenty of parties; he was a wealthy man. There’s a passuk (Tehillim 35:16), בחנפי לעגי מעוג – With flattery, that’s laagei, and ridicule, that’s ma’og. But the word מעוג is related to the word עוגה, cake. He served them all sorts of cakes, and they sat at his table and laughed at his jokes. When you sit at somebody’s table, if he says divrei Torah you applaud him; even if it’s not good Torah. But because you eat at his table, “Ah, very good toirah” That’s nature. If you’re a host and you’re entertaining people with good times and a good meal, and you say divrei Torah, they’re going to applaud your Torah. And if you’ll say lashon hara, they’ll applaud your lashon hara too.
So בחנפי לעגי מעוג because they chanfed, they flattered, they catered to Korach, that’s why when Korach ridiculed Moshe Rabbeinu, they agreed with him. Because of ma’og, the cakes that they ate at his table, they nodded their heads. Even if they didn’t agree with Korach, but they nodded their heads. Just to nod your head alone is a terrible thing! Charok alav shineimo, the Sar shel gehinnom began to gnash his teeth at them, and said, “They’re my customers now! My customers.” If you’re sitting at Korach’s table, you’re his customers. You have to be careful where you eat!
EATING AT AMERICA’S TABLE
Now, we’re in galus now and we’re eating at the table of the goyim. They’re our hosts. We sit in their countries, in Spain, in Germany, in Poland, in France, in Russia, in America. And they’re the ones who are entertaining us, they’re hosting us. After all, we eat from their country. And therefore, we chanfah, we flatter, the goyim. You’ll say, “I’m not chanfening the goyim; I’m independent.” It’s not true. As soon as you set step in America, you should know that even the biggest tzadikim are already somewhat humbled and they’re kowtowing before the Americans. You can’t help it! Living among goyim means that you are partly a goy.
Like it says in the possuk, when Dovid had to flee from Eretz Yisrael because he was afraid for his life, he said (Shmuel I 26:19), ‘Today they drove me away from being together with the nachlah of Hashem, and they said to me, לך עבוד אלוהים אחרים, Go, serve other gods’.” So the Gemara (Kesubos 110b) asks: Who told Dovid to serve other gods? Nobody told him that! So the Gemara says, yes, because once you go among the goyim it’s like you’re serving other gods. So even though you’re a frum Jew, if you live among goyim, like it or not, part of you is a goy. That’s what the gemara says. You can’t help it. Eretz Yisroel today is the same thing. The resha’im in Eretz Yisroel are like goyim, so if you live among them, it’s also like serving other gods.
EVERYBODY KEPT THE TORAH
But in the days of old, Eretz Yisrael was entirely for Am Yisrael. There wasn’t a single Jew who lived outside the borders. It’s unbelievable! Not a single Jew lived outside the borders of Eretz Yisroel. We didn’t have to chanfeh the goyim. Maybe there were a few goyim in the land, could be; maybe some of the weaker Jews chanf’ed them. But it wasn’t so necessary. After all, we were the owners of the land. They were eating at our table. If a host is so weak minded that he chanfehs his guest, it’s a big criticism on him. You don’t chanfeh your guests. And in those days we were the baleh batim in Eretz Yisroel. You know what it means to have a whole nation that spoke only lashon kodesh. You couldn’t hear a word in English in Eretz Yisroel. You couldn’t hear a word of French. Only lashon kodesh in all of Eretz Yisroel. Imagine what that means! Everybody ate kosher in Eretz Yisroel. You couldn’t help it. They’d murder you. The neighbors would murder you if you ate treif in Eretz Yisroel. Everyone kept Shabbos! They wouldn’t touch a davar tamei. They kept tumah vetahorah, the laws of purity, in Eretz Yisroel. Everybody kept the Torah!
And even in the worst times, when our nation was divided, the aseres ha’shvatim kept the Torah. They had broken away from those whose lives centered around Yerushalayim, they were not the better element of the nation, but even then they kept everything. In the time of King Achav, which was the worst time in our history, Achav’s kitchen was perfectly kosher. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 113a) tells us that birds used to take food from Achav’s kitchen to bring to Eliyahu Hanavi to eat. It says it openly. It says that ravens used to steal food from Achav’s kitchen and bring it to Eliyahu in his hiding place. It was a perfectly kosher kitchen. It was glatt- glatt! If Eliyahu ate it, then it was surely from a glatt-kosher kitchen!
Imagine such a country! Everything was al pi hatorah. Of course, people did sins; there was lashon hara and machlokes, all kinds of sins. And sometimes someone would even sneak in to do a little avodah zarah quietly. He needed the help. When his field wasn’t producing enough grain so he heard from one of the few gentiles in the land, a goyishe neighbor, “I have a little idol over here. If you worship this idol, it’ll help you have a more fertile field.” So, out of desperation, he yielded to the goy sometimes. But the nation was a Jewish nation.
EVEN BETTER THAN BORO PARK
Suppose you have all of Boro Park full of Jews. There are no Irishmen and no Italians left. All of Boro Park, nothing but frum Jews. But in the time of the Beis Hamikdash it was a hundred times better than Boro Park; it was a thousand times better than Boro Park. Even in Boro Park, even if there were no goyim at all, what’s the law of the land? The state laws of New York. Everyone must submit to the laws of the the state and to the Constitution. But in Eretz Yisrael when the Beis HaMikdash stood, what was the law of the land? The Chumash! The Torah Shebe’al Peh! There was no other constitution except the Torah. Even Achav and his wicked wife followed the Torah! When they wanted to falsely accuse Navos, they brought two witnesses – not one witness; two witnesses were required. And they accused Navos of cursing Hashem and cursing the king. And they gave him the s’kilah according to the laws of the Torah – exactly like the Torah says. Achav and his government followed the Torah. Imagine living in such a country! We have no idea what an opportunity for perfection it was for them.
No movies, no amusement parks, no hippodrome. In Rome there hippodromes. No baseball games! No baseball games in Eretz Yisroel! Nothing! Just a Jewish nation. All Jewish minhagim! You have no idea what perfection was available to them.
MOURNING FOR BEING MIKTZAS GOYIM
And on Tishah B’Av we sit on the floor and mourn that; for the pizur, the fact that we’re dispersed among the nations, and that we’re becoming goyim. It can’t be helped; we’re miktzas goyim. Of course, as much as possible we should try to keep aways from goyim today too. We keep away from gentiles and irreligious Jews. We don’t go to places where they go. As much as possible, we can still do something today. But it’s nothing compared to what it was like when you couldn’t see a goy. You walk in the streets today and you have to close your eyes. In ancient times, if a person walked in the street the way people walk in public today, they’d murder them. You think you could walk in the street with a short dress. It was unthinkable! When the navi criticized the women of his times, in the days of Yeshayah, he criticized them for having very fine, expensive dresses; expensive shoes (Yeshayah 3:16). But that it was short sleeves?! Chas v’shalom! Nothing like that could ever happen in Eretz Yisroel!
You have no idea what it means to live among Jews! Only Jewish minhagim! Yom Kippur! Yom Kippur was a hundred percent Yom Kippur. There wasn’t a single goy around. Rosh Chodesh! People didn’t work on Rosh Chodesh. The whole Jewish nation didn’t work on Rosh Chodesh. Shabbos? No question about it!
WEEPING FOR THREE THINGS
And so, we sit on the ground on Tishah B’Av and we weep. We weep, “Where are the neviim of old who used to guide us in perfection in this world and into the Next World? We weep over the loss of the Beis HaMikdash, which gave us dei’ah and emunah chushis — a true concept of Hashem’s Presence among us. The Beis Hamikdash gave us a true, a real, belief in Hashem. And we weep over the loss of the nation that was once living together in its own land, without dispersion. We didn’t live among the goyim! Everything was frum; fully Jewish and nothing but Jewish.
And that’s what we’re mourning for on Tisha B’Av. We’re mourning for that perfection that was available to our nation. So Hashem says, “If you mourn for it now, then to a big extent you’ll be zoicheh and you’ll see the yeshuah in this lifetime, right now. That’s זוכה ורואה בישועתה. If you’ll mourn the loss of the nevi’im who criticized and made us better, then Hakodosh Boruch Hu will give you to a big extent the perfection of having someone show you the right path in life. You’ll bump into the right teachers. You’ll come across the right sefarim. You’ll get guidance as if it were coming from a navi. Of course, it can’t be the same, but it will be something m’ein, similar to what was once given by the nev’im.
And if you mourn the loss of the actual Beis HaMikdash, eventually you will get a certain amount of emunah chushis. Hakodosh Boruch Hu will guide you in how to learn Shaar Habechinah in Chovos Halevavos — which will teach you how to recognize Hashem in nature. And you’ll daven with the kavanos that will awaken within you a feeling that you’re standing before Hashem. דע לפני מי אתה עומד. And you’ll find many other seforim that will teach you the emunah. And that will be your reward for weeping on Tishah B’Av.
And if you mourn on Tisha B’Av because you’re dispersed among the nations, then Hakodosh Boruch Hu will help you that you’ll be able to be among Jews more. Maybe you’ll get a parnassah that won’t necessitate being among the gentiles. Hashem will give you the strength you need to overcome the influence of the gentile environment. You’ll be able to live an independent, frum, Jewish life. More and more the environment will help you. Environment is a tremendous thing. No question, if you live among frum Jews it has a tremendous effect. Those people who move away to West Orange, to other places in Jersey, to small towns in Massachusetts. Those Jews are trying to get lost among the goyim. And if you try to get lost, you’ll succeed. You’ll succeed!
You should do everything you can to settle among the best; to settle among the biggest number of frum Jews. Of course, it would be better to be in Eretz Yisroel when Moshiach will come. But in the meantime, our job is to try to emulate, to imitate, as much as possible the kibutz galiyos. As much as possible to associate only with frum Jews. And only the best of the frum Jews.
THE MORE YOU WEEP, THE MORE YOU’LL REJOICE IN PERFECTION
And if you sit on the ground together with other Jews and weep for these three things, then Hakodosh Boruch Hu says: כל המתאבל על ירושלים – If you mourn for Yerushalayim, for what Yerushalayim once was able to give you, and which you don’t have now, זוכה ורואה בישועתה, then you will see in your life some of the salvation, some of the perfection in avodas Hashem that Yerushalayim was capable of giving in the times when the Beis HaMikdash stood.
שמחו את ירושלים וגילו בה כל אוהביה, Be glad with Jerusalem and rejoice in her all you who love her (Yeshayahu 66:10). All you who mourn with Yerushalayim will rejoice with it. All those who love the privileges of what Yerushalayim offered us in the days of old, will rejoice in the happiness of the Beis Hamikdash. And even though we may not be able to see it with our own eyes, Hakodosh Boruch Hu says that זוכה ורואה בישועתה. Hashem assures us that a great measure of that perfection will come to you in this life, even if you don’t live to see Moshiach come.