Wait Until Next Year
by Jonathan Rosenblum
July 25, 2007
If yesterday turned out to be a festive day, ignore this column or treat it as a historical curiosity from a world now gone. But if we still fasted this year, perhaps we can offer some suggestions on how next year might be different.
The Gemara (Bava Metzia 30b) teaches us that Jerusalem was destroyed because the Jews of that generation insisted on the strict din Torah and did go l'fnim meshuras hadin (beyond the letter of the law). The principle is learned from the verse, ". . . and you shall make know to them the path in which they should go and the deeds that they should do" (BaMidbar 18:20). From the same verse, we also learn various mitzvos bein adam l'chaveiro – bikur cholim (visiting the sick), gemilus chassadim and burial of the dead.
What is so special about one who goes l'fnim meshuras hadin? Such a person, explains Rav Shimon Schwab, seeks to do Hashem's Will not just to fulfill his minimal halachic obligations. He brings the example of the daughters of Zelophechad. The Gemara (Bava Basra 120a) raises a difficulty in the verses concerning the daughters of Zelophechad. First, they are told, "Let them be wives to whomever is good in their eyes" (Bamidbar 36:6). Immediately thereafter they are told, "but only to the family of their father’s tribe shall they become wives" (Ibid.). The Gemara resolves the contradiction by saying that the second verse was only an eitzah tova, a piece of good advice.
But if that is the case, how can we understand the verse, "As Hashem commanded Moshe, so did the daughters of Zelophechad do. [They] became wives to the sons of their uncles" (Ibid., vs. 10-11)? Did we not just say that they were not commanded, but only received a piece of advice? Rav Schwab explains that for one who truly seeks to do Hashem's Will that which is conveyed by the Torah in the form of advice is fully binding, as if Hashem had commanded it.
A Jew whose entire focus is on fulfilling Hashem's Will does not treat the
halachah as a dry rule-book, but as a path to the realization of certain
type of human being. His constant question is: What type of person does the
Torah seeks to form? How should such a person behave?
The best answer to that question is found in the middos of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Emulation of those middos -- "What is He – gracious and merciful – so should you be gracious and merciful. . . " -- is the clearest evidence of a Jew who wants to fulfill the Will of his Creator. And since the middos of HaKadosh Baruch Hu are inferred from the way that Hashem relates to us, it follows that their emulation will be principally determined by the manner in which we relate to others, i.e., in mitzvos bein adam l'chaveiro.
Anyone who has ever delved into the lives of the gedolei Yisrael cannot fail to be astounded by the way that the excelled in mitzvos bein adam l'chaveiro. Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz relates in BeMechitzasam a story he once heard from a doctor in a Tel Aviv hospital. That doctor happened to be speaking one day to the Chazon Ish, and he told the Chazon Ish of a certain elderly patient who was all alone in the world, with no one to visit him. He added that he felt the lack of visitors was slowing his recovery. The next day when he made his rounds the doctor found the Chazon Ish sitting by that patient's bedside conversing with him.
No one had more demands on his time than the Chazon Ish. His advice was sought by hundreds, and the major decisions confronting the Torah community in Eretz Yisrael at that time rested largely on his shoulders. And certainly there was no one to whom his Torah learning was more precious. It was well-known that the Chazon Ish learned until he had just enough strength to make it to his bed. (Once he miscalculated how much strength he had left and was found collapsed on the ground.)
Yet almost every Jew could sit by the hospital bed of a lonely, old Jew. But no one else did. Only the Chazon Ish. Be'Mechitzasam is filled with dozens of such stories of how the Chazon Ish, the Brisker Rav, and Rav Shach went far beyond any realistic expectations in their willingness to help a fellow Jew. Because they understood better than we what it means to be an eved Hashem, who goes l'fnim meshuras hadin to fulfill his Master's Will.
OUR ROLE IN REBUILDING THE BAIS HAMIKDASH depends not only on emulating Hashem’s chesed towards those with whom we are close, or even on responding generously to the needs of strangers who are members of our community. It requires that we concern ourselves with the entirety of Klal Yisrael, even those far removed from Torah u'mitzvos.
Only those who mourn the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash, we are told, will be privileged to see it rebuilt. That mourning takes two forms: one backward-looking – zecher l'Churban, the mourning over the destruction itself; the other forward-looking – zecher l'Mikdash, the remembrance of all that the Temple represented and the eager anticipation of its rebuilding. The Gemara (Sukkah 41a), which is the source for the concept of zecher l'Mikdash, learns from a verse in Yirmiyahu (30:17 ) ". . . for they called you ‘Discarded,’ [saying] "she is Zion -- no one cares about her," – that Zion, i.e., the rebuilding of the Temple and the redemption of the Land, is dependent on those who yearn for her.
When the Temple stood, writes the Ramban, it reminded us of the unity of Klal Yisrael – 600,000 Jewish souls gathered "as one man with one heart." That unity is the precondition for the giving of Torah and the dwelling of Hashem's presence in our midst.
Any Jew today, no matter how careful he is in his mitzvah observance, who worries only about the insular community in which he lives and does not mourn the hemorrhaging of the Jewish people to assimilation and intermarriage, and who does not yearn for and work to build a unified Klal Yisrael is not be numbered among the seekers of Zion or the builders of the Bais HaMikdash. When asked by Heavenly Bais Din, "tzipisa l'yeshua? – did you anticipate the Redemption?" he will have good reason to tremble.
Related Topics: Jewish Holidays, The Three Weeks & Tisha B'Av
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