Parashat Va’yailaich - Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur 5773
Baal Shem Tov: "I was sent to the world to teach the Jewish people to distinguish between the essential and the trivial in life".
Three times in our parasha, pessimism pervades regarding the future behavior of the Jewish people, with the lowest point to be reached at the "end of days", as the pasuk states (Devarim 31:29)
... וקראת אתכם הרעה באחרית הימים כי תעשו את הרע בעיני ה להכעיסו במעשה ידיכם
And the bad will happen to you at the end of days when you will do bad in the eyes of Hashem, causing Him to anger at your actions.
It is generally accepted by our rabbis that we are now in ‘the end of days". Millions of our people have succeeded in surviving the heinous galut experience with Torah intact and love of HaShem in their hearts, and those who have fallen can justify their spiritual failings on historical considerations like the Shoah. So what is the unforgivable damning sin that could provoke HaShem’s anger, as depicted in the above verse?
One day the Bet HaMikdash will be rebuilt on the Temple Mount in Yerushalayim, and the Mashaich - a man of flesh and blood from the House of David - will rule over the Jewish nation in Eretz Yisrael. But if things remain as they are today in American gentile society, there will be great numbers of Jews, including religious leaders, who will prefer to remain in Lawrence, Beverly Hills, and Williamsburgh, NY.
This is the cardinal sin referred to in the above pasuk - to cling to the flesh pots of the galut even when the dreams of our people have been realized.
I could never have entertained such an audacious thought were it not for the fact that a similar situation already occurred in our history.
It is brought in the Book of Zecharya (7:1-3)
ויהי בשנת ארבע לדריוש המלך היה דבר ה' אל זכריה בארבעה לחדש התשעי בכסלו:
וישלח בית אל שר אצר ורגם מלך ואנשיו לחלות את פניה':
לאמר אל הכהנים אשר לבית ה' צבאות ואל הנביאים לאמר האבכה בחדש החמשי הנזר כאשר עשיתי זה כמה שנים
In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev.
The exiles in Bavel sent Sharezer and Regem-Melek, together with their men, to entreat the Lord by asking the kohanim of the house of the Lord Almighty and the prophets, ףShould I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?
This chapter relates the events which occurred after the Second Temple had been rebuilt.
The righteous among the exiles, who were scrupulous in their religious obligations, sent emissaries to Yerushalayim with a halachic question. Now that the Temple has been rebuilt and the sacrifices are again being offered, is there still an obligation upon us to fast of the 9th of Av to commemorate the tragic destruction of the First Temple?
Radak (Rav David Kimchi) comments:
כי עדיין לא היו מאמינים בבנין הבית מפני האויבים שהשביתו את המלאכה כמה שנים ועתה אף על פי ששמעו כי היו בונים היו קטני אמנה ולא היו רוצים לעלות מבבל כי לא היו מאמינים שישלם בנין הבית ויעמד מפני הצרים אותם ושאלו אם יצומו בתשעה באב כמו שעשו שבעים שנה:
The Jews of babylon were skeptical regarding the permanence of the Temple in view of the many enemies surrounding the Jewish State (the second Bet HaMikdash stood for 420 years, ten years longer than the Bet HaMikdash of King solomon). They therefore preferred to remain in the exile and deal with the question of fasting on the 9th of Av!
Their very question depicts the humiliatingly low spiritual level to which these "righteous" halacha observant communities had fallen. Basic to the question was the premise that they would not be returning to Eretz Yisrael and the rebuilt Bet Hamikdash and sacrificial service. What was uppermost in their minds was the Halachic ruling concerning the continued fasting on the 9th of Av.
Is this not a mirror of the contemporary religious communities in today’s United States, where the little trees block their view of the great expanse of the forest?
We are now in the days between Rosh HaShana, when HaShem passes judgment on our actions and motives of the past year, and Yom Kippur, the day of appeals to the highest court in existence for pity and exoneration.
Today. This minute. Now, is the time for Jews in the galut, who have Hashem in their heart, to begin liquidating their material possessions and take the necessary steps to come home in this year of 5773.
Any thought of teshuva for personal offenses becomes insignificant when one is living with the stain of the galut. When the gates of the holy land are open and mother Rachel beckons to her children to come home, as we read in the haftarah on the second day of Rosh haShana and so many Jews remain in galut. It is comparable to chazal’s example of one who immerses in a mikva while holding a source of tuma (spiritual impurity) in his hand.
Take advantage of this window of opportunity, it will not last much longer.
Gemar Chatima Tova
Copyright © 5773-2012 Nachman Kahana