By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir
During the Three Weeks, between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, the Jewish People mourn the bad things that occurred to Israel during this period. On the 17th of Tamuz, five troubles befell Israel: the tablets were broken in the Golden Calf Incident; the Daily “Tamid” offering of the First Temple was cancelled; Jerusalem’s wall was breeched during the Second Temple period; the Torah was burnt by wicked Apostomos, and an idol was installed in the Temple Sanctuary. On the 9th of Av, the First and Second Temples were destroyed; it was decreed that our ancestors in the desert would not enter the Land; Beitar was captured and tens of thousands were murdered by the Romans. On this day, the Temple Sanctuary and its environs were ploughed, thereby fulfilling the verse, “Zion shall be ploughed as a field” (Jeremiah 26:18).
At this time of year, we have to arouse our hearts and look for ways to repent; to think about our own deeds and those of our ancestors. Their deeds were like ours, and those deeds brought both them and us suffering. Recalling these things will make us repent and become better…. Therefore, every Jew must repent during this period, examining his own deeds and making amends” (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 121:1). Today, we must search our souls not just as individuals but as a nation as regards our relationship to the People, Torah and Land of Israel.
Regarding our relationship to Eretz Yisrael, we must return to ourselves. We must learn and recognize, study and make ourselves aware, become acquainted and inform others of what we are, what our destiny is and what our specialness consists of. We are not like all the nations, we are set apart from them. We are a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Our historic task on earth is to shower light upon the world and to bring goodness to mankind, in accordance with G-d’s command to Abraham: “I will make you a great nation…. and you shall be for a blessing…. All the families of the earth shall be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3). As Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook taught in Orot 55: “We are greater than any other people; if we recognize this greatness, we will recognize ourselves, and if we forget it, then we will forget ourselves. A people that forgets itself is small and lowly… Forgetting ourselves constitutes forgetting our greatness.”
As far as our relationship to the Torah of Israel, our sages long ago said, “Each day, a heavenly voice resounds from Mount Sinai proclaiming, ‘Woe to the people for their disregard of the Torah!’ (Avot 6:2). Rav Kook adds, “We must study Torah and give it the appropriate respect, and we must relate to it reverently. Surely when one ponders the Torah, one finds that everything is contained within it, every delight and every splendor” (Orot HaTeshuva 4:9). Our holy Torah is a living Torah for us and for the entire world, as we say in our prayers, “Everlasting life did He plant in our midst”. We, as a nation, must repent, and bring ourselves and our children once more to study Torah lovingly. By such means, we will merit that our people, rising to rebirth in Zion, will have a new heart and a new spirit.
As far as our relationship to Eretz Yisrael, we must rid ourselves of the fundamentally erroneous assumption that Eretz Yisrael is just a means towards achieving existential goals such as security, prosperity or even spiritual and religious goals. (Eretz Yisrael is not an external acquisition of our nation. It is “an independent entity tied to the nation by a living bond, enveloped in inner virtues inherent to it” – Orot 9). Eretz Yisrael is not a topic for negotiations. It cannot be handed over to any individual or people on earth. Just as one does not concede his own life, so are we forbidden to concede our land, not one single millimeter.
Unfortunately, our present political leadership, and portions of the public, are suffering from a kind of confusion, and a weakness of faith, that have brought them to unprecedented effeteness and lowliness in their relationship to Eretz Yisrael. That relationship is expressed by the plan for expelling Jews from our land and for establishing a state for the Arabs who long to destroy us. By repenting nationally and as individuals vis-à-vis the people, Torah and Land, we will merit that these days will be transformed from a time of mourning and pain to a time of joy and gladness. As Zechariah said, “The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful seasons. Therefore love truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:19).
Looking forward to complete salvation,