"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel . . . between Paran and between Tophel" (Devarim 1:1). Moshe was admonishing the Jewish people for the sins that they had committed. The Keli Yakar zt"l explains that Paran hints to the Chet HaMeraglim (Sin of the Spies) that occurred in the desert of Paran. Tophel refers to the Chet HaEgel (Sin of the Golden Calf). The word "tophel" is used many times in conjunction with idol worship. The Chet HaEgel occurred on the 17th of Tammuz and the Chet HaMeraglim on the 9th of Av. These two dates and the three weeks between them are referred to as Bein HaMetzarim (between the straits). The same word, "bein" is used in the verse bein Paran u'bein Tophel. And so, we find a hint to these three weeks in the verse.
These are weeks that are fraught with danger for the Jewish people. As the verse states, "All of her pursuers overtook her between the straits" (Eicha 1:3). On the 17th of Tammuz, Moshe Rabbeinu broke the stone tablets, and that became a day for breaking stones throughout history. For on that day, the walls of Yerushalaim were breached. On the 9th of Av, we cried for no reason, and that became a night of crying throughout the generations. Why is this time so dangerous for us?
Hashem protects the Jewish people in two ways: naturally and supernaturally. "And you shall love Hashem your G-d" (Devarim 6:5). This love brings us to cleave to Hashem. Hashem saves all those who cleave to Him, even if they are physically weak, and appear to have no chance. "You shall love your fellow as yourself" (Vayikra 19:18). If people help each other, then Hashem will help them by guiding the laws of nature in their favor. On these two infamous days in history, we destroyed both our sources of protection. On the 17th of Tammuz we worshipped the Golden Calf. This is the month whose mazel is the crab, and animal that travels backwards. So too we turned our backs on Hashem. We lost our source of Divine protection.
On the 9th of Av, the trait of Sinas Chinam (senseless hatred) was born. The Jewish people accused Hashem of hating them. How could they do such a thing? They were so accustomed to hating each other, that they assumed that Hashem must hate them also. And so, this terrible suffering was born, that brought about the destruction of both Holy Temples. This occurred in the month of Av, whose mazel is the lion. Because each Jew crouched like a lion, waiting to devour his friend. Therefore we lost our source of protection within the framework of nature. We do not love and help each other. Why should Hashem help us?
Without these two sources of protection, it is easy to see why our enemies overcame us. We are now in the midst of these three weeks. We need Hashem's protection now more than ever. How do we merit it? By correcting our past mistakes. By loving Him and loving our fellow Jews.
Kinderlach . . .
Tisha B'Av will be here in another few days. It is within our power to turn this day of great sorrow into a day of rejoicing. We can save Klal Yisrael from our enemies. How? Love Hashem with all of your heart. When you pray, speak to Him like you do to Abba. "Please, Abba, can I have this? I'm sorry Abba. I love you Abba." When you do a mitzvah, realize that you are putting a big smile on Abba's face. Love your friends, classmates, neighbors, and family members with all of your heart. Help them in any way that you can, with any favor that they need. Is there anything that you wouldn't do for your best friend? Practice Ahavas Chinam (unconditional love) and B'ezras Hashem we will hear the shofar of Moshiach in a few days.
Because They Love You
The book of Devarim is the book of tochacha (constructive criticism). Moshe Rabbeinu, shortly before his death, gathered the Jewish people together and reviewed their mistakes of the past forty years. He also taught and reviewed the fundamentals of Jewish thought and service to Hashem. Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch zt"l comments that the first eleven chapters of the book of Devarim contain the foundations of love, fear, and cleaving to Hashem. Not only for that generation, but also for all time.
Does anyone like to hear tochacha (constructive criticism)? We usually try to avoid it and surely are not happy with the person who criticizes us. The "Daas Zekanim MiBaalei HaTosfos", in their commentary on the Torah, have a different outlook. "One who criticizes a person will later find favor in his eyes; more so than the one who unjustly praises him." Moshe Rabbeinu criticized the Jewish people, and Bilaam praised them. This is comparable to the son of a king who had two officers, one who loved him and one who hated him. The one who loved him told him that he must obey the word of the king. If not, his father would have no mercy upon him. The other officer told him to do whatever he liked. After all, his father is the king. Nothing will happen to him. The first officer is like Moshe Rabbeinu, who spoke these words of tochacha. They have protected and guarded us for thousands of years. The second officer is like Bilaam who said, "How good are your tents Yaakov". Do whatever you like. You are Hashem's favorite nation and He will never punish you.
The commentary concludes by stating that one who accepts tochacha will be blessed. The Jewish people were certainly willing to accept tochacha. How do we know that? Rav Leib Chasman zt"l in his sefer "Ohr Yohel" points out that just a word of hint was enough. The tochacha consisted of the name of the place where the sin occurred. Nothing more was necessary. The Medrash Rabba (Devarim 1:9) states, "Hashem said to Moshe, 'Since the Jewish people accepted the tochacha, you must bless them.' Immediately Moshe Rabbeinu blessed them. All who accept tochacha merit blessings."
Kinderlach . . .
When we make mistakes, Abba and Imma must correct us. Sometimes a word is enough, but other times we need to hear more. It is not always pleasant to be criticized. When you think about it, you will realize that they are doing it because they love you. If not, they would just let you continue making mistakes. However, they love you and want the best for you. You also want the best for yourself. You also want the beracha reserved for those who accept criticism. Now doesn't that make it much easier to listen?
Kinder Torah Copyright 2002 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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