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Adapted from Drashos Hamaggid, drashos of Rav Shabsai Yudelevitz, zt"l.
This week is Shabbos Chazon, the Shabbos before Tisha B'Av commemorating the Churban Bais Hamikdash. Last week we read in the Haftorah Yirmiyahu Hanavi's prophecy about the Churban. Yirmiyahu rebukes Klal Yisroel with the following words:
For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and dug wells for themselves, broken wells, that can hold no water. (Yirmiyahu 2:13)
In this famous moshol Yirmiyahu describes how Klal Yisroel abandoned Hashem, the G-d of truth, the source of the water of life flowing from Heaven. Instead they worshipped wooden and stone images which had no power, broken wells that could bring nothing.
In order to illustrate the moshol of broken wells, it is appropriate to tell over the following incident which happened at the time of the founding of the State of Israel.
The first mayor of Tel Aviv was Meir Dizengoff. His memory has been engraved in history by various streets throughout Israel being named after him.
At one point Dizengoff was honored with a very unique invitation: the Bedouin living in the desert outside of Be'er Sheva invited the Mayor of Tel Aviv to come visit their tent city. This was to be a visit following all the rules of governmental etiquette.
Dizengoff was extremely curious to understand how human beings in the midst of Twentieth Century Civilization surrounded by the most advanced technology could live exactly as their forefathers had lived thousands of years ago. Thus he could not turn down the offer. The day for the visit was scheduled, and at the set time Dizengoff appeared with his governmental entourage at the entrance of the encampment. Around the tents there was nothing much else to look at besides sand, sand, and more sand.
Yes, the honored guest enjoyed every minute. His hosts had prepared a grand banquet of which the Jewish mayor partook liberally, in spite of the fact that it definitely was not of the highest standards of Kashrus. After satisfying himself to his heart's delight, he proceeded to wander around the tents chatting with the natives. They explained to him all the creative means which enabled these nomads to cope with the various problems they encountered in their daily life. He learned about natural remedies and ingenious inventions for providing water and food. He even was privileged to tour the flocks of sheep and goats encircling the camp under the guidance of a young shepherd boy, flute in hand.
As the visit came to an end and the honored guest was about to turn to his car to return home, his hosts approached him. "Our dear friend. We have an ancient custom that dates back many generations. Any honored guest who visits our camp is permitted to take with him any object he desires as a souvenir. Please, go through the tents and pick out whatever you wish. We want you to have a memento, a gift from the Bedouin."
"Nu. Why not?" the honored guest thought to himself. He made a round through the tents but could not really find anything worth taking. Nothing, not even the animals wandering around, fit in to the Twentieth Century modernity of Tel Aviv. Finally he decided to take a nargilla - a water pipe - which would decorate his living room. He pointed to the pipe with the pillar of smoke emanating from it. The tribal head joyfully hurried to bring it to him.
Dizengoff departed full of his impressions of the tribe, with his nargilla in hand. He expressed his warmest thanks to the tribal chiefs and offered them a reciprocal visit to Tel Aviv. "It will be my pleasure for you to be my guests in my house in the big city. I would love to show you the heights of modern progress," announced Dizengoff. His hosts accepted his invitation with profound appreciation.
And so it happened. Two weeks later the Bedouin informed him of their intention of taking him up on his invitation. They scheduled the date and the guests arrived with big smiles on their faces. They sat on the plush cushioned sofas of Dizengoff's living room.
The conversation wandered from topic to topic and the guests were overwhelmed by the advanced technology they encountered in every corner of the mayor's luxurious house.
At the end of the visit Dizengoff remembered the time honored Bedouin custom he had learned two weeks ago during his unforgettable visit. He offered the entourage to go through his house and take whatever was their hearts' desire as a memento.
The nomads could not refuse, and went from room to room, touching this, lifting up that, moving this…. But they could find nothing. What could they take? The television? The refrigerator. They were managing just fine without these electrical gadgets. Finally they stopped in the kitchen and saw, for the first time in their lives, an invention that took their breath away. Upon inspecting it they totally lost their composure. They saw a pipe coming from the wall with some sort of knob on top of it. And when you turned the knob water copiously flowed from it! Wonder of wonders!
"We want that contraption!" they called out in unison, all pointing to the faucet coming from the wall of the kitchen. "This invention can save us long hours of hard work and ease our lives considerably."
Dizengoff could not refuse. However he had a small problem. "This faucet is attached to the wall and it is impossible to remove it. However, in the attic I have a spare very similar to this one. I will gladly give that one to you if you will please take it. Enjoy it and use it for many happy years. If you can find some use for it, it will be my greatest pleasure." The Bedouin guests eagerly took the faucet and returned home to the desert.
As soon as they got to the tents, they gathered all the tribal dignitaries to a meeting. They emotionally related the account of their visit. "We just now came back from visiting the house of the Mayor of Tel Aviv, Dizengoff. That noble individual who visited us 2 weeks ago. The Mayor gave us a gift, the likes of which you have never seen. It's worth its weight in gold. He gave us this unique contraption. All you have to do is attach it to a wall, turn the knob, and suddenly, water gushes out of it. Real, endless water. They call this marvelous invention a faucet.
"That's it! We're finished with our long treks to distant wells and springs. We don't have to worry about finding water every time we move our camp. Our hard drudgery is over. From now on, everyone will get his turn to use this invention. We will attach it to a wall in the center of camp and everyone can take however much water he wants!" A loud resonance of applause and cheering greeted the tribal chief's announcement.
Everyone pitched in to the work of setting up this new invention. They built a cement wall in the center of the camp and attached the remarkable faucet. They announced that tomorrow they would celebrate the opening of the faucet for the first time in the history of the Bedouin.
And so it happened. The next day arrived and the entire Bedouin population encircled the faucet. As everyone cheered, the chief Bedouin took his place on the platform in front of the faucet. With great awe he approached the faucet and proceeded to turn the knob, anxiously waiting for the water to come gushing out.
What a disappointment! He turned, and turned, and turned, but nothing happened. The faucet refused to let out even one drop of water. He knocked on it with his staff, banged with his hand, but nothing would change the mind of the rebellious faucet… it refused to grant them the water they were thirstily awaiting.
Early next morning the heads of the Bedouin clan appeared at Dizengoff's house. Upon opening the door, he was greeted by angry shouting. "Liar! You deceived us! You're playing games with us! You gave us a broken present. It doesn't work. We attached the faucet just like you did; we opened the knob on top, and nothing happened. This faucet you gave us doesn't work! We were expecting water to come gushing out of it, but it's as dry as the desert sands!"
Dizengoff was totally puzzled. He didn't know what to do. "That can't be. It simply can't be!" he stammered back at his guests. "The faucet I gave you was brand new. It is from the same company as the one I have in my kitchen." he added apologetically. But the honored heads of the tribe were not about to be pacified so easily. "If you don't believe us come right now and check it out yourself and see with your own eyes. The faucet is attached in the middle of our camp in a cement wall especially erected for it, and nothing comes out of it!"
In Dizengoff's mind a red light started blinking.
"And just exactly where did you attach the faucet?" he asked curiously. The Bedouin explained to him exactly what they had done, how they had erected a cement wall and attached the faucet….
Dizengoff couldn't hold himself in. He burst out laughing. "Fools that you are," he said. "Did you really think that all you had to do was attach the faucet to a wall? The faucet in my kitchen is connected to the pipes in the floor which in turn are connected to the city water system. The entire city system is connected to giant pipes supplying water to the entire country from central water supplies around the country! The unconnected faucet itself has absolutely no value. It doesn't create or deliver anything." Dizengoff finished his lecture to the Bedouin, and the honorable tribal chieftains turned and went home, their heads hanging low.
This was the rebuke that Yirmiyahu the Navi was telling Klal Yisroel.
People distant from Torah and mitzvos often ask us, "How is it possible that our children run around wild descending into the depths of depravity, while your children remain normal and respectful. Why is it that our wives make our lives miserable, complaining from morning 'till evening, while your wives are so loyal and hard working?"
We proudly answer them, "Do you think our children naturally respect their parents. Do you really think that wives naturally spring up in the home? Of course not! Our wives and our children act the way they do because we are connected to the pipeline of bracha, the source of life - the holy Torah!
"Only through the power of Torah is it possible to inherit such tz'nius, such nobility of spirit. Only from the wellsprings of blessing is it possible to draw all these marvelous virtues. Without Torah and mitzvos there is no difference between man and the wild beasts, between Yisroel and the other nations. Is it strange, then, that the street looks the way it does?"
This was Yirmiyahu's rebuke to his generation. "They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters." They tried to build a New World Order, failing to connect it to the pipeline of bracha of the holy Torah. We, in our generation, should take heed to remember this well. We can see how true this rebuke really is.
© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Yeshiva Shaare Chaim.
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers) and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop - Lakewood).
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