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VA'ESCHANAN - SHABBOS NACHAMU
Adapted from Drashos Hamaggid, drashos of Rav Shabsai Yudelevitz, zt"l.
This week is Shabbos Nachamu, the Shabbos after Tisha B'Av. Having suffered the terrible calamity of the destruction the Bais Hamikdash, the heart of Klal Yisroel, we, the Jewish People, seek consolation.
Yaakov Avinu went in to his father Yitzchak to receive the brachos. The possuk relates that prior to blessing him, "And he smelled the fragrance of his clothing" (Bereishis 27:27). Why did the possuk have to point this out? What did the smell of his clothing have to do with the brachos? It seems that there is a hint of some hidden meaning here. Yitzchak Avinu was being given a prophecy about a very special quality in the descendants of Yaakov, and so they deserve the brachos.
The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni Bereishis 115) homiletically interprets the Hebrew term for clothing - beged - as boged - traitor. (сту in Hebrew, having no vowels, can be pronounced either way.) Even their traitors have a fragrance to them.
Then the Midrash brings an example of a Jewish traitor from the following incident. After capturing Yerushalayim and prior to burning the Beis Hamikdash, the enemy was preparing to enter the Sanctuary to partake of the spoils of war. However, being extremely superstitious, they were frightened to enter first. They didn't know what calamity awaited the one who desecrated the palace of the Jewish G-d. So they turned to Yosef Meshisa, a Jewish collaborator accompanying the enemy. They told him, "You shall have the honor of entering the Holy of Holies first. You shall start the grand plunder." They wanted a Jew to be the first one to enter and ransack the Holy Sanctuary. They promised him, "whatever you take out, it's yours."
Yosef Meshisa obliged, and perpetrated one of the most despicable acts a Jew could do: he entered the holiest sanctuary on earth, the Kodosh Kodoshim, to pilfer the palace of the King of Kings, purely for personal greed. While the Holy Temple was going up in flames, Yosef Meshisa entered the Kodosh Kodoshim and took the holy menorah as his coveted prize.
But you can't trust the enemy. To his terrible disappointment the generals backtracked from their promise. "This marvelous candelabrum is too magnificent and precious to decorate the home of a commoner like yourself. This candelabrum must adorn the palace of a king. We are not prepared to let you keep it!" Yosef stood there stunned. They offered him to enter a second time and take something more appropriate.
This time, however, Yosef Meshisa refused. A few minutes ago he was prepared to plunder everything dear and holy. He was ready to incite the G-d of his people and desecrate His sanctuary. He had been ready to be the first to enter and defile the Holy of Holies. All out of a little greed. Now, he abruptly changed his mind. In one moment a spark of purity was suddenly kindled within his heart. He announced defiantly, "No! It's enough I angered my G-d once. Now you want me to anger Him again?" He refused to repeat his treachery.
But the enemy wouldn't give in. His refusal to return into the holy sanctuary infuriated them. They insisted that he do it again! His declaration that he was afraid of the wrath of his G-d made them even more wary of entering themselves. It only strengthened their need to send him in again before they dared set foot over the threshold of the Sanctuary of his G-d. They tried to convince him by playing on his lust for wealth. Besides walking out with a valuable prize, he would be awarded three years of tax money from the entire Yerushalayim. This was worth millions upon millions which would make him and his family wealthy for the rest of their lives. Yosef Meshisa stood his ground. He refused. He repeated over and over again, "No! It's enough I angered my G-d once. How can I anger Him again?"
Soon the enemy realized that good will was not going to convince this stubborn Jew who just a few minutes ago had been so cowardly as to do their bidding. So they tried a different tactic. They brought him to the torture chamber! There, they put him between two planks of wood full of sharp protrusions used for threshing wheat. They proceeded to grind his body to shreds!
Yosef Meshiva, in torturous agony, screamed and wailed bitterly. But not screams of pain. He didn't bemoan his bitter fate. No! He wept a different sort of cry. They were holy and pure moans emanating from the depths of his heart, from the depths of his Jewish heart now enflamed with a holy fire raging within. "Oy! I angered my G-d! Oy! I angered my G-d!" he screamed out over and over again until his now pure neshama returned to its holy source.
This is the greatness of Klal Yisroel. We have before us the picture of a cowardly Jew who had sunken to the deepest depths of decadence. He had perpetrated the lowliest crime possible. And in one moment he shook off the dust of defilement and his pure neshama shone like the brilliance of the sun. He rose to the heights and sacrificed his entire being to the torments of hell, dying a horrific death, all in order not to repeat his crime and anger his G d!
In his last breath, as his bones were being crushed between the two threshing boards, he cried bitterly for having angered his Creator, totally oblivious of the excruciating pain and unbelievable cruelty he was suffering. How great are you Yisroel! You are an incredibly wondrous people! This was the meaning of Chazal: "And he smelled the fragrance of his clothing," "And he smelled the fragrance of his traitors." Even the lowliest traitors of the People of Israel have a fragrance wafting forth from them which fills the whole world with their holiness. This is the greatness of the Jewish People and they deserved Yitzchak Avinu's brachos.
Even in the terrible exile we find ourselves, the soul of the Jewish People shines forth like a beacon of light in the darkness of night. It is our prayer, on this Shabbos Nachamu, that the People of Israel be consoled. May the purity of our hearts and the Torah we learn, and the good deeds we perform, rise up to Shomayim so we should merit the coming of the Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash speedily, in our lifetime. Amen.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network