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Shabbos Chazon - Tish'ah B'Av Reflections

The climax of the periods known as "The Three Weeks" and "The Nine Days" is Tish'ah B'Av. The Sages instituted these times as periods of mourning during which we are to reflect on all of the tragedies that befell the Jewish People since the destruction of the Holy Temples. The purpose of this contemplation is not only to realize the great loss and to grieve over it but, more importantly, to realize the cause of these tragedies and to mend our ways so that we may be worthy of redemption.

There is an expression, "Don't cry over spilt milk." This means that it is senseless to take to heart some loss which cannot be regained anyway. But the Torah teaches us differently. It may be true that the spilt milk cannot be retrieved, since it is on the dirty floor and must be swept away. But one who doesn't take the time to ponder why he spilt the milk is prone to repeat his mistake and maybe lose even more the next time. Whereas, if he becomes cognizant of his mistakes, he can prevent similar and even greater losses in the future.

This Shabbos we read the reprimand of the prophet Yesha'ayahu who scolded us for our misdeeds which, he prophesied in the Name of Hashem, would ultimately bring the destruction of the Holy Temple and cause our exile from the Land of Israel. One of the most poignant passages is the following, "And when you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; and, when you make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood" (Yesha'ayahu 1:15). The Radak interprets the passage as follows: "Stretching out ones hands, is an expression of prayer. [The prophet is saying in the Name of Hashem] 'How are you not ashamed to pray to Me by stretching out those very hands which shed blood? Therefore I will hide my eyes from you and not accept your prayers, even though you may pray and cry all day long.'"

One of the saddest situations is when someone does a great sin and actually thinks he is doing a great mitzvah. This person will never repent for his sins, since in his mind's eye he has nothing to regret. On Tish'ah B'Av we should rethink our actions and ask Hashem to help us reflect upon them properly. Only if we discover the errors in our ways, will we be able to amend them and merit redemption.

The following horrifying story is a blatant example of such a phenomenon. It is recorded in Ma'ayan HaMoed, in the name of Reb Menachem who recorded his Holocaust experiences in a book he called KiAleh Nidaf.

Menachem was a youngster when he arrived at Auschwitz; the Hell in this world. He passed through the "selection" and was given prisoner's clothes and sent to a work detail. He and the men he was with would be forced to labor until they had no strength left; after having been fed a small piece of bread per day. Then they would have to march six kilometers back to their barracks for a short night's tormented sleep, during which the lice ate at their frail, thin bodies. At half past four in the morning, they were awakened to hike the six kilometers back to their place of labor.

But the most bestial part of all of this was the way they were awakened in the morning. It was not by the sound of an alarm clock, nor by the wake up shouts of those in charge of them. Rather, they were awakened by the cries and wails of the first five or six victims who were hit on their heads by the club of the Jewish Kapo in charge of their block.

Why did this evil man wake his group with thuds to their heads rather than by simply announcing that it was time to get up? The unbelievable answer is that when he woke them, he was donned in tefillin which he had somehow, sacrificially, succeeded in hiding in his barracks - a crime for which he would pay a very dear price if caught. Since he had a custom of not speaking while wearing tefillin, he could not possibly announce his wake up call. However, it was his job to get everyone up on time - with German punctuality. Therefore, he had no other choice but to wake them without talking - by beating some of them on their heads and causing them to wail and awake the rest of the men!

Did he really think that his prayers were worth anything and were being accepted by Hashem? Apparently he did. He didn't realize that Hashem was telling him, "I will not hear your prayers. Your hands are full of blood."

On Tish'ah B'Av, we should introspect very, very carefully to see if we are not, G-d forbid, guilty of such "mitzvahs" too. Then, when we make amends, Moshiach will come and bring the true, final Salvation, speedily in our days, amen.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel