Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
The Significance of Shabbos ChazonOne of the most basic foundations of Judaism is expressed in Devarim (32:4): "The Rock [Hashem]! -- perfect is His work, for all His paths are justice; a G-d of faith without iniquity, righteous and fair is He."
A mourner for a loved one is required to recite this passage at the funeral to remove from his heart any doubts he may have about whether Hashem treated him fairly or not. When my father in law was very sick, my wife and I slept at her parents' home. In the middle of the night, they called from the hospital and informed my mother in law (a Polish Holocaust survivor) that her husband had passed away (at a relatively young age). She told us the bad news and began pacing the floors repeating again and again, "You are right and Your judgment is right." I was very impressed to see the immediate reaction of a truly devoted Orthodox woman to a terrible tragedy which befell her.
There is an interesting law in Shulchan Aruch that when one goes to console a mourner he may not say, "What can we do? Hashem rules the world. He is the Boss and He does as He sees fit." This is forbidden because one might infer from it that Hashem was unjust by taking away this soul whom we loved, and if we were "running the show" we certainly would not have done such a terrible thing. But, what can we do? He is the Boss and we have to accept it.
This is Heresy!
What he is supposed to say is that Hashem is All-Merciful and we have to trust His judgment even when we don't understand it. If we were in charge of the world and had all of the information He has, we would surely act the same. The axiom of Judaism is, "Everything that Hashem does is for the best."
There is an interesting story in the Gemara (Berachos 5a): Four hundred barrels of Rav Huna's wine spoiled. Rav Yehudah, brother of Rav Sala the Pious and the Rabbis (some say it was Rav Ada bar Ahava and the Rabbis) came to visit him. They said to him, "The master should inspect his deeds" (to find what sin he committed which brought such a punishment upon him, and, subsequently, to repent). He said to them, "Am I suspect in your eyes" (that I've committed sins)? Whereupon they replied, "Is then the Holy One, Blessed be He, suspect to punish someone who is guiltless?"
The Ramban, in Sha'ar HaGemul, explains that the Rabbis told Rav Huna that there is no such thing as getting undeserved punishment. Therefore, if you are suffering, it must be that you have sinned. It is as if to say, "Listen, Rav Huna, someone is not 'biseder' (in order) here. Either it is you, or it is Hashem. With all due deference to you, we choose to believe that Hashem is very much 'biseder,' and so, by default, it must be you who is out of line. Search for your sins, repent, and your sufferings will go away."
And, indeed, the Gemara continues to relate that when they pointed out to Rav Huna that he had done something which he had thought was permissible but really was not, and he immediately relented and promised to correct his failing, his loss was surely restored to him.
This is the attitude of an Orthodox Jew: Hashem is always fair and just. Sometimes we understand His judgment immediately; sometimes later in life; and sometimes only in the World to Come will all of our questions be answered. Once, when I was a bachur, I was sitting in a subway train, on the way to yeshiva. In came a gentleman and sat down beside me. Noticing the kippah on my head, he realized that I was Jewish and began expounding religion with me - his version, that is. He said that he was enthralled with Judaism and that there is no other religion in the world like it. As an example, he said, "In what other religion, can man judge G-d as we can? Just this past Shabbat, some of us were discussing whether or not the Good L-rd was fair and just in denying Moses entry to the Holy Land? And do you know what our conclusion was? That he was NOT! Here was this poor old man, who had dedicated his life to serving G-d and had led His people for forty years through the desert. He had experienced so many troubles with the stubborn people and he had withstood them all. He had never asked for anything for himself except this one thing which meant so much to him - to enter the Land of Israel. It was definitely wrong of the Good L-rd to refuse his request!
"That was our conclusion. Now, can you tell me any other religion which would allow its followers to speak this way?"
I did not argue with the fellow because he seemed too ignorant and too stubborn and sure of himself to accept the truth. But I wondered who told him that this was permitted in Judaism? Of course it is not.
My Rebby ztvk"l repeated in the name of his Mashgiach, Harav Hatzaddik Reb Shlomo Harkabi ztvk"l Hy"d, that Tish'ah B'Av is a dangerous time. If we observe it properly, we will spend an entire day reading and reminiscing about all of the tragedies that befell the Jewish Nation, not only at the times of the destructions of the Holy Temples, but throughout 2,000 years of Exile (many will read about the terrifying Holocaust too). If we delve into these matters deeply, as we should, and imagine and almost feel the pain our People have suffered for so long, we may, G-d forbid, begin to question Hashem's righteousness. We may ask or think, "Did we deserve all of this sorrow?"
Therefore, he said, Tish'ah B'Av is preceeded by Shabbos Chazon, upon which we read as the Haftorah the rebuke of the Prophet Yesha'ayahu to the Jews who lived at the time of the first Temple. If we contemplate the sins we violated, we will realize that Hashem was actually compassionate towards us by not destroying us completely. His punishment was solely for our benefit and its source was His love for us; not His contempt.
If we reflect upon correctly, then Tish'ah B'Av will not bring us heretical thoughts, G-d forbid, but, rather, thoughts of repentance. With these feelings we will then enter the month of Elul with proper resolutions of Teshuvah, and they will bring us to the High Holy Days in the proper mood. Then, we will be blessed with a good year, full of Hashem's blessings and the Final Redemption by the hands of Moshiach.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network