The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Av 9, 5771/August 9, 2011

"I entreated HaShem"
(Deuteronomy 3:23)

This week's Torah reading, Va'Etchanan, opens as Moshe explains to his people that he has been pleading to G-d to have his decree of no-entry-into-the-Land-of-Israel rescinded. All he asks for is to "cross over and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon." (Deuteronomy 3:25) Our sages teach us that "this good mountain" refers to Jerusalem, and "the Lebanon" to the Holy Temple. But then Moshe cuts short his own reverie and states abruptly, "But HaShem was angry with me because of you, and He did not listen to me, and HaShem said to me, 'It is enough for you; speak to Me no more regarding this matter.'" (ibid 3:26) There is a Midrashic tradition that Moshe actually entreated G-d with 515 entreaties. Apparently G-d was not interested in hearing number 516. So Moshe desisted.

But Moshe's words to Israel describe a direct connection between his ban from entering the land with the sin of the spies. We have understood, until now, that G-d's anger with Moshe stemmed from his striking the rock at Mei Meribah. (Numbers 20) What then, is the connection between Moshe's predicament and the incident of the twelve spies who returned from Canaan with an evil report? Many explanations have been offered, including that of Rabbi Chaim Richman in this week's video teaching, (see below). But we will chart a different course: G-d's response to the grievous crime of the spies and Israel's reaction, ("and the people wept on that night" ibid 14:1), was to decree that the entire generation would never enter the land. According to Midrash, G-d's punishment contained yet another aspect: The day that the evil report was received by the people would be a day of crying throughout the generations. "Because you cried on that night for no reason, I will give you a reason to cry on that same night." That night was, of course, the 9th of Av, (Tish'a b'Av).

Tish'a b'Av would become for the people of Israel a day on which many disasters befell the nation, the chiefest of which would be the destruction of the two Holy Temples. And so for nearly two thousand years Israel has had a reason to cry on the 9th of Av. And so, as we have for 1941 years, this past Monday night-Tuesday all of Israel fasted and mourned the destruction of the Holy Temple. But how long will the cries continue? How long will the mourning persist? Was G-d's decree forever?

G-d decreed that He will give Israel a reason to cry on the night of the 9th of Av, and so He did. This was not a decree made on the spur of the moment, as an expression of unbridled outrage. This decree, as with all harsh decrees meted by G-d. was done with love and for the distinct purpose of enabling Israel to ultimately, through the fullness of time, rectify the sin of the spies. As long as there is a reason to cry, then cry we must. But what happens when the reason to cry is suddenly no longer there?

Moshe had a reason to cry; a very good reason to cry. He was, after all, described by G-d Himself as His most faithful servant. Nevertheless, G-d decreed that Moshe would not enter the land. Surely G-d knew that there was nothing Moshe desired more than to do just that. So Moshe, who had successfully pleaded before G-d more than once on Israel's behalf, now was pleading before G-d on his own behalf. As long as G-d accepted Moshe's entreaties, there was a reason for Moshe to continue. But the moment G-d said "enough" Moshe ceased. To continue would be to do so in vain, to cry for no reason, just as Israel had done concerning the report of the spies. Understanding this intrinsic connection, Moshe stopped his pleading at once, and brought it to Israel's attention, not as an added rebuke, but as a glad tiding: Just as I stopped my crying before G-d, so shall you also stop your crying one day before G-d. What day is that?

Moshe stopped his crying the moment he accepted G-d's will. When Moshe's will became one with G-d's will, he was at peace, despite the fact that G-d had not responded favorably to the essence of his pleas. For over 1800 years Israel has cried to G-d and entreated G-d to enable her to return to the land of Israel, to return to the city of Jerusalem, and to rebuild the Holy Temple. For centuries G-d's silent reply was a nod to Israel to continue to lament on the 9th of Av, to continue to entreat G-d. But then in 1967, during the miraculous Six Day War, G-d did return Jerusalem to Israel. The Temple Mount - Mount Moriah - was back in Israel's hand, as during the day of King David. Was this, then, the time to desist from business as usual? Was this the time to stop our crying on the 9th of Av? For now that the place of the Holy Temple was back in our hands, and despite all of the incredibly difficult obstacles that still remain strewn across the path of rebuilding the Holy Temple, to continue to cry as if nothing happened, as if G-d had not just now answered our entreaty of nearly two millennia, would be to cry for no reason, just as we did in the desert when we harkened to the spies.

Moshe's words to Israel were not a further rebuke over what was, but a warning and a promise for the ages: tears are warranted when there is a reason to cry. When G-d removes that reason, when He has answered your pleas, whether to your satisfaction or not, it is no longer the time for your tears. Moshe, the paradigm of humility and faith, was able to accept with dignity G-d's final answer of "No." We of this generation have been blessed to receive G-d's final answer of "Yes." It behooves us to dry our tears and harken to the words of our master Moshe, and to begin the task of reestablishing G-d's house, "a house of prayer for all nations." (Isaiah 56:7)

Tune in to this week's Tish'a b'Av TEMPLE TALK, and join Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven, who, on this day of mourning and national tragedy, earlier ascended the holy Temple Mount together with hundreds of Jews of all ages and backgrounds, searching for understanding on this spiritually-powerful day. We all know that the prophets of Israel assure us this day of sadness will be transformed into a day of rejoicing. But we wonder: How? When? Today, on top of Mount Moriah, in the very place that the Holy Temple was sacked and destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago, we discovered the answer: It is the Jewish people themselves who will make this prophecy come true. It is the nation of Israel who will decide that they have had their fill of mourning, and are ready to rebuild. The Rabbi and Yitzchak share their unforgettable experiences and impressions from this historic and unprecedented Tisha B'Av visit to the most sacred site in the world.

Complete Show