Monday, July 19, 2010

selfless crying

The Midrash contrasts the needless crying of Bnei Yisrael when the spies returned with the crying of our matriarch Rachel, who refuses to be consoled over the churban, and the crying of Bnei Yisrael on the banks of the rivers of Bavel as they bemoaned the loss of avodah. The Radomsker in Tiferes Shlomo expands on the contrast. The Torah describes the crying in the desert as “bocheh l’mishpechosav,” which Rashi interprets to mean that the people were crying because familial relations had become prohibited. This was a selfish crying, a crying over unfulfilled material desire. The crying of the exiles in Bavel is described in the context of, “sham yashavnu gam bachinu” – "yeshiva" means the Jews had settled comfortably in their exile. They lived in two million dollar homes in the best neighborhoods, they had jobs in all the best firms, they were successful in their business, and still they cried because they remembered the loss of Mikdash. This is an altruistic crying, a crying over spiritual exile. There is no surprise in our matriarch Rachel refusing consolation and crying when Jews are oppressed – what the Navi is telling us is that Rachel continues to cry even when we live in the best of situations, because Rachel remembers life before the churban. This altruistic crying is the crying that leads to geulah.

“Because of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza Yerushalayim was destroyed.” (Gittin 56) In the famous story, an invitation was mistakenly delivered to Bar Kamtza instead of Kamtza, and he came to his enemy’s party. Despite his offer to even pay for the entire party, Bar Kamtza was tossed out, while the Rabbis looked on in silence. Bar Kamtza took revenge by inciting the Roman authorities to act against the Jewish people, leading to the churban. It’s clear how Bar Kamtza’s actions led to the destruction of Yerushalayim, but why is Kamtza even mentioned? He didn’t do anything?

As my wife wrote up here, Maharal explains that friendship can serve a selfish motive as well. The relationship of the party’s host with Kamtza was designed to exclude Bar Kamtza. The circle of friends was created to separate those who were part of the “click” from those not, much as the act of “kemitza” separates a korban into different parts. It is again, the theme of selfishness, which marks the story of churban.

The gemara (Makos 10a) darshens the pasuk, “Cherev el habadim v’no’alu,” a sword should be taken to the liars who become fools, to refer to talmidei chachaim who learn “bad b’bad,” alone, without a partner, and become fools instead of wiser. “Eichah yashvah badad” – the Radomsker explains that the Navi was bemoaning this foolish type of learning, this selfish type of learning done “bad b’bad” that could not lead to a flourishing of Torah that would spare Klal Yisrael from churban.

As we draw closer to ultimate geulah the tools to share Torah unselfishly have increased exponentially. You can listen to a shiur given in Erez Yisrael while sitting in New York, you can join a facegroup discussion, you can read or write a blog. The tools to act unselfishly have increased, as a credit card donation on a website can bring food to a poor family in Bnei Brak. But at the same time, a person can wrap himself in a virtual "bad b'bad" reality and exclude the entire world. We live in a galus that is so comfortable, a galus where you can mourn in air conditioned comfort watching a DVD, where you can get online at chatzos for a latte to break your fast. A little selfless crying not for the cup of coffee we miss, but for the Mikdash that we mourn despite all the comforts we have, will hopefully bring us a step closer to geulah.


  1. I'm not sure one even need to attain the level of selflessness to mourn the loss of the Bais Hamikdash. It's just that we tend to think of the immediate and concrete when thinking of loss. It just takes more work to realize that the loss of thousands of years ago is also a loss at present to skip over the distance that makes one feel removed from it.

  2. attaining selflessness = tikun.

    "k'ilu necherav b'yamav" is a chiyuv to translate the loss of thousands of yrs ago into something immediate.