Thursday, July 27, 2017

Eichah esa livadi -- complaint or compliment?

1. The ba'al korei usually reads the pasuk "eichah esa livadi..." in this week's parsha using the sad Megilas Eichah tune instead of the usual tune for krias ha'Torah.  The tune "attunes" us to the fact that 9 Av is coming, and links the complaint voiced by Moshe about his burdens with the mourning cry of Yirmiyahu. 

But was Moshe in fact complaining?  Was be bemoaning his burdens?

R Meshulam Dovid Solovietchik points out that you get a very different impression from the Midrash.  The pesichta to Eichah (#11) uses pesukim in chumash to contrast what should/could have been how we lived in Eretz Yisrael with what became of us during the churban as described in Eichah.  For example, the midrash writes that had we been zocheh we would be reading "shalosh pe'amim ba'shana...," the pesukim describing aliya la'regel, but now we are read, "darkei tzion aveilus..."   The midrash ends by saying had we been zocheh, we would be reading, "eichah esa livadi," but instead now we read "eichah yashvah badad." 

According to the midrash, "eichah esa livadi" is a positive, something to celebrate.  It shouldn't be read in a tune of mourning, but rather in a tune of jubilation.

This is not just fanciful derash.  Ramban interprets the pasuk "al derech ha'peshat" that Klal Yisrael was not burdening Moshe with trivialities.  Moshe's burdens were "torchachem" = teaching Torah, "masa'achem" - davening on behalf of those in need; "rivchem" = paskening dinei Torah.  Moshe was overworked because he had to keep giving shiurim, saying tefilos for Klal Yisrael, and involving himself in shaylos.  These things demand time and energy and work, but they are great things.  Ha'levay every community should keep its Rabbi busy saying shiurim, davening, etc. 

2. When one reads the story of the meraglim presented in our parsha one gets a sense that ikar chaseir min ha'sefer.  We are told (1:25) that the meraglim brought back fruit and said, "Tovah ha'aretz..." and next thing you know the people are refusing to enter the land.  Why?  There is nothing mentioned in the meraglim's report as recorded here that would cause the people to have second thoughts.  And why indeed is nothing mentioned of the slander of the meraglim, their report that the land was unconquerable and uninhabitable?  Finally, why rebuke those present now, in year 40, those who were about to enter the land, with past history of their forefather's mistakes?

Maharasha (Ta'anis 29) highlights one additional difference between the account in our parsha and that of parshas Shlach that is the key to the puzzle.  The story in Shlach records that the spies returned and reported, "el Moshe v'el Aharon v'el kol adas Bnei Yisrael" -- it was a public referendum, and the reaction to the report was public outcry.  In our parsha, the Torah writes, "va'teiragnu b'ohaleichem," the crying was in private, in the tents of individual families.

Maharasha explains that the two parshiyos are addressing two different sins.  The adults in the community heard the negative report of the spies and responded with public protest, as recorded in Shlach.  They then went home, and what do you think they said to little Yankel or Sarah when they were tucking them into bed that night?  Imagine the scary bed time story about what would happen if Moshe carried out this crazy plan of bringing them to Eretz Yisrael!  Imagine the dinner conversation with the older kids listening in and participating.  "Va'teiragnu b'ohaleichem" -- our parsha is about the sin of the crying of the families, those who had not heard the spies report directly, those who had no reason to think anything other than "tovah ha'aretz," but who nonetheless, fell into despair based on false news and false reports that they heard.  The sin of thinking "b'sinas Hashem osanu," G-d hates us, G-d forbid, is not mentioned in Shlach -- that was not part of the public outcry, but was part of the private reaction based on second hand reports.  It was the reaction of the generation that now stood before Moshe, mature, grown up, but still perhaps living in the shadow of that past experience of their youth.  You cried "bechiya shel shinam" -- a cry of sinas chinam, hating G-d because of the mistaken impression that he hates you; therefore, this night of 9 Av in the future will be a night of destruction because of sinas chinam that caused the churban ha'bayis.

I'm struggling a bit figuring out how Maharasha fits certain pesukim into this approach, but be that as it may, the takeaway I think is that what was said "b'ohaleichem" is as significant as what is said in public.  We have to inculcate in our homes a love of Eretz Yisrael.  Hopefully we will be zocheh to get there ourselves one day, but even if not, we want out children to want to be there.


  1. 1. b'rav am hadras melech-- so eichah esa livadi read "in a tune of jubilation"; u'b'efes* l'ome m'chitas razone-- and so read "using the sad Megilas Eichah tune"

    *see "efes", Bamidbar 13:28, by way of 'gezeirah shavah', to set us in the middle of Hashem's abandonment by His people (whether public or private)

    2. "ikar chaseir min ha'sefer"

    but nothing is missing, even before the mention of tents/sin #2-- in our parsha, the fruit was taken in hand (b'yadam, 1:25); this refers to the pomegranates and figs of Schlach (13:23), that were brought down "to us" (ie. handed over, passed around), followed by report of a good land (1:25); in 1:26, Moshe notes the people's rebellion*-- they had immediately inferred the size of the inhabitants of Canaan from the supersized hand-held fruit; only in 1:27-1:28 do we reach the slander of the meraglim said over the grape cluster carried by pole (13:23), that was only shown to the assembly (13:26)...thus was there a prequel aveirah to sin 1 and sequel sin 2 of the Maharasha!

    *whether expressed, such that Calev had to silence the people at 13:30, or only she'b'lev (that Moshe learned of from Hashem, Who knows the thoughts and hearts of men; the people inferred for themselves the presence of giants and withered at heart)

    1. the sequel [hopefully not too far off the mark] is simply this-- one might easily assume that spies complained only at the grapes, and not over the pomegranate and fig, because the individual* who carried the pomegranate, like the individual who carried the fig, hadn't the chutzpah for solitary rebellion, while the Gang of Eight found nerve in common, but it is more than that; for one can surmise that the sin of lashon hara began with the loading of the grape cluster on poles... why? because the aron ha'kodesh was carried on poles**! the spies would only complain at the presentation of the grapes to the klal, because at base they'd made a materialist judgment, namely that such a huge cluster--potentially wine to be used in numerous and varied sanctifications--must contain an irresistible, even all-encompassing ritual valence, but a materialist judgment extends too to the giants, who must irresistibly dominate in the land of Canaan

      *eight carried the grapes, and one & one the others, Sotah 34a

      **this (perhaps unconscious) equating of the mere cluster of grapes with the luchos/Torah***, prefigures the canonical criticism of nevi'im like Yeshayahu, that ritual become an end it itself

      ***luchos/Torah = eitz ha'chaim (cheruvim guard the tree in Gan Eiden, cheruvim guard the aron, etc.), while a grape cluster was (according to Rav Meir) of the eitz ha'da'as (the spies entered the potentially new Eiden, eretz Yisrael, only to err by the fruit of the vine)