Revivim, rabbi Eliezer Melamed

A Crying for Generations

The notion that Torah and action can be separated is the root of the mistake that led to the Sin of the Spies * Those who refused to immigrate to Israel in the early days of Zionism were partners in the modern-day Sin of the Spies, for which we pay the price to this day * Baseless hatred, for which the Temple was destroyed, is also a reflection of the Sin of the Spies * When Tisha B’Av falls on Erev Shabbat, preparations for Shabbat may begin as early as the morning

On Tisha B’Av, the Generation of the Desert chose to believe the Spies, who claimed that the People of Israel would not have the power to conquer the Land: “The entire community raised a hubbub and began to shout. That night, the people wept” (Numbers 14:1). As a result of their sin, it was decreed that all men of military age would die in the wilderness and not get to see ha’aretz ha’tova (the good Land), and only after their corpses fell in the desert were their children able to enter the Land with Yehoshua son of Nun and Calev son of Yefuneh, who did not participate in the sin. At that moment God said, ” You have wept without cause: therefore will I appoint a weeping to you for future generations” (Sanhedrin 104b). In other words, if the Sin of the Spies was not rectified, the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) would be destroyed, Israel would be exiled from their Land, and the Jews would mourn for generations on Tisha B’Av (Taanit 26b; Tanchuma, ‘Shlach’).

The Root of the Sin

The root of their sin was that they did not understand the value of Eretz Yisrael, and did not love it, as stated: “They despised the pleasant land;
they did not believe His word” (Psalms 106:24). One who does not love the Land dodges the need to fight for it, and tends to be easily convinced it is impossible to conquer and settle it. He will find many reasons to strengthen his position, but in truth, the main motive is that Eretz Yisrael is not important to him, and consequently, he is not willing to dedicate himself to its settlement.

This is true in all areas of life. For example, one who does not appreciate Torah study will find it difficult to study it diligently, both in the early phase of learning the fundamentals, and also later on in life in when required to set times for Torah study, particularly on Shabbat Kodesh. Someone who does not value the importance of academic studies will be incapable of finding the inner strength to pursue their completion. One who does not appreciate the significance of combat service will not be able to find the inner strength to withstand arduous training, preparing him to become a fighter. A person who does not appreciate the value of family life will not be able to find the strength to seal a marriage covenant, and establish a family. All these people will find a thousand excuses for themselves, but the real reason is – they simply do not want to.

Heresy in Belief in the Unity of God

The unique value of Eretz Yisrael is that in it, complete emunah (faith) in the unity of God is revealed. In other words, in Eretz Yisrael, emunah is revealed in all areas of life: in Torah, in work, in science, in art, in the life of the individual and the community, the Clal, and the state. On the other hand, the sin of avodah zara (idol worship) is that it divides and separates the world into different domains and different idols. The greatest separation in the world is the separation between spiritual and material. Therefore, one who lives in Chutz L’Aretz (outside of Israel), in a place where there is no sacred inspiration of kedusha (holiness) in worldly life, is considered as one who serves foreign idols, and has no God (Ketubot 110b).

The sin of the Spies was that they thought that life in the desert was more sacred than life in Eretz Yisrael, and consequently, it would be better for Israel to remain in the desert and study in the ‘kollel’ of Moshe Rabbeinu and the Seventy Elders; in the morning, they would eat manna, and in the evening slav (quail). However, the Torah commanded us to enter the Land, because the entire purpose of the Creation of the World is to reveal the belief in God’s unity in all areas of life; to enjoy and rejoice in all the good that God created, and to further rectify and perfect it. For this purpose, God chose his nation, Israel, to declare the glory of God by entering the Land, and fulfilling the sacred values ​​in all areas of life, and consequently, the entire world will be rectified and redeemed.

The Terrible Price of the Sin of the Spies Nowadays

Today, just as in the past, the price of choosing not to make aliyah (immigrate) to Eretz Yisrael when possible, is grave. As I wrote three weeks ago, but nonetheless, is worth repeating a thousand times: about a hundred and twenty years ago at the time of the establishment of the Zionist movement, the Jewish people numbered approximately eleven million. The Arabs who lived in all areas of the Biblical borders, including Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, numbered a little more than five million, while on both sides of the Jordan, there was just a little more than half a million Arabs. At that time the Jewish nation had the opportunity to return to Eretz Yisrael, and flourish and multiply in it. However, almost all of the nation remained in the Diaspora, suffered the Holocaust, the rule of Communist oppression, and assimilation – whether under duress, or voluntarily. Today, there about fifteen million declared Jews throughout the entire world, and in Israel, approximately seven million. In contrast, the Arabs in the vicinity of Eretz Yisrael grew from five million to over eighty million.

The Breach Began with the Sin of the Golden Calf

The breach that led to the Sin of the Spies began with the Sin of the Golden Calf, which occurred a year earlier on the 17th of Tammuz. Moshe Rabbeinu failed to descend Mount Sinai at the expected time; the people were left with doubts and the need to establish an alternative to the previous leadership. In the Generation of the Desert, the sin was in the placing of a golden calf designed to express faith in a tangible way; had Moshe Rabbeinu not come down from the mountain and prevented the breach, the nation might have been scattered to fragments of pagan beliefs.

In contemporary times the tide of modernity has swept the world; the light of Moshe Rabbeinu’s Torah has hidden itself in the purity of the misty clouds, and the tendency to seek a substitute – a golden calf – once more, has arisen. The righteous holy souls stood guard over pure emunah without seeking go-betweens, while maintaining hope and commitment to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael. However, many Jews began to look for alternatives or additions to belief in God’s unity. Some were drawn after new ‘golden calves’ of rationalism, liberalism, communism, and a variety of reforms. On the opposing side, in the face of modernist leaders taking responsibility, there were those who tried to preserve religion by inventing new golden-calf ‘prohibitions’: not to immigrate to Israel, not to enlist in the Israeli army, not to study science, and not to engage in yishuvo shel olam (betterment of society). Even someone who was privileged to immigrate to Israel and in practice contributes to the multiplicity of the Jewish nation and yishuv ha’aretz – as long as his emunah does not match his actions and he considers the situation of the Jews in Israel as a state of galut (exile) – he is in need of profound repentance.

Baseless Hatred is Parallel to the Sin of Despising the Land

Parallel to the sin of despising the Land, there is also the sin of baseless hatred. Both stem from the same root – the idolatrous concept that holiness is revealed only in some areas of life. In consequence, involvement in yishuv ha’aretz is not considered important, segments of the nation are alienated – Haredi’s, settlers, seculars, leftists, socialists – and various circles, such as the Reform and Conservative, are boycotted.

Admittedly, involvement in yishuv ha’aretz and enlisting in the army encompasses difficulties. However, this is the challenge we face – to reveal emunah in all areas of life. Connection to all segments of the nation also involves difficulties and debates over the principles of the Torah, morality and our Jewish identity; however, the Torah teaches us that the entire nation of Israel were chosen to reveal God’s unity, and even the wicked are called sons of God. Someone who ignores this, who does not respect the various segments of the nation, denies the belief in the unity of God and the Torah, because only through the entire nation of Israel can the belief in the Unity of God be revealed. And when we are not worthy, Torah is revealed by way of arguments and sins, as we have learned that even from Israel’s sins, entire passages in the Torah were written. We find then, that one who separates himself from segments of the nation it is as if he uproots passages from the Torah, because only by dealing with the positive element in sin, and in groups that espouse this idea, can repentance and rectification be achieved.

Torah Study on Shabbat

The root of the Sin of the Spies lies in the aspirations of holiness. For although it is quite nice to speak loftily about the revelation of holiness in life, however, in practice, preoccupation with everyday life may distance a person from the Torah, and his Torah learning and observance of mitzvot is liable to be weakened.

This is why God gave us Shabbat, so that on it, we could engross ourselves in Torah study in conjunction with the pleasure of the meals and rest, and by doing so, we reveal the kedusha (sanctity) in both the soul and body, as our Sages stated: Shabbat should be divided “half for eating and drinking, and half for the Beit Midrash” (Pesachim 68b).

Similarly, our Sages said: “The Torah said to God, ‘When the Jews enter the Land of Israel, one will run to his vineyard, and another to his field. What will be with me?’ God replied, ‘I have a match for you, and its name is Shabbat. Because they are not working for a whole day, they have time to learn you.’” (Tur, O.C. 290). In other words, this is not just an excuse to appease the Torah, rather, like an educator, the Torah’s question is intended to inspire us to understand the deeper meaning of Eretz Yisrael and Shabbat. By studying Torah on Shabbat, out of oneg (pleasure) and peace of mind, which results from engaging in the settlement of Eretz Yisrael, the words of Torah will be revealed in their full meaning and blessing. Thus, yishuv ha’aretz does not cause bitul Torah (cancellation of Torah), rather, it provides a further understanding of Torah – to beautify and increase Torah, and sanctify God’s Name throughout the world.

Therefore, we must make every effort to dedicate half of Shabbat to Torah. The accusations against dedicating Shabbat as a day of Torah study are immense. However, our lives depend on it. This is the way to elevate work, and this is the way to fulfill the grand vision of Am Yisrael in revealing the Unity of God in the Land.

The Laws of the 10th of Av that Falls Out on Friday

Since the majority of the Temple actually burned on the tenth of Av, the people of Israel have a custom not to eat meat or drink wine on that date. According to Sephardic custom, the prohibition lasts the entire day, while Ashkenazim observe this custom only until midday.

Most Achronim maintain that, in addition to refraining from meat and wine, one may not wash clothes, wear freshly laundered garments, take haircuts, listen to joyous music, or bathe in hot water on the tenth of Av. One may, however, wash oneself with lukewarm water. Some authorities rule leniently, prohibiting only the consumption of meat and wine, while permitting bathing, haircutting, and laundering, without limitation. Ideally, one should follow the stricter opinion, but one may act leniently under pressing circumstances.

When the Tenth of Av falls out on a Friday, one is allowed to take a haircut, do laundry, and bathe, in preparation for Shabbat, starting from the morning. And if one is pressed for time, he may even start preparing immediately after Tish’a B’Av ends (Peninei Halakha: Zemanim 10:19).

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew. 

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