By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
The well known posuk in Tehillim says, “Im eshkacheich… tishkach yemini.” We need to understand what this posuk is telling us. The nature of a person is that “hergel,” that which is the norm on a day-to-day basis, dulls our thinking and we stop to analyze and ask questions. What does the posuk mean when it says if we forget Yerushalayim we forget the right side?
Chazal teach us that there is a limit when it comes to mourning a loved one. The Rambam in Perek Yud Gimmel in Hilchos Aveilus, halacha yud alef says one should not be “miskasheh-” overexert oneself for a departed beloved one as the posuk teaches us, “Don’t cry for the departed and don’t overdo it when it comes to mourning.” Therefore, one should mourn like the minhag of the world, and if one overdoes it he is considered a fool. The first three days of mourning are for crying. Seven days are to eulogize. The period of thirty days demands no haircuts etc. In contrast, when it comes to the mourning of the Bais Hamikdosh the posuk teaches us the opposite; that one who forgets the Bais Hamikdosh is tantamount to forgetting his right side.
The right side of a person represents his main strength. The navi tells us that our tongue should stick to the roof of one’s mouth if we don’t mention Yerushalayim even at the height of our simcha. On a regular basis a person does not think about his right hand. It is connected to him, and the person does not exert any special thought about his right hand because it is a part of him. Obviously, a person makes sure that nothing bad happens to his hand, as he makes sure that nothing happens to the rest of the body. The same rule needs to apply to the Bais Hamikdosh, which really is part and parcel of us and one should always be connected to the fact that the Bais Hamikdosh is destroyed.
There is a famous saying that we don’t appreciate a limb until the limb gets hurt or broken. Living without the use of the limb for a short while gives an appreciation to the person when the person gets the full use of the limb again. In a similar vein, the fact that we are lacking the Bais Hamikdash should give us an appreciation of what we are missing.
What are we missing? The world was created for the Yidden to reveal k’vod shomayim. The essence of the Shechina is supposed to rest in the body of every Jew as the posuk says, “Veshochanti besocham.” When the Jews sinned, they lost the capability of having the Shechina rest in every Jew, so Hashem built the Mishkan and later on the Bais Hamikdash for us to have the Shechina rest among us. We lost the capability of having Hashem rest among us upon sinning once again. The kvod shomayim is diminished. We need to feel as if our strength is totally diminished and our right side is missing. We can’t properly carry out kvod shomayim in this way, without the Bais Hamikdash.
This is what the posuk means when it states that we are forgetting our right side when we don’t remember the Bais Hamikdash.
Let us hope to see the fulfillment of the words of Chazal that say that whoever who properly mourns Yerushalayim will merit to see its rebuilding. Amein.
FEELING THE THREE WEEKS
Hello Rabbi Steinfeld, shlita……I need a little clarification about your article that I just read on matzav.com. The 3 weeks is always a time of year that I….that I….despise. I hate to use such a harsh word, but I couldn’t think of a more appropriate word to describe my feelings. I despise it because I’m a yid that likes to do things with “meaning” & “feeling”. When Chodesh Tammuz arrives, we are all warned that we are approaching Shivah Asar Betammuz to be followed 3 weeks later by Tisha B’av, so we are all warned to “prepare ourselves.” This is very problematic—for me, anyway. How can I “prepare” myself to mourn for an event that took place 2,000 years ago, an event that no one today can attest that he lived through it and he remembers it. We don’t even have any inkling of what the Bais Hamikdash was like! All the reading in the world of stories about the era of the Bais Hamikdash are sorely lacking, unfortunately. Let’s say, for example, someone tells you to mourn “the holocaust.” That I can see as a reasonable and an attainable request. Even though they are few in number, we still have living survivors of the holocaust. I, for example, was born in 1946, a year after the WW II ended. I remember as a kid, seeing every other yid walking in the street with numbers on his arm. So, I have something to relate to. But, the Churban? What possible connection can we have to that in the year 2016? We are like a bunch of actors pretending to mourn–no eating–no showers and many other restrictions. But are we expected to be no more than “actors”? I don’t think so. I value yiddishkeit more than that. You indicate in your article that we should just imagine that we are missing our right arm, C”V. While the arm was attached we never thought twice about it, but now that it’s missing it gives us a bigger appreciation for having what we have and will also generate mourning when we lose it. But, Rabbi Steinfeld, this mashal is not a good mashal and the analogy is flawed. Why? Because living without an arm is something we can all mourn since we remember what it was like when we had that arm. But, living without a Bais Hamikdash is extremely difficult to mourn because we cannot possibly relate to something we never had nor can we even get chizzuk from someone living today who remembers the Bais Hamikdash. Do you see my point? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to be “mekanter”. I simply would like to understand. Thanks.
Rabbi Steinfeld responds:
I am much younger than you, so I don’t feel I can lecture you. Nevertheless, I will try to answer your question. I take your question very seriously. I feel we can compare this situation to a case where one enters a shivah house. The mother of the house was just nifteres. The husband and older children are all sitting shivah in a very sad state. One little two year old may be running around with a ripped shirt, but he is laughing and playing. Every so often he may come over to his siblings and one remaining parent and upon seeing their tears and sobbing may join them in crying despite the fact that he doesn’t understand why they are crying. There is another story that can be an analogy to our discussion. During the Six Day War when the soldiers finally reached the Kosel after conquering the area from the Arabs there were about eight religious soldiers upon reaching the wall, lay their hands and head on the wall wailing and crying. A Chiloni soldier, upon watching his fellow soldiers wailing and crying, started crying as well. When he was asked by other religious soldiers why he was crying, he responded, “I am crying because I don’t understand why they are crying.” Rav Schwab once explained the reason why the mitzvah of Kibbus Av V’aim is on the right side of the luchos, the side which lists mitzvos between man and Hashem, is because man respects a father and mother or someone of the previous generation because he or she is closer to Har Sinai. They are closer to the previous generation and help link today to yesteryear. Similarly, in our case, we must strive to learn from the previous generations and study seforim that discuss our illustrious past. We must understand that during the time of the Churban more Jews died than during the Holocaust and the Crusades put together. We cry for that loss of potential of what could have been. We can’t even fathom how much we lost. It is comparable to one losing a loved one when they were young. It is so hard to try to imagine that person living a long fulfilling life. Yes, we cry for the churban. Yes, we cry for the great loss of life. But most of all, we cry for all the living Jews who are not living the Torah life and Hashem does not have nachas from them. And to top it off, we cry because we don’t know why we are crying.