WHAT WE HAVE LOST
By Roy S. Neuberger
“Al naharos Bavel … by the Rivers of Bavel, there we sat and also we wept when we remembered Tzion…. If I forget you, then let my right hand forget its skill; let my tongue adhere to my palate, if I fail to remember you, if I fail to elevate Yerushalayim above the foremost of my joys….” (Tehillim 137)
At midnight, holy Jews sit on the floor and say these words with tears.
It may seem paradoxical to remember these words on Rosh Chodesh Adar, because “when Adar begins, we increase joy.” (Taanis 29a), but perhaps weeping for the Bais Hamikdosh is actually the basis of simcha. As Chazal say, “Whoever mourns for Yerushalayim will merit to witness its rejoicing ….” (Bava Basra 60b)
My friends, this is what life is about: building a Mishkan, a place where the Shechina will dwell. As the possuk says, “V’asu li mikdash … They shall make a sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them….” (Shemos 25:8) The Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed not by the strength of our enemies, but rather because our spiritual level had deteriorated. The upside of this is that we can do teshuva and create the environment in which it can be rebuilt.
In the past, we once stood on the madreiga at which we merited to dwell in the Presence of the Shechina. Soon, b’ezras Hashem, the Presence of the King will once again transform the entire world into a place of moral and physical purity.
My wife showed me an article which said environmental pollution kills nine million people per year. Pollution is indicative of today’s world situation. Moral pollution brings on physical pollution, just as moral pollution caused the destruction of the world in the generation of the Mabul.
“Once Rabbi Meir died, there ceased to be composers of parables. Once Ben Zakkai died, there ceased to be diligent [scholars]; once Ben Zoma died, there ceased to be to be experts in exegesis; once Rabbi Akiva died, the glory of Torah ceased; once Rabbi Chanina be Dosa died, there ceased to be people of deeds; once Rabbi Yose Katonta died, there ceased to be pious men; once Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai died, the splendor of wisdom ceased; once Rabban Gamliel the Elder died, the Glory of Torah ceased; once Rabbi Yishmael ben Pavi died, the splendor of the Kehuna ceased; once Rabbi died, humility ceased as well as dread of sin. Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair says: From [the time] the Temple was destroyed, chaverim and high-born men have been ashamed and their heads have been covered and men of merit have been impoverished. But strong-armed men and slanderers have triumphed….” (Sotah 49a)
“Rabbi Chiya bar Ami said in the name of Ulla, from the day the Temple was destroyed, Hakadosh Baruch Hu has nothing in His world but the four amos of halachah.” (Berachos 8a)
The “four amos of halacha” are the Torah Scholars. They are the window through which the Light of Torah enters this world. This light enables this world to exist.
Two weeks ago, we read the account of the heavenly Merkava, the Novi’s glimpse of Shomayim. Here is how he describes the behavior of the angels: “v’kara ze el ze v’amar … one called to another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is Hashem ….” (Yeshiah 6:3; Haftaras Yisro)
“The significance of these words is explained in Avos d’Rabbi Nassan (12:6), which notes that one malach calls out to the other, ‘You begin the praise of Hashem because you are greater than I.’ The other responds, ‘No, you begin … because you are greater than I.’ This is very different from a human being, whose desire for leadership and honor makes him feel that he is more worthy than his colleagues, and thus deserves to be first in every initiative…. Only a baal middos will be able to give up something that could be his and allow it to be taken by another person.” (Rabbi Avrohom Pam zt”l on Haftaras Yisro)
There are people walking the earth, even in our times, who resemble these malachim in their greatness. Anyone who has merited to visit a Torah sage has seen a face which reflects the brilliance of Heavenly light. There is overwhelming darkness in this world, but there are a few places where the Light of Shomayim shines.
Literally a few minutes ago I heard a story about the legendary Rosh Yeshiva of Chofetz Chaim,Rabbi Henoch Leibowitz zt”l. Once Rabbi Leibowitz entered an optician’s store. The owner, an observant Jew, wanted to give him glasses for nothing, but he knew the Rosh Yeshiva wouldn’t hear of it, so he made up a price – seventy-five dollars – well below his cost. The Rosh Yeshiva said, “I’m sure you are charging me half the price,” and wrote out a check for $150. (Heard from Dr. Ari Teitelbaum)
The light emanating from the Mishkan and the Bais Hamikdosh was the source of all earthly light. Today that light emanates from Torah sages. The light we see with our eyes is but a pale reflection. Can we comprehend what we are lacking?
“The light that Hashem created on the first day, man could [use]it [to] survey [everything] from one end of the world to the other end …. Once [however, when] Hakadosh Baruch Hu, looked at the generation of the Flood and the generation of the Dispersion, and He saw that their deeds were perverse, He proceeded to hide [this light] from them …. And for whom did He hide this light? For the righteous people in the future. (Chagigah 12a)
“May You shine a new light on Tzion and may we all speedily merit its light.” (Shacharis)
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Roy Neuberger, author and public speaker, can be reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2018 by Roy S. Neuberger