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We Are Not Alone

Rabbi Wagensberg
Tisha B'Av
We Are Not Alone

The Gemara (Yoma, chap. 1, "Shivas Yamim", pg. 9b) tells us that our two Batei Mikdash were destroyed on Tisha B'Av. Our enemies entered the Kodesh Hakadashim to destroy the Temple. This is astonishing because the holiest place on Earth is the Holy of Holies. So much so that nobody may enter into the Kodesh Hakadashim, save the Kohein Gadol, and even then, only on Yom Kippur.

Before we speak about what our enemies saw in the Holy of Holies, we must first share a teaching about the Aron Hakodesh.

The Gemara (Baba Basra, chap. 6, "Hamocher Peiros", pg. 99a) asks in what position the Keruvim (statue like figures that stood on top of the Holy Ark's covering) stood? The Gemara says that this was debated by Rebbi Yochanan and Rebbi Elazar. One opinion says that they stood in such a way that they faced each other, while the other opinion says that they stood in such a way that they faced away from each other.

The Gemara asks that according to the opinion who says that they faced each other, what does he do with the verse (Divrei Hayamim Beis, 3:13) that says that they faced away from each other? Similarly, according to the opinion who says that they faced away from each other, what does he do with the verse (Parshas Terumah, 25:20) that says that they faced each other?

In other words, we do not just have a debate amongst early Amoritic Sages, we also have a seeming contradiction in verses. This begs us to ask, "Will the real Keruvim please stand up?!" Which one was it? Did they face each other or did they face away from each other?

The Gemara answers that there is no contradiction whatsoever. The verse and the opinion who say that they faced each other was talking about a time when the Jewish people were doing the will of God. However, the verse and the opinion who say that they faced away from each other was talking about a time when the Jewish people were not doing the will of God.

Rashi (ibid) adds that when the Jewish people were doing the will of God, the Keruvim faced each other like a man and a woman who face each other when they are in love. The Keruvim served as a barometer as to the relationship between the Jews and Hashem. One Keruv represented Hashem and the other Keruv represented the Jewish people.

When the Jews first sculpted the Keruvim in the Midbar, they shaped them to face each other so that the Shechina would rest upon the Jewish people. However, when the Jewish people chose not to do the will of God, the Keruvim miraculously turned away from each other.

This Gemara will help us understand the next Talmudic passage.

Rav Katina said that when the Jewish people would fulfil the mitzva of Aliya L'Regel (pilgrimage to the Beis Hamikdash on the festivals), the Kohanim would roll back the curtain which separated the Kodesh Hakadashim from everything else to show the Jewish people the Keruvim. Throngs of Jews would line up to catch a glimpse of the Keruvim from a distance. The Jewish people witnessed how the Keruvim were intertwisted with each other. The Kohanim would say to the rest of the Jewish people, "Look at how much Hashem loves you. He loves you like the love a man has for a woman" (Meseches Yoma, chap. 5, "Hotziyu Lo", pg. 54a).

We find many sources which indicate that the relationship between God and the Jewish people is like that of a man and a woman, to the point that God actually married the Jewish people. Hashem acted as the Chasan whereas the Jewish people acted as the Kallah.

The Midrash (Devarim Rabba, Parshas Eikev, 3:12) tells us that a marriage contract was drawn up between Hashem and the Jews. The marriage contract was the Torah itself. There is a verse which supports this idea that Hashem married us. In Parshas Yisro (19:10), it says that Hashem told Moshe to tell the Jewish people, "Vikidashtem today and tomorrow." The simple meaning of "Vikidashtem" is "sanctify" or "purify." However, the lingo of "Vikidashtem" was not lost on the Sages of the Midrash. The word "Vikidashtem" is related to the word "Kiddushin" (marriage). Hashem meant to say that He would "marry" us after "today and tomorrow."

In fact, the Shechina went out to greet the Jewish people at Har Sinai like a groom goes out to greet his bride to bring her under the Chuppah (wedding canopy; Rashi, Parshas Yisro, 19:17, citing Mechilta).

Moreover, Hashem held Mount Sinai suspended over the heads of the Jewish people (Rav Avdimi bar Chama bar Chasa, Meseches Shabbos, chap. 9, "Amar Rebbi Akiva", pg. 88a; based on Parshas Yisro, 19:17, "Vayisyatzvu BITACHTIS Hahar", and they stood "UNDERNEATH" the Mountain).

Rabbi Pinchas Halevi Horowitz (1731 Ukraine-1805 Germany) says in his Sefer Hamakneh (a Sefer on Meseches Kiddushin; Pischa Z'ira) that the reason why Hashem held Mount Sinai over their heads was because Hashem wanted the mountain to serve as the Chuppah.

Har Sinai was the Chuppah, the Torah was the Shtar Kiddushin (marriage document), the Luchos (which were very expensive) was the Kesef Kiddushin (the money, or something worth money that was used for the marriage), and the Mishkan was the Cheder Yichud (private room for the Chasan and Kallah).

Based on all of this, it is not surprising to find a pasuk which says, "And like a bridegroom rejoicing over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you" (Yeshaya, 62:5). Again, we see that Hashem is married to the Jewish people.

There was a symbol in the Beis Hamikdash which demonstrated this closeness between God and the Jews. That symbol was the Keruvim. When they were intertwined with each other, it displayed the union that existed between Hashem and K'nesses Yisrael.

Although this is a beautiful teaching, there is going to be a problem with it. Reish Lakish said that when our enemies entered into the Kodesh Hakadashim to destroy the Beis Hamikdash, they found the Keruvim intertwisted with each other (Yoma, chap. 5, "Hotziyu Lo", pg. 54b).

Before we ask a strong question on this Gemara, let us first establish which Beis Hamikdash we are talking about. Did this happen in the First Beis Hamikdash, the Second Beis Hamikdash, or in both Batei Mikdash?

I think we are forced to say that this happened in the First Beis Hamikdash. This is because of another Gemara found earlier in Meseches Yoma (chap. 1, "Shivas Yamim", pg. 21b) which says that there were five differences between the First and Second Beis Hamikdash. The following five items were present in the First Beis Hamikdash but were absent in the Second Beis Hamikdash:

1) The Aron Hakodesh with its covering and Keruvim.

2) The miraculous fire that descended from Heaven to consume various offerings.

3) The Shechina (Divine Presence).

4) Ruach Hakodesh (Divine Inspiration).

5) The Urim Vitumim (the Name of God that was written on a piece of parchment and inserted into the pouch of the Choshen Moshpat which gave it the ability to light up by the different letters that were engraved on the stones to answer questions posed to Hashem that were asked by the Kohen Gadol and the calling of the Sanhedrin).

Therefore, if Reish Lakish said that our enemies saw the Keruvim hugging each other when they entered the Holy of Holies, it must be that we are talking about the First Beis Hamikdash, because there were no Keruvim in the Kodesh Hakadashim during the Second Beis Hamikdash.

Comes along Rabbi Betzalel Ashkenazi (1520-1592, Egypt) in his Sefer Shita Mikubetzes (Meseches Baba Basra, pg. 99a) who cites the Ri Migash (Rabbi Yosef Ibn Migash, Spain, 1077-1141, who was a disciple of the Rif and a Rebbi of the Rambam) who asks the following question on Reish Lakish. If the heathens entered the Kodesh Hakadashim to destroy the Beis Hamikdash, it must be that we were not doing the will of God. After all, the Gemara (Yoma, chap. 1, "Shivas Yamim", pg. 9b) says that the First Temple was destroyed because we had transgressed the three cardinal sins, and the Second Temple was destroyed because we were guilty of baseless hatred.

If we were not doing the will of God, then the Keruvim should have been facing away from each other, like we saw in Baba Basra (ibid). How can it be that our enemies saw the Keruvim embracing each other?

The Ri Migash (ibid) answers his own question by saying that although in general the Keruvim faced away from each other when we were not doing the will of God; nevertheless, an exception was made for that moment and the Keruvim were interlocked with each other in order to send a message to the Goyim that Hashem loves the Jewish people.

The Shvilei Pinchas modifies the words of the Ri Migash. He says that the Ri Migash does not mean to say that Hashem's message to the Goyim was that Hashem "loved" the Jewish people when the Beis Hamikdash was still standing, because that would have been obvious.

Rather, the Ri Migash means to say that Hashem's message to the Goyim was that Hashem "still loves" the Jewish people even at the moment that they are being punished and afterwards. God's message to the nations was that He has not abandoned us. He still loves us. Just as a parent must punish a child who misbehaves, so does Hashem punish the Jewish people. But, just as a parent's love for his child is in no way diminished by the punishment, so is Hashem's love for us not diminished even though He had to punish us.

Perhaps we could add that this message had a tremendous benefit to it. Hashem was saying to the nations of the world, "Although the Jewish people will now be dispersed throughout the diaspora and fall under the authority of various governments in different countries, do not overly subjugate them because I still love them. I have not abandoned them. So, watch out and do not persecute them."

As a matter of fact, this was one of the oaths that Hashem forced the nations to take at the time of the Churban. That is, "Do not hurt My Jews more than the measure that they deserve" (Kesuvos, chap. 13, "Shnei Dayanei", pg. 111b; Rebbi Yosi b"Rebbi Chanina, based on Shir Hashirim, 2:7). This is because Hashem still cares about the Jewish people. Hashem still loves us. Therefore, the nations should not hurt us. This is something that the nations of the world have transgressed time and again.

In his B'Nei Yissaschar (Tammuz-Av, 3:1) Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov (Poland, 1783-1841), cites Rebbi Dov Ber of Mezritch (1704-1772, Poland) who says something along the same lines as the Ri Migash. The Yerushalmi in Berachos (chap. 2, Halacha 4) and the Midrash (Eicha Rabasi, 1:51) say that Moshiach ben Dovid is born on Tisha B'Av. They say that the reason for this is to show that even when Hashem is punishing us with the destruction of our Temples on Tisha B'Av, do not think for a moment that Hashem has forsaken us. On the contrary. Even as our Beis Hamikdash burned to the ground, Hashem was planting the seeds of our eventual Geula by having Moshiach ben Dovid born at that very moment. This demonstrates that Hashem is yearning for the Geula when He will be reunited once again with His beloved people, the Jews.

However, the aforementioned answer of the Ri Migash, about Hashem sending a message to the Goyim that He still loves us, begs us to ask another question. Reish Lakish (Yoma ibid) goes on to say that after our enemies saw the Keruvim embracing each other, they schlepped the Keruvim out to the marketplace and began to disgrace the Keruvim and mock the Jewish people. This public disgrace is mentioned in the Book of Eicha (1:8) where it says, "All who once respected her disparage her."

Apparently, Hashem's message was lost on those gentiles. If so, what was the purpose of sending the message to begin with? Hashem already knew that His message would fall on deaf ears. So why bother sending the message in the first place?

The Shvilei Pinchas answers this question by saying that Hashem also wanted to send this message to the Jewish people. It is imperative for the Jewish people to understand that although we have been kicked out of Eretz Yisrael, and although we have been subject to cruelty under the paws of the nations, Hashem still loves us. Hashem is still with us no matter where we are. Therefore, Hashem orchestrated that the Goyim would schlepp the Keruvim to the marketplace where all of the Jews would be able to witness with their very own eyes how the Keruvim were hugging each other. If the message was lost on the Goyim, it was not lost on Klal Yisrael. As tears cascaded down their cheeks because of the Churban, the Jews understood that Hashem is still hugging us because He still loves us.

Had the Goyim left the Keruvim in the Kodesh Hakadashim, they could have melted together with everything else that got destroyed. If that were to happen, B'Nei Yisrael would have never received this message of God's unconditional love for us. Therefore, Hashem arranged that the Goyim drag the Keruvim to the marketplace where everybody could see.

This approach will address an answer to an apparent contradiction.

When it comes to Tisha B'Av itself, there seems to be an inherent contradiction. On one hand, Tisha B'Av is a day of mourning with fasting, sitting on the floor, no washing, and no shmearing (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 554:1). On the other hand, Tisha B'Av is called a Moed (holiday; Eicha, 1:15). We treat Tisha B'Av as such by omitting Tachanun on Erev Tisha B'Av and on Tisha B'Av, just like we omit Tachanun on all of the other holidays (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 552:12; 559:4).

So, will the real Tisha B'Av please stand up? Is Tisha B'Av a day of mourning or is it a holiday?

Rabbi Mordechai Gifter ZT"L (the Rosh Yeshiva of Telz, Cleveland; b. 1915 Virginia, d. 2001 Cleveland) would quote the previous Rosh Yeshiva of Telz, Lithuania, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Bloch (b. 1891, brutally murdered by the Nazis, Yemach Shemam, in 1941) who explained that there is no contradiction whatsoever.

Yes, Tisha B'Av is a day of mourning. However, this does not contradict the fact that Tisha B'Av is a Moed. This is because the definition of "Moed" is not necessarily "holiday." Rather, the word "Moed" comes from the word "Hitva'adut" (gathering, coming together, congregate, unite). We find this definition in the verse where Hashem says to Moshe Rabbenu, "Vinoadeti Lecha Sham" (I will set My meetings with you the Keruvim; Parshas Terumah, 25:22). The word "Vinoadity" (I will meet) shares the same root as "Moed."

Therefore, on Yomim Tovim, we "get together" with God amidst happiness and joy. This is why the other holidays are called "Moadim" (see Parshas Emor, 23:44; and Parshas Beha'alosecha, 10:10).

However, on Tisha B'Av, we also "get together" with Hashem, but it is amidst pain and suffering. Therefore, Tisha B'Av is also a "Moed." Look, there are times when Jews gather together in a shiva home, lo aleinu, and there are other times when Jews gather together at a simcha hall. In both instances, we get together. It's just that the atmosphere is quite different.

When we congregate together with Hashem on Tisha B'Av, we are saying to Hashem that we understand that everything that happens is under His Divine intervention. We place our trust in Hashem that He knows best. We understand that Hashem still loves us and is still with us. This realization can help remove the feeling of being completely broken.

Therefore, there is no contradiction. Yes, Tisha B'Av is a day of mourning. But in no way does that take away from the "Moed" aspect of the day. It is a "Moed" because we are in a "Hitva'adut" with Hashem on that day as well.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that we could apply the saying, "He practiced what he preached" (Chagiga, chap. 2, "Ein Dorshin", pg. 14b) to Rav Avraham Yitzchak Bloch. This is because in the preface to Shiurei Da'as it records an eye witness account of the last weeks of Rav Bloch's life.

The Nazis, yemach shemam, rounded up Rav Bloch with his entire community and brought them to a forest outside of Telz, Lithuania. The Nazis forced the Jewish community to do back-breaking work for three weeks. During this period of time, Rav Bloch was preparing his people by teaching them how to die Al Kiddush Hashem through Torah, Tefillah, and Vidui.

The day before they were murdered, the Nazis beat them with such hard blows that they were broken and covered with mud that they had fallen into. When Rav Bloch got back to his barracks that evening, he lifted his hands towards heaven and said, "Master of the Universe, You are great and Your deeds are great."

The next morning, the Nazis woke them up at 5:00am and instructed them to go out to the forest. Rav Bloch understood that this was to be his last day alive on this Earth. With whatever water he had he washed his hands ritually and recited Vidui and marched to the forest prepared to die Al Kiddush Hashem.

After a few minutes, the Nazis shot them all into a huge grave. Another group of Jews who were behind the Nazis overheard one voice coming out of the grave. With his last breath, Rav Avraham Yitzchal Bloch said those famous words that welcomes a person into this world, such as at a Bris Milah. Words that also accompany a person on the way out of this world. We are talking about the words, "Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad" (Parshas Vaeschanan, 6:4).

Rav Bloch lived with the concept of Hitva'adut with Hashem amidst pain and suffering.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that this idea about the word "Moed" meaning "Hitva'adut" is also found in the Maharal (Chiddushei Aggados, Meseches Makkos, chap. 3, "Eilu Hein Halokin", pg. 23a). The Gemara there cites Rav Sheishes in the name of Rebbi Elazar ben Azaria who says that anybody who disgraces the "Moados" (holidays) is likened to a person who serves idolatry. The Maharal explains this as follows.

The reason why Hashem made "Moadim" (festivals) such as Pesach, Succos, and Shavuos was in order to afford the Jewish people with an opportunity of getting together with Hashem to celebrate with Him. The Maharal cites the same pasuk as Rav Bloch did to support this idea. The verse that says that Hashem told Moshe, "Vinoadity Lecha Sham" (and I will meet with you there; Parshas Teruma, 25:22). The word "Vinoadity" (meet) shares a commonality with the word "Moed." Therefore, on a holiday, Hashem wants to "get together" and "connect" with us.

But, if a person disgraces the Moed (holiday) by not wanting to "get together" with Hashem, because he would rather spend time "getting together" with something else, that something else is "strange" to Hashem. This is why it is called "Avoda ZARA" (STRANGE worship).

This explains why the Gemara specifically said, "Anybody who disgraces the "Moados," and it did not say, "Anybody who disgraces the "Regalim," or "Anybody who disgraces the "Yomim Tovim." The use of the word "Moados" comes to teach us that this person does not want a "Hitva'adut" with Hashem, because he would rather be spending his time with something else. That something else is "strange" to God, therefore such a person is guilty of "Avoda Zara" because it is something "strange."

This explains why the Jewish people went on Aliya L'Regel on the Moadim. If the whole reason for the Moadim is to experience a "Hitva'adut" with Hashem, what better place to be other than the Makom Hamikdash where the Shechina was. The Beis Hamikdash was the greatest place to be in order to "unite," "get together", and "hang out" with Hashem.This pleased Hashem so much because He also wants to "spend time" with us. Therefore, during their Aliya L'Regel, the Jews were shown the Keruvim who were always embracing each other which represented the closeness between the Jews and Hashem.

Those gatherings were done in happier times. However, on Tisha B'Av, we also "congregate" with Hashem, but this "getting together" with God is under different circumstances. Now we "get together" with Hashem because of the pain and suffering that we are going through. We place our trust in Hashem that He knows best. Therefore, there is no tension between the fact that Tisha B'Av is a day of mourning and the fact that Tisha B'Av is a Moed. It is both. We mourn in "Hitva'adut" with Hashem. During this Hitva'adut" with Hashem, we should ask Him to forgive us for our sins, bring the Geula, and transform Tisha B'Av into a celebratory Moed just like the others, and even more so.

The Shvilei Pinchas points out that through this "Hitva'adut" with God amidst pain and suffering, we will merit "Hitva'adut" with God amidst happiness and joy. This is because the days of happiness and joy are outgrowths from the days of sadness and suffering. This idea is supported by the following teaching.

The Apter Rebbe (Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshel, 1748-1825, Poland) says in his Sefer Oheiv Yisrael (Parshas Pinchas) that Parshas Pinchas often kicks off the Three Weeks. The reason for this is because all of the holidays are mentioned in Parshas Pinchas, and there is a connection between the Three Weeks and the other holidays during the rest of the year, as we will now see.

The Three Weeks is made up of 21 days (Rashi Yirmiya, 1:11), and it just so happens that there are 21 days of Chagim that the Jewish people celebrate throughout the year. The following is the Apter Rebbe's list of those 21 days of Chagim throughout the year:

1) Shabbos (only one point for Shabbos, not 52 points).

2) Rosh Chodesh (only one point for Rosh Chodesh and not 12 or 13).

3) The seven Biblical days of Pesach.

4) One Biblical day for Shavuos.

5) Two days of Rosh Hashana.

6) One day of Yom Kippur.

7) Eight Biblical days of Succos (which include Hoshana Rabba and Shmini Atzeres).

Altogether there are 21 days on the Jewish calendar that Jewish people celebrate. This is the meaning of the verse, "Ach Tov LiYisrael" (Truly God is good to Israel; Tehillim, 73:1). The word "Ach" is spelled aleph chaf, which is numerically 21, referring to the 21 days of the Bein Hametzarim. The 21 days of the Bein Hametzarim are good (Ach Tov) for the Jewish people (Yisrael) because the 21 days of the Three Weeks serve as the roots of the other 21 days of Chagim.

This means to say that if we get together Bihitva'adut with God during the Bein Hametzarim and show that we are willing to stick with God through thick and thin, then we will merit to celebrate with God joyously during the other 21 days amidst happiness and joy. This explains why the Gemara (Ta'anis, chap. 4, "Bishlosha Perakim", pg. 30b) says that anybody who mourns over Yerushalayim will merit to see its time of joy. Meaning, if we are prepared to stay with God even during tragic times, then we will be able to be in God's company during happy occasions as well.

We are now going to see how we can be Bihitva'adut with God every single day. We do not have to wait for the 21 days of the Bein Hametzarim, nor do we have to wait for the 21 days of Chagim. Rather, ever single day can be a day in which we unite with Hashem. Let us explore how right now.

When we had a Beis Hamikdash, there was Shechina, as it says, "Vi-asu Li Mikdash Vishachanti Besocham" (they must make for Me a sanctuary so that I may dwell among them; Parshas Teruma, 25:8). Although the verse is talking about the "Mishkan" that the Jews built in the Midbar, the verse uses the word "Mikdash," which points to the Beis Hamikdash. The verse also says, "Vishachanti" (I will dwell). This word is related to the word Shechina. This tells us that when we had a Beis Hamikdash, there was Shechina.

What happened after the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed? Where did the Shechina go? The Gemara (Berachos, chap. 1, "M'eimasai", pg. 8a; Rav Chiya bar Ami in the name of Ula) says that from the day the Temple was destroyed, Hashem can only be found in the four cubits of Halacha. Meaning, the Shechina rests wherever Torah is being studied. The Shvilei Pinchas says that there is a good reason for this, as we will now see.

Although the Shechina rested in the Beis Hamikdash, we could still ask, precisely where in the Beis Hamikdash was the Shechina resting? The answer is, between the two Keruvim, as it says, "I (God) will set my meetings with you (Moshe) there, and I will speak with you from the top of the cover, from between the two Keruvim that are on the Ark of the testimony" (Parshas Teruma, 25:22).

Why did the Shechina choose to rest specifically between the two Keruvim? The answer is because the two Keruvim do not only represent Hashem and the Jewish people like we mentioned earlier. The two Keruvim also represent two Jews who come together. What do you think the two Keruvim were engaged in when they came together? The answer is that they were involved in that which was between them. Right under their feet was the Aron Hakodesh. Inside the Aron Hakodesh was the Torah. Therefore, the two Keruvim were involved in Torah study.

In other words, the two Keruvim were like a pair of chavrusos (study partners). Since time immemorial, the traditional way to learn Torah was, and still is, to be matched up with a Chavrusa with whom one would learn Torah. This tradition dates itself all the way back to the Keruvim in the Kodesh Hakadashim of the Mishkan in the Midbar.

Hashem chose to rest His Divine Presence specifically between the Keruvim to teach us that Hashem rests His Shechina upon Jews who come together to learn Torah. Just as the Shechina rested between the two Keruvim who were engaged in Torah study when the Beis Hamikdash existed, so does the Shechina rest upon two Jews (or more) who come together to study Torah, even after the Churban. That is why the Gemara says that nowadays the Shechina is only found within the four cubits of Torah.

It turns out that when we are engrossed in Torah study, we experience "Hitva'adut" with Hashem. When the Goyim schlepped the Keruvim to the marketplace, the Jews received another message from God. The message was, that if they wanted to be close to Hashem, they would have to walk in the footsteps of the Keruvim by following their example and come together for the purpose of studying Torah.

Practically speaking, each and every one of us should try to make an even greater commitment to Torah study. Let's call up that friend and make a Chavrusa with him. Let's finally get to that topic we have always wanted to know more about. Let's finally get to that Shiur we have always wanted to go to.

In this way, we will be proactive participants in bringing even more Shechina to our lives and to this world, which will be one step closer to bringing the Shechina down to this world in its full glory, when it will rest upon the Beis Hamikdash once again.

So, may we all be blessed with the strength to increase our Torah study and enjoy the company of God - our Spouse - face to face - and thus deserve to witness the Shechina return to the Beis Hamikdash, when these 21 days of Bein Hametzarim will be transformed into another set of 21 Moadim, when we will be privileged with a special Hitva'adut with Hashem, Bimheira Biyameinu, Amen!

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