There is a well-known aphorism of the Tzemach Tzedek concerning Shabbos Chazon:
From Chazon -- the "vision" -- [may we reach the time of redemption and then] "may our eyes behold...." (Siddur, Amidah) (Or Hatorah, Tenach II, p. 1097)
In other words, we express the prayerful wish that from Shabbos Chazon we may behold the vision of the Third Beis HaMikdash.
R. Hillel M'Paritch also discussed this idea and wrote:
[It has been taught] in the name of the Rav of Berdichev (Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev o.b.m.)...Shabbos Chazon is a day of "vision" when each and everyone is shown the future Temple from a distance."
(see notes, loc. cit.)
The Berdichever explained his idea with a parable:
There once lived a man who had a son whom he loved very much. The father had a very expensive suit tailored for the boy to wear. The child was not careful with his new garment and conducted himself in a reprehensible manner. He tore his suit to shreds. The father had a second suit tailored for his son and the son again acted improperly and ripped the suit. What did the father do? He made his son a third garment but he did not give it to him, instead he hid it away. At certain (infrequent) times he would show the suit to the child with the following admonishment: "Look here, if you will act in the proper manner I will give the suit to you to wear...."
We see from this story that although the first and second Temples were destroyed "because of our sins," G-d still shows us the Third Beis HaMikdash from time to time (on Shabbos Chazon). This prophetic vision should influence the Jewish people to conduct themselves properly -- so that the Third Beis HaMikdash will actually be built.
A question begs to be asked. All good and well in theory -- but in fact we do not see this vision!? There certainly are chosen individuals who do see the future Temple on Shabbos Chazon, but the vast majority who hear the Haftorah and answer, "Amen," will have to admit the truth that they saw nothing. Yet, the Berdichever said, "each and everyone"?!
The first response might be that although the person does not actually see the Beis HaMikdash, the higher powers of his soul will see the Third Beis HaMikdash. This concept is expounded by the Alter Rebbe in Likkutei Torah concerning the heavenly voices that issue forth daily [and from time to time] urging the Jewish people to repent. Who hears these supernal heralds? The Gemara says: "even though he does not see his mazal sees." (Megillah 3a)
The Alter Rebbe explains:
Only a ray of the soul actually descends to give life to the body...the essence of the soul remains on a higher spiritual plane...and it is called mazal for it is the source, and the life-force trickles down from it.... Now this mazal hears and sees the heavenly voices and for this reason the soul enclothed in the body sometimes feels the signals from its source...[these awaken] the pangs of teshuvah which a person senses.
(Likkutei Torah, Seitzei 36d)
Thus, the mazal hears the celestial pronouncement and sends a message down to the ray of the soul that is enclothed in the body which is suddenly startled into the realization that he must mend his ways.
Similarly, we may say that the lofty spiritual aspects of one's soul see the Third Beis HaMikdash on Shabbos Chazon and then influence the soul in the body to mend its ways and thereby bring the Temple into reality.
Upon more careful analysis we will find that this answer is not satisfactory, for the more common Heavenly voices regularly accomplish their goals without any special assistance -- the vision of the Temple must have some greater role to play. Moreover, as the Berdichever writes, it should effect so strong an improvement that "goodness becomes his second nature and he will never return to his foolish actions." This is because the future Temple is eternal, being "G-d's structure" (Zohar III, 221a) and because it is a case of vision -- seeing, not only hearing.
Here another snag arises. Chassidus explains that an awakening that originates above (as opposed to an awakening from the person himself) can never be eternal, in fact, its existence is ephemeral (merely as an ignition spark to initiate an awakening from below.) How do we reconcile this?
Let us consider for a moment another thought. There is a popular question on the mitzvah of loving G-d. How can you command someone to love? You can order someone to do something, but feelings cannot be dictated?!
The answer of course is that the command is to meditate on those thoughts which engender love of G-d and since proper meditations will definitely and automatically evoke a heartfelt love -- you will absolutely love G-d.
Now, extrapolate this concept into our case -- when you know that the source of your Neshamah sees the Third Beis HaMikdash -- you must then meditate on this fact and its implications -- the resultant emotions and awakening will be very real and eternal -- as if you had seen the Temple with human eyes.
In our actual Divine service there is more to learn from the vision of the Third Beis HaMikdash. First of all, in joy. What greater joy can a Jew feel than when he is shown the vision of the future Temple. Second, an increase in all matters connected to the Temple: Sacrifices -- meaning prayer -- and all forms of approaching the Holy One, Blessed be He; and pilgrimage, rising in spiritual matters -- including Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity:
The city which made all Jews friends -- when the tribes used to go up to Yerushalayim for the pilgrimage.
(Yerushalmi, Chagigah 3:6)
Moreover it also speeds the actual building of the Beis HaMikdash. For although the future Beis HaMikdash is built and stands ready, nevertheless, the Biblical command, "Make Me a sanctuary," still applies and the Jewish people must actually do something in its construction, in addition to the fact that G-d's act of giving us the prefab Temple is all dependent on our action. How? When we create mini-Sanctuaries, synagogues and houses of study, houses devoted to Torah, prayer and charity, including also the sanctuary which every Jew, young and old, can make in his/her heart, home, room, action etc. These mini-Sanctuaries serve as a preparation and harbinger of the future Temple.
In our action we must certainly also meditate on the future Temple, for the soul which returned to our bodies this morning surely saw the Temple during its heavenly, nocturnal sojourn, and certainly this year the vision was of even more intense for "we rise in matters of holiness."
This will therefore effect a greater effort in all areas of making the world a mini-Sanctuary, qualitatively and quantitatively, with renewed vigor and much greater strength -- as if we see it with human eyes. And may it truly be, that from the "vision" of Chazon we will reach the state of "may our eyes behold," the true future Temple in reality. With the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach, when "Tziyon will be redeemed with justice and her returnees with righteousness." Symbolically and actually, speedily and truly in our days -- so that we will speak in the present and past tense, not the future tense, immediately.
This year Shabbos Chazon is endowed with special qualities: A) The year is a Shemittah year; and, B) it occurs on the sixth of Av.
A Shemittah year is considered a Sabbatical year for G-d when all aspects of Torah and holiness are enhanced, as the Seforno explains:
The year will be specially prepared for people to devote to Divine service because they will be free of agricultural labors. This is similar to the Shabbos day which is called a day of Shabbos devoted to G-d your L-rd.
(Seforno on Behar)
Even the vision of the future Temple will be enhanced by this particularity. Additionally, the Shemittah year has a special connection to matters of the Beis HaMikdash:
Shabbos has a special relation to the Beis HaMikdash, for many of the activities normally prohibited on Shabbos are allowed and required in the Beis HaMikdash on Shabbos. Outside the Beis HaMikdash such actions would be punishable by capital punishment -- in the Beis HaMikdash they bring more life to the world.
The Shemittah year prepares for the mitzvah of Hakhel in the eighth year, when men, women and children gather in the Beis HaMikdash during the Holiday of Sukkos. Shemittah serves as a preparation for Hakhel very much like Friday prepares for Shabbos.
So, when we see the future Beis HaMikdash on Shabbos Chazon of the Shemittah year all aspects of the Divine service of the Beis HaMikdash -- 1) sacrifices 2) festivals 3) Making a sanctuary in our hearts -- are enhanced.
What is the special significance of the sixth of Av? In this case Erev Shabbos was the 5th of Av, the yartzeit of the Arizal; a Yartzeit carries special meaning:
All his doings, his Torah and the Divine service which he served all the days of his life...it becomes revealed and radiates in a manifest way...at the time of his passing and effects salvation in the midst of the earth.
(Iggeres HaKodesh ch. 28)
This salvation includes not only the aspects of the Arizal's Divine service which were revealed to us, but also, all the multitude of aspects that remained sequestered and were not revealed -- yet on the day of the yartzeit they become revealed.
There is also a connection between the yartzeit and the vision of the Temple. The Gemara states: "The death of Tzaddikim is equal to the destruction of the House of our L-rd." (Rosh HaShanah 18b) The goal of this descent is to reach a higher state when salvation will come to the world, which is the sequence of destruction of the Temple which leads to the higher state of the future Temple, which is the handiwork of G-d.
It was the Arizal who propounded the opinion that in these last generations specifically it is permitted and required to reveal the esoteric wisdom (see Iggeres HaKodesh ch. 26) -- including the Zohar, the Lurianic teachings, etc. For it is with this Book of the Zohar that the Jewish people will march out of the golus with mercy. (see Zohar III, 124b)
"One who prepares on Friday will eat on Shabbos" -- and when Friday is the yartzeit of the Arizal then the visions of the future which we absorb on Shabbos are much loftier. And since this day brings salvation in the world it also affects the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash so that with the study of his teachings we will in fact march out of the diaspora.
These themes of Shabbos Chazon, the Shemittah year, the fact that Friday was the fifth of Menachem Av, all have a beneficial effect also on the upcoming days and the future years. Notwithstanding that on this day the effect is much stronger. Just as the remembrance of the Exodus is stronger on Pesach -- even though we recall the Exodus every day of the year.
There actually is a real connection between this day of Shabbos Chazon as the Shabbos before Tisha B'Av and the holiday of Pesach. We know that the code for setting the day of each holiday is based on the cipher of A't B'ash -- the sequence of the progressing alphabet as it is matched with the letters in reverse order. So that the letter Aleph -- is matched with Tav, etc. Accordingly, the first day of Pesach will fall on the same day as Tisha B'Av. The symbolic inference is that although Tisha B'Av is a time of Exile its true inner essence is redemption, as evidenced by Pesach and in fact,
I will show you miraculous things as in the day when you left Egypt. (Michah 7:15)
Moreover the Aleph of Pesach comes before the Tav of Tisha B'Av to show that the remedy comes before the illness and as G-d promised:
I will not strike you with any of the sickness that I brought on Egypt. (Shemos 15:26)
In the time of the future redemption there will be no suffering.
Now, on Pesach itself the main time for recalling the Exodus is at the Seder Night which is the "protected night" when G-d liberated the children of Israel. For although the actual Exodus out of Egypt took place in the "very midst of this day" -- nevertheless, this could only take place because the night before, at midnight, "the Supreme King of kings revealed Himself to them and redeemed them."
This revelation of the first night of Pesach corrects and converts the tears of Tisha B'Av which also occurred at night: "The people cried on that night." (Bemidbar 14:1)
That night was Tisha B'Av and the Holy One, Blessed be He, said to them, "you have cried for nothing and I therefore will set this day as a day of tears for all the generations." (Ta'anis 29a)
Thus the revelation of Pesach will convert those tears to good tears. As we find that Rabbi Akiva's eyes were filled with tears when he studied the esoteric interpretation of Shir HaShirim. Those were tears of joy and pleasure, because of the great revelation of the esoteric aspect of Torah beyond the normal capacity of his mind. (see Zohar I, 98b; Torah Or, Vayishlach 26a)
Action is of the essence. On this Shabbos Chazon when everyone is shown the future Temple, and especially in this year of Shemittah, and the day after the Yartzeit of the Arizal, we should increase our actions and Divine service in Torah study, observance of mitzvos which will bring about the true and complete redemption and the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash. This includes the study and spreading of the esoteric teachings of Torah and then, "when the wellsprings will spread out -- the Master, King Moshiach, will come."
Much has already been accomplished in this area with great, immeasurable abundance, including the publication of a new volume of the Mitteler Rebbe's works based on the teachings of the Alter Rebbe with the additional broader understanding of the Mitteler Rebbe; it was delivered from the binder just this Erev Shabbos.
May it be G-d's will that very soon the promise will be fulfilled: "Awake and rise, you who dwell in the dust"; the Arizal will be among them, our Rabbis and Nessi'im will also be among them, and all together we will come to the holy land, to the holy city Yerushalayim, and to the Beis HaMikdash, as it says: "May our eyes behold Your return to Tziyon with mercy."
We are about to read Vaeschanan at Minchah. The Sifri says that Vaeschanan means a "freely given gift." May we merit to receive all that we speak of, immediately, as a freely given gift. Through the preparation of freely shown love, Ahavas Yisrael, and love of G-d not for reward, or for anything other than to be close to G-d, not even Gan Eden. The Tzemach Tzedek has related that the Alter Rebbe was overheard saying during his dveikus:
I want nothing, I want not Your Gan Eden, I want not Your World to Come, I want only You alone."
(Tzemach Tzedek, Sefer Hamitzvos; Prayer, ch. 40)
This story was related to us and we must learn from it, for some small percentage of this attitude applies to us, too. And so may G-d reveal Himself quickly and truly in our days.
Several questions have been suggested on Rashi's commentary in this week's portion but first let us consider a klotz kashe, a very perplexing and difficult question.
The Torah relates:
On the first of the eleventh month in the fortieth year....
On this Rashi explains:
This teaches us that Moshe did not admonish them only near to his death. From whom did he learn this, from Ya'akov. Similarly, Yehoshua only chastised the Jewish people close to his death, and so, too, Shmuel, as it is written: "Here I am, answer me." (I Shmuel 12:3) Similarly, Dovid to his son Shlomo. (Rashi, loc. cit.)
This is truly perplexing because we find so many times throughout the Biblical narrative that Moshe chastised the Jewish people. Examples abound. At the Red Sea the Jewish people said: "are there no graves in Egypt..." to which Moshe admonished: "G-d will do battle for you but you must remain silent." Similarly at Marah, and at the other incidents when the Jews tested G-d, as well as when G-d was vexed by the misdeeds or complaints of the people. In all of these cases Moshe chastised them at the moment of rebellion and on the spot. How can Rashi possibly say that he only chastised them near his death?
Several other questions have been raised on this Rashi. Particularly on his choice of examples of Yehoshua, Shmuel and Dovid, who also chastised the Jewish people only close to their death. Also, why in the case of Shmuel does Rashi quote a verse, whereas in the case of Yehoshua and Dovid Rashi brings no corroboration?
Let us consider another Rashi on the next verse:
This was after he had defeated Sichon, king of the Amorites who lived in Cheshbon, and Og, king of the Bashan, who lived in Ashtaros in Edrei. (Ibid 1:4)
Sichon...who lived in Cheshbon -- if Sichon had not been so tough but had dwelt in Cheshbon it would have been extremely difficult because the city was too strong to conquer. And if it had been a different city with Sichon as its ruler it would have been extremely difficult -- for he was a tough king. How much more so when the king was tough and the city so strong. (loc. cit.)
However, regarding Og Rashi merely says, "a hard king and a difficult land," he does not go through the whole explanation.
In truth there is really another difficulty on this subject. The first verse of Devorim begins:
These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel...in the desert, and in Aravah, near Suf, in the vicinity of Paran, Tofel, Lavan, Chatzeiros, and Di Zahav.
Rashi explains that these are words of admonishment, and the names of the places are actually a list of the places where the Jewish people vexed G-d. To preserve the respect of the Jewish people the Torah disguised the import of these names. And Rashi goes on to give specific details and explanations.
First of all, if indeed the Torah is directing words of badly needed criticism at the people what is accomplished by camouflaging the words in symbolic references, for then there may be those who will not understand the inference. The five-year-old Chumash student knows that when criticism is needed it is best to be direct and specific.
On the other hand, if, in fact, the Torah encrypted the words of chastisement in symbolic references why did Rashi reveal the secret and uncover the shame of the Jewish people by clearly listing all their sins?
We find a clear precedent for this question in the Talmud:
The one who collected wood on Shabbos was Tzelophchad...This is the opinion of R. Akiva...R. Yehudah b. Beseira said to him..."The Torah concealed it and you revealed it?!" (Shabbos 96b)
The answer to this question is that there are two types of criticism. When Moshe saw the Jewish people involved in some shameful conduct he was quick to give them mussar -- admonition, but in all such cases his purpose was to try to influence them to stop and desist from their actions. In those cases his words would not be seen as words of admonishment in the classic sense rather as a warning to cease and desist. On the other hand, at the beginning of the book of Devorim we are not dealing with a rebellion in motion, rather, Moshe recalls the past misdeeds of the Jewish people -- and he speaks mainly to the children of the generation of the desert. Here we have a classic case of words of admonition spoken by the leader of the Jewish people not for the sake of defusing some festering uprising -- rather for the overall purpose of bringing the people closer to teshuvah. He speaks of many sins of the past and he speaks to the children of the generation of the Midbar, for the others had all died.
It is about this type of admonishment that Rashi says: He only chastised them close to his death, as he learned from Ya'akov.
Rashi's different approach to Sichon and Og may be understood when we realize that his inference that Sichon was powerful and Cheshbon was impenetrable is not derived from this verse itself, rather it is derived from the facts which we know from the previous verses. In the case of Sichon such precedent exists while we do not find such verses regarding Og.
If we look back to Bemidbar we find several references to the city of Cheshbon:
Israel thus took all these cities and settled...in Cheshbon...Cheshbon was the capital of Sichon king of the Amorites...The minstrels therefore say: come to Cheshbon...for a fire has come out of Cheshbon... obliterated Cheshbon.... (Bemidbar 21:25-30)
These verses graphically describe for us how powerful the city of Cheshbon was, it is used as the paradigm of the all-powerful ruling city -- and, as Rashi explained -- even if the city of Cheshbon had been inhabited only by gnats no creature in the world could have conquered it. Therefore it is appropriate for Rashi to emphasize that the Torah means the city was impregnable.
This also shows us the power of Sichon. The Torah says:
Cheshbon was the capital of Sichon king of the Amorites. He had fought against the first king of Moav and taken all this land.... (Ibid:26)
Thus, Sichon, had conquered Cheshbon and had taken it away from the Moavites, which was why the Jews were then permitted to conquer Cheshbon even though they were prohibited from fighting Moav. Since Cheshbon was so strong a city, if Sichon overpowered it that gives witness to his prowess.
Now, when Rashi comes to this verse in our portion: "After he had defeated Sichon king of the Amorites who lived in Cheshbon," it is clear to Rashi from the structure of the verse that there is some important inference to be made -- and Rashi is ready to make the inference that even if Sichon had not been the king the city would now be too difficult to conquer! This is so because we know it from previous verses. So the emphasis of this verse is that each on its own would have been insurmountable.
Not so regarding Og and Ashtaros, we find no precedent which would indicate special power to be in either. Nevertheless, the wording is similar to the style used for Sichon: "...and Og king of the Bashan, who lived in Ashtaros in Edrei," to which Rashi says, "a strong king and a tough land." With this general rule in mind we may be able to explain why in some places Rashi cites certain verses as precedent and in other places he does not. Probably the reason is that in those places Rashi could not find any proof or source from a different place -- and it is only from the location itself that he develops his comments.
As to why Rashi revealed what the Torah had concealed, we must consider when it is appropriate to conceal.
Moshe's words of admonishment had to be couched in diplomatic terms because he was speaking to the children who had lived through those experiences. However, in Rashi's generation there was no longer a need to conceal and it behooved Rashi to tell all so that the students of Torah would be able to properly comprehend the meaning and intent of the Scripture.
The same rule would apply to the argument of R. Yehudah B. Beseira. Certainly it was true that the Torah had concealed the identity of the wood gatherer -- but that was only necessary in his generation, when the Torah mercifully protected him from shame. The Halachah of the punishment meted out to one who desecrates Shabbos would be taught even without knowing the identity of the wood gatherer. But in the age of Rabbi Akiva this secrecy was no longer necessary and his identity could be revealed. And clearly it was necessary for Rabbi Akiva to inform us of his identity. As we see despite the argument of R. Yehudah B. Beseira, Rav Ashi who edited the Talmud included the statement of R. Akiva, because he realized that there was no longer a need to cover up and that more was to be learned from knowing the identity of the wood gatherer. Thus, the Talmud cites the argument of R. Yehudah B. Beseira to show that there is a strong opinion not to reveal the secrets -- and nevertheless the conclusion of the Talmud is that at that later time it was necessary to reveal.
In chapter three of Pirkei Avos we find the following Mishnah:
Rabbi Elazar of Modin said: One who profanes sacred things, who degrades the festivals, who publicly humiliates his fellowman, who abrogates the covenant of Avraham, and who interprets the Torah in a manner contradictory to its true intent -- even though he may possess (lit. he has in his hands) Torah and good deeds, he has no share in the World to Come. (Avos 3:11)
We have explained in the past that the common aspect of severity of these five sins is the fact that they are all connected to negating some aspect of holiness which was created by man's action. For example, degrading the festivals: They are given holiness because the Beis Din decided that a certain day is holy and they sanctify that day, as opposed to Shabbos which stands holy from creation. Similarly, in the other four items.
Several points remain unclear however: A) Why does the Mishnah say, "he has in his hands," it could state more simply "he has"? B) What is the connection between the author and his dicta.
Actually the idiom, "he has in his hand," could have a restrictive meaning -- that he has the Torah only in his hand, but it has not penetrated and permeated his entire being. It could also mean that he is so well versed in his Torah that it is always at his fingertips -- should he need a "protection from evil" he need not search far for his Torah and good deeds.
In this particular Mishnah we must understand, "he has in his hand," in a limited way, for it speaks of one who profanes the holy and misinterprets Torah, certainly his Torah and good deeds are only superficial. And yet, even if he had Torah and mitzvos at his fingertips the severity of these sins is so great that the Torah and mitzvos would not protect him.
Rabbi Elazar came from the city of Modin of which the Gemara says: "What is considered a great distance? beyond Modin." (Pesach 93b)
Rabbi Elazar's sensitivity to understand the mentality of such people who would profane that which is holy, came from his having lived at a distance from Yerushalayim -- hence he was able to monitor those who were "distant" in the spiritual sense.
In these weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B'Av there is an added significance in the teachings of Rabbi Elazar of Modin for the Midrash relates that during the three and a-half years that Hadrian's army laid siege to Betar, Rabbi Elazar of Modin sat in sackcloth and ashes and prayed every day: "Master of the Universe do not sit in judgment today!" (Eichah Rabbah 2:4)
Why did he pray for only one day and why did he pray that G-d should not sit in judgment? Why not pray that Betar should not be destroyed?
But Rabbi Elazar knew the score and saw the supernal judgment. He knew that Betar had fallen spiritually and morally and that there was not much to hope for. To pray for more than one day would be a futile prayer. And to pray that Betar not be destroyed on its own merits would be futile as well. His only hope was that G-d would not sit in judgment -- for if He did, the choices were very grave.
How great was R. Elazar, who knew which prayers would be heeded! We may therefore add that he was called R. Elazar HaMudai because he had knowledge -- yediah -- he knew the nature and psychology of those who were far away, and he knew the attitude of the heavenly court.
It was R. Gamliel who said, "we still need [R. Elazar Ha]Mudai (Shabbos 55b) -- referring to one who had the deeper knowledge.
In chapter seven of Laws of the Temple the Rambam writes:
It is a positive commandment to show fear (awe, respect) for the Temple [and the Temple Mount] as it is written: "And fear My Sanctuary." However we fear not the physical Temple, but the One who commanded us to show respect.
In reality in his case there is no difference whether we fear the Temple, or G-d, for as the Rambam continues in the next paragraph we show this fear by not carrying a cane, or wearing shoes, or making the Temple Mount a shortcut, etc. In other words down-to-earth restrictions -- if so -- what difference in actual halachah if we say the fear is of the place or of G-d?!
At first glance we may explain this paradox by showing that there is a difference between fear of G-d and fear of the place as we see further on in paragraph 5. There the Rambam includes the proper attitude one must show when entering the Temple compound:
See yourself as if you stand before G-d...and walk with fear and trembling as it says: "My eye and heart shall be there all the days." (I Melochim 9:3)...We will walk in the House of the L-rd with trembling.... (Tehillim 55:15)
It would appear that these attitudes would be associated with fear of G-d, rather than fear of the place. However, if this is so -- then why did the Rambam not put this rule (about the attitude) immediately after the rule about fear of G-d? (Four other paragraphs interrupt.)
We must therefore say that the Rambam feels that there will be a tangible difference in the way you walk (i.e. no cane, no shortcut) on the Mount if you remember that you must fear G-d -- not just the Temple. Then, after giving us the simple rules (in four paragraphs) he goes on to speak of more of the subtle attitudes you must have.
May our study about the Beis HaMikdash bring us to be able to actually fulfill these mitzvos with the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash speedily and truly in our days.
Then our fear and awe will be greater, for the Temple will be greater and the glory of G-d will be revealed. To speed this up we must increase our action and Divine service especially in those matters of current importance: "Tziyon will be redeemed with justice and her returnees with righteousness." More siyyums and more joy, more study of Chassidus and good resolutions and preparations for the 15th of Av and the year of Hakhel.
Good resolutions, ahavas Yisrael, Jewish unity and then these days will be converted to days of joy.