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Parshas Devorim

Rabbi Pesach Siegel

Parshat Devarim

Oct 21, 2009

 

 

Sefer Devorim begins with words of rebuke for the sins of the Bnei Yisroel in the desert. Moshe Rabeinu displays sensitivity by couching his words in hints. He alludes to their sins by mentioning the places where they were committed.

He refers to the aveiros of "bein Paran uvein Tofel". The Kli Yakar explains that Paran is the sin of the "meraglim" and Tofel is the the one of the "eigel hazahav", the golden calf.

He comments further on the usage of the word "bein", meaning between, being used twice in the posuk, apparently for no reason. The sin of the "eigel hazahav" was committed on shiva asar b'Tammuz, the "meraglim" caused Klal Yisroel to be brought to tears on tisha b'Av. The three week period in between shiva asar b'Tammuz and tisha b'Av is called "bein ham'tzorim", literally - between the straits. (As the saying goes, Caught between a rock and a hard place.) This is what is meant by the Torah's usage of the word "bein" in this context.

There is evidently some relationship between the two aveiros. They are linked, so to speak, by the time period in between them. We actively relive this by the customs of mourning that we practice not only on the two days of shiva asar b'Tammuz and tisha b'Av but by the period in between. This is not solely due to the fact that a war was being waged throughout that period in the times of the destruction of the bais hamikdash. This allusion is being implanted at the very source of the destruction.

Another point which should be raised is the order of the mention of the two places. First Paran is mentioned referring to the "meraglim" and then Tofel meaning the "eigel". Chronologically the order should be reversed.

The breaking of the "luchos habris" was one of the calamities that befell us on shiva asar b'Tammuz. The Kli Yakar compares this catastrophic occurence to the breaking of the walls surrounding Yerushalyim. The sin of the "meraglim" is parralleled to the the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash on tisha b'Av.

What is it about the breaking of the walls in the time of the destruction that relates to the breaking of the "luchos"?

Walls, as a rule, serve as a protection to a city. They are not the actual city, but the city cannot survive, thrive, and prosper without protection.

At the foot of Har Sinai, the Bnei Yisroel proclaimed "naase v'nishma", we will do and we will listen. The Gaon of Vilna notes that "naase" corresponds to Eisav and "nishma" to Yishmael (the respective roots of their names). On Har Sinai the Bnei Yisroel affirmed that we will do, but not as Eisav does, we will listen but not as Yishmael listens.

Doing relates to actions while listening is a function of a relationship. Hashem gave us a Torah in order for us to perform His will. The goal of the mitzvos is not solely the performance of the commanded acts. A relationship is formed when one fulfills the will of the Creator.

The sin of the golden calf was not one directed against the relationship that Klal Yisroel has wth Hashem. On the contrary, they created the "eigel" in order to retain a relationship with Hashem. The "eigel" was to serve as a conduit between the nation and Hashem in place of Moshe. The sin was in the manner they chose to serve Hashem. It is the will of Hashem that we serve Him in the manner in which He commands us. To serve Hashem according to our will is the way of Eisav. Eisav determines and expressess his own "koach ha'asiya".

The sin of the "meraglim" on the other hand was one of communication and relationship. They related what they saw and the Bnei Yisroel heard them and accepted their words. The Torah relates the words of the "meraglim", (Devorim, perek1, posuk 27) "It is Hashem's hatred of us that is causing Him to bring us to this land in order to deliver us over into the hands of the Emori nation". Rashi comments on this verse that their love of Hashem was sorely lacking and one tends to see a mirror image of one's feelings and emotions in others. They therefore projected their own lack of "ahavas Hashem" upon Hashem.

This is the "listening" of Yishmoel. To perform Hashem's will within the framework of a distorted relationship. Yishmoel is called "pereh adam" - wild man, for this reason.

The performance of the mitzvos of the Torah are the proverbial "wall around the city". They safeguard the city and allow for the city to exist. When the Bnei Yisroel worshipped the golden calf, a breach was made in the wall. They luchos were shattered. They no longer had the "protection" that mitzvos afford them. It is unlikely that a relationship can be formed between the Creator and those who fail to properly perform His will.

This led to a further distancing of the nation of Israel from Hashem. The trial that they were presented with upon the return of the "meraglim" was a difficult one. They stood unprotected. They were not confident of their bond with Hashem. This led them to believe that Hashem's love for them was diminished.

The period between these two unfortunate events is indeed significant. It is what joins the first sin with the second. Because they lived through a period in which they did not enjoy the same relationship with Hashem, that had direct impact on their being unable to resist trangressing the sin of the "meraglim".

Only if the two "aveiros" are seen as two separate incidents is the order that they are related a problem. In reality the two are one, the sin of the "eigel" led to the sin of the "meraglim". The sin of the "meraglim" has precedence in ultimate importance therefore it is mentioned first.

Tisha b"Av is the day of the destruction of the sanctuary that Hashem rested his presence in. It is not just the inability to perform the many multifaceted mitzvos surrounding the temple service that we mourn. It is the loss of Hashem's presence openly among us.

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