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Devarim 5761

By: Rav David Milston

"Had you so merited you would have only read: 'Eichah esa levadi'- 'How can I carry you alone' (Devarim 1.12), since you have not merited you read: 'Eichah yashva badad'-' How she sits in solitude' (Eichah 1.1). (Eicha Rabati 11) The Midrash notes the significance between the words of Moshe Rabbeinu as recorded at the beginning of our Parasha, and the opening phrase of Megillat Eichah. It should be understood, that the Midrash is not simply noting a similarity in semantics. The fact that the word - "Eichah"- is used by both the Torah and by Yermiyahu is understood to be of great significance. Moshe Rabbeinu uses the phrase 'Eichah' when recalling the difficulties that he encountered in dealing with Am Yisrael in the Midbar. Rashi explains that our leader was inundated with legal issues that seemed unending, with countless witnesses being brought before Moshe on each and every issue. Moshe also complained of the skepticism and suspicions of the people towards him and other leaders. These issues and many more encouraged Moshe to turn towards Hashem in supplication with a request that he be provided with men of 'wisdom and understanding' in order to assist him in the enormous tasks of leading the people of Israel. As we know, his request that was granted by Hashem. Yermiyahu uses the phrase 'Eichah' when describing the state of affairs in Yerushalayim, our Capital, immediately after the destruction of the first Bet Mikdash - 'How she sits in solitude, the city that was great with people has become like a widow'. At a glance there seems to be no connection whatsoever between the situations as described by Moshe Rabbeinu, and Yermiyahu. Nevertheless, the words of the Midrash strongly imply, that not only is there a connection between the two statements, they are actually conditional of each other - had we merited the former, we would have not have reached the latter. Harav Yosef Necheniah Kornitzer comments that it is not enough for a leader to rebuke and direct a people on his own, he does not have the ability to enforce belief onto an entire people, he can but repeat a message time and again, with the hope that the Nation will eventually internalize that message and change their ways. What is needed is a national effort where each and every member of Am Yisrael is involved in encouraging one another towards our mutual objectives. This is the essence of the message of the statement of Chazal that 'Yerushalayim was destroyed because individuals did not rebuke one another'. It is not enough to receive rebuke from the leaders of the Nation, each and every person has the duty to help their fellow man with constructive criticism, to encourage, and enthuse, to understand and direct each other. What is required is a truly joint effort. Rav Yosef Nechemya explains quite magnificently, that this is the connection that the Midrash is making for us. Had the people understood the statement of Moshe Rabbeinu, had the people realized that the onus of the success of Am Yisrael, cannot be left for one person to carry, even if that person is Moshe Rabbeinu. Had the people realized that the success of Am Yisrael is not dependent on one or two outstanding individuals, but dependent on the efforts of every single member of the people. Had we internalized the real point that Moshe Rabbeinu was making in his comments as quoted at the beginning of Sefer Devarim, then we would never have reached the reality of 'Eichah yashva badad'. Had we not split into many factions whose sole aim often appears to be undermining the legitimacy of other factions, had we learnt to be tolerant of one another, to strive together towards a common goal, then we would not have brought upon ourselves destruction. We are one Nation. That is a fact and not an opinion. We have one objective, and we are all obliged to do as best as we can in order to fulfill that objective. We cannot ignore elements of our nation, and just get on with our lives in our own seemingly independent circles. In the same way that an infected limb will eventually effect the entire body, so too if there is something wrong with our people, it will eventually effect everyone of us wherever we may be, whatever we may be doing. This reality can be seen most beautifully in the realms of Halacha. We are aware that if a particular individual has already performed a specific Mitzva, but is now called upon to assist a fellow Jew in the performance of that same Mitzva. Not only are they required to do so, they are also allowed to repeat the necessary berachot. In explaining this Halachik phenomenon, our Poskim invoke the well-known statement - 'Kol Yisrael areivim zeh bazeh' - 'All of Israel are accountable for each other'. The rationale of this statement is that until every Jew has performed a given Mitzva, no Jew has completed that Mitzva. That is to say, the reason as to why one can repeat a beracha when aiding a fellow Jew to fulfill a specific Mitzva is because until he has done so, we have also not yet fulfilled our obligations. We exist not simply as individuals, but as part of a Nation, and as we have seen this is not just an interesting idea, it actually has Halachik repercussions. This message seems to be as relevant today as always. Perhaps the fact that this message is relevant today is in itself the clearest explanation as to why we are still in essence a people in exile. The difference between the disputations of Hillel and Shammai, as opposed to those of Korach and his community, was that whatever the dispute between Hillel and Shammai, there was a mutual respect that both schools held for each another. Whatever disagreements took place in the Bet Midrash, Hillel never thought to question the rights of Shammai, and Visa Versa. Within the Orthodox community, there seems to exist an infinite list of factions. This in itself is not necessarily a negative phenomenon. It is important to realize that there are "Shivim panim le Torah", there are different ways within orthodoxy of expressing ones religiosity, and it is essential that such options exist. However, the fact that one hashkafa exists, should in no way undermine the legitimacy of an alternative viewpoint. As long as we are all in agreement regarding the fundamental principles of faith, and Halacha, there is no reason as to why Chassidut cannot live together with Mitnagdim, and there is no reason as to why Charediut, should not tolerate Mizrachi, and visa versa. Quite the contrary, from the words of Rav Yosef Nechemya, we can see that there is every reason as to why we should work together. We see that the message of Moshe Rabbeinu was that we are one people, and must therefore work together. The result of ignoring this advice is 'Eichah yashva badad'. It is purely egotistical, for one faction to claim a monopoly on the truth. We must all learn from each other. Each and every one of us has much to offer our people, to reject a fellow Jew because of the kippa he wears, or because of where he lives, is self-defeating if not arrogant. We have one mutual objective, and we must strive towards that objective together. We have it within our power to make sure that this be the last Shabbat Chazon of all time. We have the ability to end this bitter exile. Let us once and for all take the advice of our greatest leader, so that we will never again need to lament "Eichah yashva badad'. Shabbat Shalom


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