(Torah Portion Devorim) Hello! 

Last week’s Parsha detailed the names of the forty-two places where the Jews camped from the time of their exodus from Egypt until they entered the land of Israel.

How did the areas in the deserted desert get their names? The answer is that these names were given by Moshe, with each name reflecting on what occurred in that place.

In this week’s parsha, Moshe mentions a few places of encampment which were not listed previously. The great Sage Rebbe Yochanan asked, “Where do these additional encampments fit in?” Rebbe Yochanan explains that our leader Moshe waited until a few weeks before his death to reprove the nation for sins they had committed. Moshe, in his kind way of censuring the nation, rather than explicitly mentioning their sins called the places where their major sins occurred using a hint for the sin that occurred. These places included where the golden calf was made, where the spies were sent and where Korach rebelled. Thus, the actual names of these places would not be associated with their sinful behavior.

Human nature is to associate cities, countries and nationalities with things that occurred for the good and for the bad.

As we approach Tisha B’Av – the saddest day in our calendar, we too, reflect on the nations and our enemies who caused the destruction of our Temples and our exiles, and who led the crusades, expulsions, pogroms, holocausts, wars and terror that have trailed our nation for thousands of years.

Is it the bad and sorrow that we continually think and dwell upon? No! Only on Tisha B’Av, and a few weeks before that are designated to reflect on our collective sorrow. And even in the midst of the most sorrowful and mournful day, we get up at midday from our low mourners position and sit normally to express our hope that we move on and look forward towards a bright future and redemption. It is no coincidence that our Sages teach us that the Moshiach will be born on Tisha B’Av itself!

Through the ashes, a Jew has his eyes set on the redemption.

Rabbi Chaim Friedlander o.b.m. points out: Just as the Jewish people derive strength from their miraculous [survival in] exile, similarly, there is intrinsic meaning in the yearly mourning for the destruction of the Temples, for this is a worthy testimony to the spiritual survival of the Jewish nation. One does not find among the other nations, people who commemorate their downfalls. Just the opposite, all other nations commemorate only their victories. Yet, the Jewish people observe the day of the destruction of the two Temples every year.

Upon probing into the name of the city that was host to our Temples – Yerushalaim, we find that the name itself is a conglomerate of two names given by two great people. Shem the son of Noach called it Shalem, and Avraham called it Yai-raeh. The Medrash relates that G-d blended the two names and called it, Yerushalayim. In essence the name Yerushalayim means – “We shall see it complete!” G-d put “hope” in the name of this holy city so that at all times we will express our hopes to witness Yerushalayim’s completion with the Temple restored and peace reigning throughout the world!!

Our Sages tell us that G-d allowed the Romans to destroy the second Temple because there was senseless discord amongst the Jews.

If discord was the cause for destruction, then clearly, unity and harmony amongst us will be necessary for us to be worthy of the restoration of the Temple.

The law indicates that because of our mourning we are not to greet each other on Tisha B’Av. That means, no saying “Good morning!” This seems inconsistent with the idea of restoring our sense of unity on the day of Tisha B’Av.

I came across a very interesting answer. Sometimes we are so involved with greeting others that it becomes habitual and automatic and we don’t give personal reflection or thought into it.

Then Tisha B’Av comes along and we go against our basic instinct and hold back our greetings due to our mourning. This restraint makes us feels awkward, but in reality, it is an exercise allowing us to value and appreciate our greetings so that when we are once again allowed to offer and receive them, we will have our heart in it!

Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!
Rabbi Dovid Saks