26 Jul 2017 Parshas Devarim: Are there Words?
Sefer Devarim, Parshas Devarim, Mishneh Torah… As we open the fifth and final book of the Torah this Shabbos, we come to the last days in the life of Moshe Rabbainu.
Moshe, who was not a man of words, who was heavy of tongue, who was not an eloquent, passionate speaker (Shemos 4:10), has become Moshe the master orator, Moshe the man of words, Moshe who composed and delivered the passionate and eminent book of Devarim (see Medrash Tanchuma Devarim 2).
Parshas Devarim, which recounts the sin of the spies, and the subsequent crying of the people over a Land they rejected, is always read on the Shabbos before Tisha B’Av. For their crying foreshadowed our crying for generations; and their mourning (for nothing) foreshadowed our mourning (for much) (Taanis 29a).
As I sat to prepare this post, I sat for an hour without making progress. I looked in this sefer and that sefer, I looked at the verses of the parsha, as I thought and pondered about what to write, what words to compose, in regard to the Book of Words.
It’s Devarim once again – when we take leave of our master, Moshe, who was sorely under-appreciated by the people, banned forever from the Land, and whose generation did not merit that he should become the Moshiach.
It’s Devarim once again – when we are moved by the passion of Moshe’s love, when we cry at the eloquence of his words, when we marvel at the transformation in Moshe, from shepherd to teacher, from tender-of-flocks to leader of a nation.
It’s Devarim once again – when we read of Moshe’s cry to the people, his astonishment of Eichah: אֵיכָה אֶשָּׂא, לְבַדִּי, טָרְחֲכֶם וּמַשַּׂאֲכֶם, וְרִיבְכֶם – How can I alone carry your trouble and your burden and your quarrels (Devarim 1:12)!? How can one person, alone, carry a nation…
Indeed, one cannot. And so, Moshe appointed judges, wise men, officers, to help him lead the people.
And yet – his cry of Eichah remains… When we leave a Jew alone, our city will ultimately be left alone. From Moshe to Yirmiyahu, we wonder and cry: אֵיכָה יוּעַם זָהָב, יִשְׁנֶא הַכֶּתֶם הַטּוֹב תִּשְׁתַּפֵּכְנָה, אַבְנֵי-קֹדֶשׁ, בְּרֹאשׁ, כָּל-חוּצוֹת – Alas, how has the gold dimmed?! How is the finest gold changed? Holy stones (Medrash Eichah Rabbah: Torah scholars) are poured at the head of every street… (Eicha 4:1).
It’s Devarim once again – and with Devarim comes Tisha B’Av. With the sin of the spies comes our night of crying, with Moshe’s Eichah comes the Eichah of churban, and with Moshe’s banishment from the Promised Land, comes our expulsion from the Promised Land…
And so, after sitting for an hour on Rosh Chodesh Av, trying to think of what to write – I suddenly realized that I did not want to write this post.
I did not want to write that here we are… once again… entering our mournful Nine Days.
I did not want to write that it is time, once again, to mourn for Tzion and Yerushalayim; to cry, once again for Churban and galus, עַל הַר-צִיּוֹן שֶׁשָּׁמֵם, שׁוּעָלִים הִלְּכוּ-בוֹ – to weep for Mt. Zion, which remains desolate, as foxes prowl there (Eichah 5:18).
I did not want to write a post of sadness and lament, of crying and wailing, of losses and destruction!
אֵיכָה, Alas… A sigh of “How is it possible?” which, by definition means, “It is impossible!” (R’ Soloveitchik zt’l).
So I did not want to write… But I could think of nothing else – during these mournful days – to write about.
קָרָא עָלַי מוֹעֵד לִשְׁבֹּר בַּחוּרָי – Hashem has called upon me an appointed time, to smash my young men (Eichah 1:15).
I did not want to write of Elad Salomon HY”D, whose mother, Tova – may she merit a complete refuas ha’nefesh and refuas ha’guf – said: “I saw him [the terrorist] running toward my husband, Yossi, but I did not see exactly what happened, only that Yossi fell and then that the terrorist ran to Elad and that Elad fought him for a long time. Elad was no match for him, with the terrorist coming toward him with a knife, but he blocked him for a few critical minutes to save his family.” (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4993589,00.html)
גַּת דָּרַךְ ה’, לִבְתוּלַת בַּת-יְהוּדָה – Hashem has trod, as in a winepress, on the maiden daughters of Yehuda (Eichah 1:15).
I did not want to write of Chaya Salomon HY”D, whose mother Tova, said: “It was supposed to be a Shalom Zachar for the new grandson, and the door was not locked, so when someone knocked on the door, we thought it was a guest. Chaya opened the door, he stabbed her and she ran away from the house and screamed out to call people, but even then I did not realize it was a terrorist.” (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4993589,00.html)
עַל-אֵלֶּה אֲנִי בוֹכִיָּה, עֵינִי עֵינִי יֹרְדָה מַּיִם–כִּי-רָחַק מִמֶּנִּי מְנַחֵם, מֵשִׁיב נַפְשִׁי; הָיוּ בָנַי שׁוֹמֵמִים, כִּי גָבַר אוֹיֵב – Over these I weep, my eye, my eye, runs with tears! For one to comfort me and restore my soul is far from me; my sons are desolate, the enemy has prevailed (Eichah 1:16).
I did not want to write this post, of the loss of Yossi Salomon HY”D, the patriarch of the family… Because, after all, what is there to say…?
With Chodesh Av comes Devarim; with Devarim comes Tisha B’Av; with Tisha B’Av comes all our mourning and pain, all over again.
And so, I sat for an hour, at a loss for words – unable to comment on the Book of Words.
Regarding the aftermath of the attack, Tova said: “At that moment, I didn’t know where Chaya was. I hoped she had been saved by hiding in the bathroom. We looked for her inside the house until we realized she went out to call for help, and that she was gone. Her resourcefulness in running to call for help, and that of Elad’s who saved his wife and five children, are the only things that comfort me in my terrible pain.” (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4993589,00.html)
לָמָּה לָנֶצַח תִּשְׁכָּחֵנוּ, תַּעַזְבֵנוּ לְאֹרֶךְ יָמִים – Why, Hashem, do you forget us forever, leave us for so long… (Eichah 5:20)?
Why, לָמָּה, Hashem do you forever forget us?
למה, li’mah, Hashem – For what reason, Hashem, do you forget us forever (See R’ S.R. Hirsch to Ps.22:2), do you leave us for so long?
השיבנו ה׳ אליך ונשובה, חדש ימינו כקדם – Return to us, Hashem, and we will return to You, restore our days, as of old (Eichah 5:21).
כִּי אִם-מָאֹס מְאַסְתָּנוּ, קָצַפְתָּ עָלֵינוּ עַד-מְאֹד – For even if you have utterly rejected us, You have raged sufficiently against us (ibid, v.22).
בברכת מנחם אב ובשורות טובות,