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Parshas Vaeschanan 5760

Outline Vol. 4, # 5

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

The Ancient Mourning

Yom Kippur and Tisha B'av have certain similarities in their practices, yet they are essentially different. Although both are full day fasts and have similar prohibitions, they stand for different ideas. Laws which illustrate the differing functions of the two days include the following:

On Tisha B'av, learning Torah is basically not allowed, and we sit on the ground as mourners. Yom Kippur, on the other hand, represents the day in which the Torah was given the final time (following the Eigel Hazahav -- the Golden Calf).

The reason for similarity of practices of Yom Kippur and Tisha B'av is that both are days of introspection and self-improvement or "Teshuva;" however, Tisha B'av is a time of mourning over the past, while Yom Kippur is a time of rejoicing over the future.

Since the Gemara says that the first Bais Hamikdash was destroyed because they did not say the brocha for the Torah properly, it is fitting that Torah learning would be forbidden at the time commemorating the destruction. This is not a time of connection, of spiritual attachment, but a time to reflect and consider our ways.

Yom Kippur, on the other hand, is the greatest time of connection and spiritual attachment -- the day the Torah was finally given to Yisrael.

The Past In the recorded lectures of Rav Yerucham Levovitz, we find that Tochacha -- ethical reproof -- deals with past events. The worst thing is for a person to see himself as righteous. He should learn to constantly see his errors, until he realizes that he is not the tzadik (righteous leader) that he thinks he is.

Moshe reproved the people, time and again, without break. He had nothing positive to say about them. In reality, over the course of many years, they made very few mistakes. However, Moshe would not give them the benefit of the doubt, but contantly reminded them of their errors. This is the goal, actually -- to constantly remember our mistakes, as Dovid Hamelech (King David) said: "My sin is always before me."

The Medrash states: "One who reproves a person, will afterwards find favor, more so than one of smooth speech..." The verse is praising Moshe, who reproved Yisrael and kept them from haughtiness. The opposite is true of Bilam, who praised the people sweetly, and brought them to pride and carelessness.

Midos Chamura Me'aveiros

Nesivos Shalom described why Pirke Avos is studied. People think that the main requirements of the Torah are its mitzvos. Although we often hear about the middos -- qualities of character -- these seem to be too subtle for the common man. It is enough to work on the basic Torah requirements.

This is what people feel, but it is not so. Just as we will be judged for fulfilling the mitzvos, so, too, we will be judged for our qualities of character. In fact, the Rabbis were more stringent with middos than with mitzvos. So we find, "Anyone who becomes angry, it is as if he served idols." "Regarding someone who is haughty, Hashem says, 'There is not room for both of us.' " Such strong statements were not said in relation to mitzvos.

The Daas Torah has an entire section on this subject (end of Bamidbar). Rav Moshe Cordevero showed that the Torah is addressed to the intellectual soul; therefore, it mainly discusses mitzvos. The character qualities are based on the animal soul. However, the animal soul is more fundamental; hence, character qualities are more stringent than mitzvos. The Daas Torah compares it to a house. We normally look at the house by the external aspects visible to the eye. However, a beautiful house with poor foundations is not very valuable. Damage to the surface may destroy the entire house. Correcting flaws in the foundation will be costly, difficult work. However, a house with a strong foundation will withstand damage and continue to be useful for generations.

Similarly, the animal soul and the character qualities are the foundation, and are more basic than performing the commandments.

The Daas Torah advances an idea as to why the Torah rarely commands character qualities. The Torah is essentially needed for those things that we would not have thought of on our own. However, character attributes are common sense. There is no need to make commandments for them. In a similar manner, the people of the world are judged for character qualities, even though most of the Torah does not apply to them. If they are not warned, how can they be punished? The answer is that moral qualities are common sense, logical matters, and everyone is obligated to be aware of them.

The second Bais Hamikdash was destroyed because of "sinas chinom" -- baseless hatred. Such a horrible tragedy occurred, because of faults of character.

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.



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