by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"I spoke to you at that time, saying...the L-rd your G-d has multiplied
you..." [Dev. 1:9-10]]
"How can I alone support your bother, your burden, and your arguments? Take
wise and understanding men for yourselves, who are known to your tribes,
and I will place them at your head. You answered me and said, 'you have
told us to do a good thing.' And I took the heads of your tribes, wise and
understanding men, and I placed them as heads over you, ministers over
thousands, ministers over hundreds, ministers over fifties, and ministers
over tens, and police for your tribes." [Dev. 1:12-16]
The Seforno says that there is an implied rebuke in the appointment of
judges over Israel -- Moshe is reminding the Nation of Israel of their
sins. For even though they were given the news that they would enter the
Land of Israel without fighting for it, receiving something far greater and
honorable than all their property, nonetheless they could not stop
bickering and arguing -- to the point that every group of ten needed its
own personal judge. Why is there a minister over every ten people? Because
even then, disputes were so common that ten people could keep a judge busy.
Despite the universal notation in our chumashim, the printed texts, to
begin the second portion of this week's reading with verse twelve, "How can
I alone...," there is a similarly universal custom to stop the first
portion and begin the second one verse earlier instead. The reason: the
first word of verse twelve, "Eichah," is the same as the first word of the
Book of Lamentations that we read on the Ninth of Av. The Ninth of Av is
the day of mourning for the destruction of our two Temples and other Jewish
tragedies, and it follows Shabbos Parshas Devorim according to our calendar.
Here, perhaps, in the connection of "Eichah" to "Eichah," we can find an
additional layer of rebuke. Our Sages tell us that the First Temple was
destroyed because Israel had violated the "cardinal sins" of idolatry,
murder and immorality -- while the second was destroyed because of baseless
hatred. I think a connection can easily be drawn from the sin described by
Moshe, to those things which destroyed the Temples.
On the one hand, the Seforno implies that each person was overly concerned
about his own property, to the point of pettiness. But in order for an
argument to reach the courts, there also needs to be a lack of
communication, an inability to reconcile differences, and a corresponding
lack of concern for the _other_ person's property. After going to the
courts, when the loser no longer has any justified claims against the
other, all that remains is... baseless hatred. The same baseless hatred
that can lead to murder. Immorality, as well, often includes a lack of
concern for another person.
If needless hatred begins with a lack of communication, there is hope that
increased communication can remove the hatred and divisions that remain
between us. With proper communication, we can counter the misinformation
that often causes hatred, and develop new relationships outside our own
groups. In short, as we mourn the Temple's destruction, we can also find
the tools to make our own best efforts to ensure that it is rebuilt --
speedily in our day, Amen.
[I would like to thank Rabbi Shlomo Cohen for his assistance in developing
this D'var Torah.]
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Text Copyright © 2002 Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.