Devarim and Tisha B'Av
The Torah reading of Dvarim always immediately precedes the week that
contains the fast day of Tisha B'Av. The relationship between the Torah
reading and the events of national tragedy that Tisha B'Av marks are
obvious even to the most cursory glance at the Torah reading of Dvarim. The
word eycha, which signifies tragic amazement at the turn of events, occurs
in Dvarim and in the Book of Lamentations (Eycha) as well. The words of
Moses in Dvarim predict the spiritual downfall of Israel in its land and
its eventual physical national destruction and its exile from its land.
Yet, there is an even deeper connection between the words of Moses in
Dvarim and the commemoration of the tragedies of Israel on the day of Tisha
B'Av. And it is regarding this deeper, almost hidden connection, that I
wish to write these following few sentences.
The entire discourse of Moses in the Book of Dvarim is one of close
scrutiny of past events and of unrelenting honesty regarding those events.
We all know that admitting past error is a most difficult process. It
demands honesty, courage, forthrightness and unequivocation. In Moses'
review of Israel's forty years in the desert, all of these qualities are
amply present and duly demonstrated. For only through an honest appraisal
of the past, painful as that may be, can one learn the appropriate lessons
from which future improvements in life may be realized. The Torah abhors
falseness and disdains "whitewashing" people, even great people, and
events. Only the truth can instruct us and allow us to better ourselves and
our society. All of Torah is true to this overriding principle of honesty,
and the Book of Dvarim is the clearest example of this principle at work in
the works of the Bible. And this is also its innate bond and strong
connection to Lamentations/Eycha. For the words and descriptions that
appear in Eycha are searingly true and painfully honest. The prophet
Jeremiah allows for no romanticization of Jewish destruction and exile. His
description of the horrors of defeat and despair, of hunger and disease, of
the destruction of Temple and national sovereignty, know no soft edges or
glib comfort and/or weak reassurances. There is no room for false heroics
or romanticization of martyrdom in the words of the prophet. False comfort
is often counter-productive. The lessons of Eycha require study and
internalization. Hence, they must be left in their unvarnished honesty and
not prettied up to fit later sensitivities.
Our generation is plagued by a dishonest sense of observation and reality.
We wish to be told pleasant things and soothing reassurances, even if they
be not true. We are looking for emotional highs and feel-good faith and are
averse to digging the trenches of apparently minute ritual observances and
the vagaries of everyday life. The whole bloody story of this most tragic
of human centuries is one of self-deception and unwarranted naive faith in
the powers of social ideas and societal engineering. The blindness of the
West as to the true aims and policies of Hitler, the willing turning away
of its gaze by the Left to the realities of the policies and actions of
Lenin and Stalin, are but two bitter examples of the cost in lives and
humanity of the folly of being unrealistic and patently dishonest. This
tendency towards willful self-deception is still alive and well in the
Jewish world today. The formidable forces, both external and within Israel,
arrayed against Jewish survival are aided and abetted by well-meaning but
hopelessly unrealistic and naive Jews themselves. Not to have learned
anything about non-Jewish enmity and assimilatory practices and life-style
is a form of national suicide. It should be opposed.
Rabbi Berel Wein
Text Copyright © 2000 Rabbi Berel Wein and
Project Genesis, Inc.