While we are sitting low and feeling low on Tisha B’Av we might want to figure out how we got to this point. After all, that’s the refrain of Eicha- “How did it happen?”- echoing in our ears. How did it happen?
Our sages tell us that what brought about the destruction of the 2nd Temple was something called “Sinas Chinam” -baseless hatred! I can still recall the feeling of helplessness when I was yet a young Yeshiva student and ever since, sitting there on Tisha B”Av and not knowing exactly what to feel guilty about. How to I find that hidden hatred and how do I practically uproot it? Where is the class on psychoanalysis or the workbook that comes along with the diagnosis?
Well, now I have a new problem. The origins of Tisha B’Av do begin when the 1st of the 2nd Temple were destroyed. The first “Tisha B’Av” was when the spies in the dessert came back with a discouraging report the congregation “gave their voices crying and the nation cried on that night” (Bamidbar 14:1). The Talmud (Taanis 29) quotes Rabbi Yochonon, “That night was Tisha B’Av. The Holy One, blessed is He said to them, “You are crying a cry for nothing (Bechia shel chinam- a baseless cry)? I will fix for you a crying for generations!”” Now I have to figure out what a baseless cry is all about also!
Rabbi Matisyahu Solomon offers a blunt and sobering explanation of the phenomenon of “baseless hatred” which our sages tell us is the underlying reason for the destruction of the 2nd Temple and the length of the subsequent exile. Imagine a teacher is trying to gain the attention of a student in his class. The child is playing with some toy inside his desk and he is warned time and again. Eventually the teacher cuts off the arm of the student. The parents and the principal are mortified. The teacher explains that he was playing with things inside his desk during class time. Everyone would agree in this absurd case that the teacher stepped over all bounds of acceptability, no matter how he may try to explain his behavior. Sure the kid was not innocent but he didn’t deserve to lose a limb.
So says Rabbi Solomon that sometimes a person has a real claim against another. He was slighted or cheated or damaged in some way but that does not justify hating him in his entirety or frowning at and complaining about his family and wishing them ill. All that would be overkill. It requires a sophisticated and surgical approach not to condemn the whole of a person or his clan because a single albeit legitimate point of contention. That’s the definition and the dynamic of the debilitating disease called “baseless hatred”. Not that it is entirely unwarranted but that that the limited license to complain spills over and floods the arena of the “unwarranted”.
Perhaps we can apply the same working definition and standard to help us to understand the “baseless crying” -“bechia shel chinam” which was the real root of our downfall of Tisha B’Av. Sure the people felt justified in their crying because the news was disappointing as interpreted. However, the extra moaning and complaining, and the indulging in feelings of being defeated, and the accompanying anger and resentment in crying- is what spills over for generations. Tears too need to be surgical so they can assure a cure! DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.