Monday, February 5, 2007
Taanis 29a: Meraglim and the Bais HaMikdash
The Gemara states that the Meraglim returned from spying out Eretz Yisroel on Tisha B’Av, and they caused the Jewish People to cry bitterly about their future life in Eretz Yisroel. HaShem declared, “You cried tears for nothing! I will institute for you tears for generations.” What does it mean to cry tears for nothing? Are not all tears shed for a reason? Similarly, the Gemara in Yoma states that the second Bais HaMikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam, baseless hatred. How can one hate something without cause? Let us understand what it means to have a cause. Regarding a disagreement, the Mishna in Avos states that there is a machlokes lesheim shamayim, a debate that is for the sake of heaven, and a machlokes shelo lesheim shamayim, a debate that is not for the sake of heaven. How are we to understand this dictum? If one is debating a Torah topic, he most likely is debating the topic for the sake of heaven, because what personal gain can one achieve in debating a Torah topic? At best, one can debate a point in Halacha and then he can enjoy the good feeling that he has vindicated himself. Yet, it would seem that any debate in Torah is considered lesheim shamayim, and the epitome of such a debate is the debates of Hillel and Shammai. A debate that is not lesheim shamayim is one where the disputants are not debating for the sake of heaven. Rather, they are debating for their own personal honor. The epitome of such a debate is the dispute that Korach and his congregation had with Moshe and Aharon. Yet, even the dispute that Korach had with Moshe could be interpreted as a machlokes lesheim shamayim. Certainly Korach was seeking glory, but if he were to have been declared the victor, he would have been the leader of HaShem’s people. Perhaps Korach was seeking to worship idols or the like, but this is not evident from the dispute that he had with Moshe and Aharon. We must therefore conclude that at the heart of all controversy, hatred, and complaints is a force within a person that proclaims, “If I Win this dispute, or if I succeed in truly hating this person, then I will have accomplished something in this world.” Accomplishment is extremely important, as one who cannot accomplish in this world feels like a failure. Why, then, were the Jewish People punished so harshly when they cried upon hearing the slanderous report of the spies? After all, should one enter a situation of danger unnecessarily? The answer to this question is that although the Jewish People may have had a good reason to be afraid of fighting the inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel at that time, they did not cry out to HaShem. Their cries were an expression of fear, but they were not cries to HaShem. When one debates someone else, he must invoke HaShem’s Name in the debate. Otherwise, he is not debating for the sake of heaven. When one hates another Jew, he must fulfill the verse in Tehillim that states, behold I despise those who hate You, HaShem. When one hates someone else without invoking the Name of HaShem, he is demonstrating that his hatred is baseless. Similarly, when the Jewish People reminisced about the fish that they had consumed in Egypt, they used the word chinam, which the Gemara interprets to mean free from mitzvos. They certainly had eaten fish in Egypt, but their recollections were baseless, because they did not invoke the Name of HaShem, his Torah and His mitzvos. In a similar vein, the Jewish People cried needless tears on Tisha B’Av, because their tears did not lead them to repentance, which is the highest level of closeness to HaShem. HaShem therefore admonished the Jewish People by telling them that they will now have to suffer crying for generations. Although in a simple sense this was a punishment, in reality this rebuke was a blessing, because when we cry for the loss of the Bais HaMikdash and the exile, we are led to repentance, and our tears and our remorse are a vehicle to lead us closer to HaShem.