This week’s Parashah begins with Hashem’s instruction to set up a criminal and civil legal system. The Torah writes that “Ki Yipalei Davar LaMishpat”, “when something is unknown in judgment” (Devarim 17:8), whether it be a case of “blood” (whether something is Tahor or Tamei), “judgment” (whether a person is innocent or guilty), or “Nega” (whether a blemish is Tamei or Tahor), the litigants should go to Yerushalayim to receive a ruling by the Kohanim or the Sanhedrin of seventy-one judges, located in the Beit HaMikdash. While this Pasuk was a crucial one for Am Yisrael during the era in which the Sanhedrin existed, what message does it have over twenty-one hundred years later?
The Arizal (quoted in Rav Chaim Vital’s Likutei Torah) explains this Pasuk through the lens of the various sections of the Midrash in the beginning of the Eichah Rabbah. The Arizal explains that the word “Yipalei” comes from the root “Pele”, an astonishment – the astonishments of Jewish history. The Midrash records a conversation between the Malachim and Hashem in which the angels ask a series of questions about His actions during the Churban. The Malachim challenged Hashem with the following series of question:
“It says in Your Torah that one should not take a mother bird and its offspring in one day (22:6-7), but You allowed mothers and children to be taken in one day! The Torah says that an ox or a goat and its children should not be slaughtered in one day (VaYikra 22:28), but You allowed mothers and children to be slaughter in one day! The Torah says that the spilt blood of a chicken should be buried (17:13), but what about the blood of Your children? Their blood is being spilt like water and nobody is burying it! It says in Your Torah that one should empty and take apart a house that has been afflicted with Tzara'at (14:45). How could You allow Your Mikdash to be taken apart like a house that has been afflicted this way!?”
It is very clear that the Malachim are not asking Hashem merely about the events of the Churban, but they are referring to all of Am Yisrael’s hardships over the course of Jewish history.
The Arizal determines from this comment of Eichah Rabbah that there is a hidden message in the Pasuk of “Ki Yipalei Davar LaMishpat.” He explains that there are times throughout Jewish History in which certain events will evade justification and understanding, whether it be regarding “Dam,” the shock and disbelief of spilt blood, “Din,” the bewilderment from seeing and experiencing the harshness and cruelties of Hashem’s judgement, or “Nega,” the suffering through the feelings of isolation resulting from being called a blemish in Hashem’s eyes. The Arizal explains that when we are placed in such a situation in which we notice the “Divrei Rivot BiSharecha”, “the strife between a person and his neighbor” (17:8), we should follow the advice of the Pasuk and go to Yerushalayim, the place where one can make peace with his friend. This is perhaps the cure through which one can achieve Ge’ulah and return to the ancient Yerushalayim containing the Beit HaMikdash.
While making peace between friends and neighbors is indeed important, the practical remedy seems to be very far removed from the source of the predicament described – Hashem himself. While it is very important to realize that Sinat Chinam was indeed the source of our Galut, it has become apparent that more needs to be done in order to achieve our Ge’ulah than merely mending our hate towards other Jews. The Midrash seems to indicate that not only do we have to resolve our predicament with our fellow man, but also our predicament with Hashem Himself.
Although it is generally accepted that mending relationships between fellow Jews will bring the Ge’ulah, why is that so? In the second Pasuk in Parashat Kedoshim, Hashem tells Moshe, “Dabeir El Kol Adat Bnei Yisrael VeAmarta Aleihem Kedoshim Tihyu”, “You shall tell all of Bnei Yisrael that they should be holy” (VaYikra 19:2). In his Netivot Shalom, Rav Berezovsky asks why the Pasuk had to emphasize “Kol Adat Bnei Yisrael”, seemingly referring to every individual in Am Yisrael. Additionally, why is the commandment of being holy written in plural and inclusionary language? Did Hashem want to target Am Yisrael as a whole with this directive, or did Hashem want to give this directive to each person individually? Rav Berezovsky answers that the commandment was intended to apply to both the individual and the group. The Pasuk is telling us that the unity of Am Yisrael is the method through which an individual within the group is able to obtain spiritual growth. If a person works on his spiritual aspirations on his own, he has only himself to focus on, which often times becomes disheartening and discouraging; however, if he connects with others, he is capable of improving himself and soaring to new spiritual heights.
In a 1910 Derashah on Parashat Shofetim, the Sheim MiShmuel (Rav Shmuel Bornsztain) quoted Rashi (Devarim 16:22 s.v Asher Sanei), who wrote that Hashem forbade the making a one-stone Matzeivah (monument) merely because foreign nations used them to practice Avodah Zarah. The Sheim MiShmuel said that therefore, we must make our Matzeivot by placing many stones together, symbolizing the importance of unity amongst Am Yisrael. As we do our best to pave our way towards Teshuvah, may HaKadosh Baruch Hu take the many-stoned Matzeivot that we make along the way and use them as the foundation for the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash and the Ge’ulah.