National Repair of Defect by Shmuel Garber


At the beginning of Parashat Devarim (Devarim 1:12), Moshe Rabbeinu tells Bnei Yisrael, "Eichah Esa Levadi Torchachem UMasa'achem VeRivechem," "How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?" Rashi (ad loc. s.v. “Eichah”) explains that "Eichah Esa Levadi" means that if Moshe were to judge Bnei Yisrael by himself in order to get reward, he still wouldn’t be able to do it by himself. The Sifri (Devarim 9) explains that though Moshe wanted to judge the people by himself – despite the hardship it would put him through – to receive a great reward, Hashem commanded him to delegate the responsibility. Rashi (ad loc. s.v. “Torchachem,” “UMasa’achem,” “VeRivechem”) explains this torture that Bnei Yisrael would put Moshe through. “Torchachem” refers to a court case in which one side would bring additional proofs and witnesses if it would see that its opponent was winning the case. “UMasa’achem” means that Bnei Yisrael were Apikoresim. Rashi explains that they would see what time Moshe left his tent. If Moshe left early, they would question the state of his household. If he left late, they would say that Moshe was plotting against them. (The Tzeidah LaDerech explains that Rashi calls them Apikoresim based on a Gemara (Sanhedrin 99b-100a) that states that one who deprecates a Torah scholar is a heretic.) Ibn Ezra (ibid.) understands “UMasa’achem” differently, explaining that it refers to times when Bnei Yisrael nagged Moshe for water and meat, demonstrating a lack of appreciation for the Man.

Rashi essentially means that the Bnei Yisrael were subjective. Rav Pinchas Winston adds that objective people aren’t usually burdensome, but subjective people are. Bnei Yisrael would care more about the best solution than the truth. People usually either care to follow the entire Torah or they ignore it altogether. However, Bnei Yisrael would ignore the Torah when it didn’t fill their purposes. Moshe Rabbeinu is teaching that in the future, the Jews would be harmed by being contentious. This doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t ask questions. Questions are a fundamental part of Judaism; however, one should not ask questions merely for personal benefit.

Ramban (ad loc. s.v. “Torchachem UMasa’achem VeRivechem”) writes that this Pasuk references three activities that Moshe reported to Yitro. The word "Torchachem" refers to the fact that Moshe would teach those who left Egypt the Torah, which included the Chukim which were troubling to teach the confusing and seemingly baseless laws to them. According to the Yekev Ephrayim, those who had just left Egypt did not have any educational experiences. Moshe Rabbeinu experienced much trouble with this, because it was very hard to teach them. However, it may be that because they left Egypt, they were independent thinkers and resisted Torah learning. It is very difficult to teach people that don’t want to internalize the message being taught. Ramban explains that “UMasa'achem” refers to people who would go to Moshe so that he would daven on their behalf. Finally, Ramban says that “VeRivechem” references that Moshe would judge the Bnei Yisrael.

When Ashkenazic Jews read the Pasuk "Eichah Esa Levadi," they use the melody of the book of Eichah; in addition, the Pasuk is read on Shabbat Chazon. This is because it brings us to the proper mindset for Tish’ah BeAv. Yirmiyahu, like Moshe, rebuked Bnei Yisrael using the word “Eichah.” Both rebukes were for instructive purposes: Moshe said that he was unable to unite Bnei Yisrael and keep them focused on Hashem, because they cared only about themselves and their own agenda. Had Bnei Yisrael not been only for themselves, Moshe would have been able to channel their energy in the direction of properly serving Hashem.

Moshe rebuked Bnei Yisrael before his death. Ironically, Yirmiyahu rebuked them after the destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash. This is the Eichah that we wail throughout history. The connection between sins and rebukes is not unique to these two events. We see this before with the spies speaking Leshon HaRa against Eretz Yisrael and even earlier with the brothers who sold Yosef. This also explains why Yosef accused them of being spies. It was to warn them that if they didn’t change it would lead to the incident with the twelve spies. Apparently, Bnei Yisrael did not refrain from being accusatory and selfish. This is why on Tish'ah BeAv we are all equal, mourning together as one on the floor, focusing on the future redemption of the Bnei Yisrael and the return of the Torah to its glory – we need to fix ourselves not just individuals, but as a nation.

The summer months are a great time to relax and enjoy ourselves. However, there are still three weeks of mourning, climaxing with Tish'ah BeAv, which we must not forget. The three weeks are there to keep us focused. We are mourning for the Beit HaMikdash, but the goal is not really to just be granted the next Beit HaMikdash. Rather, it is for us to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash; it is to enable us to be closer to Hashem and to keep His Torah. The end result of keeping Hashem’s decrees is the building of the third Beit HaMikdash. We need Tish’ah BeAv to keep us focused on the Torah. It all begins when we read the word Eichah in Parashat Devarim. We ask the same question in this week’s Parashah that we will on Tish’ah BeAv: How did we become so unfocused and led astray?

During the summer, one should constantly keep HaKadosh Baruch Hu and the Torah in mind, as always, even though it is more difficult in the relaxed environment. Tish’ah BeAv may help remind us of what we’ve done wrong, but we need to do our part to make sure that it is not just on that one day that we are better; rather, we must unite all the time, LeSheim Shamayim. If we do this, hopefully, Mashiach will come, and Tish’ah BeAv will then be a day of Simchah instead of mourning.

Kiddush HaLashon by Eli Ginsberg

Excessive Enumeration of Encampments by Yehuda Feman