Tisha B’av dvar Torah: Not a day to Sit and Remember

Justin Nemanpour

After completing the fourth book of the Torah, Sefer Bamidbar, We start the final book of Sefer Devarim, also known as Mishna Torah. Devarim, or Deuteronomy, is a speech given by Moshe Rabeinu, in his last five weeks of life, to all of B’nei Israel, recalling many of the past events during their wandering in the desert. The speech is delivered just before they will be entering the long awaited for, Holy Land of Israel — hence the name Mishna Torah, which usually is translated as repetition or explanation of the Torah.

This year, Parashat Devarim and Tisha B’Av both land on the same week. Tisha B’Av, Judaism Teaches, is the day that the 10 spies brought back negative reports of Israel and caused B’nei Israel to wander in the desert for 40 years.  It’s also the day on which both the first and second Beit Hamikdash were destroyed, leaving us without a temple in which to serve God, becauseof sinat chinam, the baseless hatred people were feeling toward one another.

And it’s also the day when the First Crusades were declared, and the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal was declared, leaving us disunited and many dead. More recently and relatable, Tisha B’Av was the day deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka concentration camp began.

Obviously, then, Tisha B’Av is a day of serious introspection and mourning, so much so that we need to prepare three weeks earlier, and even more intensely nine days in advance. We need to look into our everyday life and think, “Hmm, how could I better myself so that we don’t merit another destruction of the Beit Hamikdash or any tragedy at all?” Tisha B’Av is not some day to sit down and distantly remember these horrible events: it’s a day to take these events and apply them to our lives.

What was the point of Moshe’s extensive repetition of the Torah? Moshe was afraid that if B’nei Israel sinned after witnessing all the miracles of  Hashem, they would sin that much more without all the miracles around them, once they entered the land of Israel. Of course, also it is a major reflection on their journey, B’nei Israel gets a chance to remember where they came from, their ancestors being slaves, they themselves being born on the way going to the Holy Land.

They reflect on their highs and on their lows, on as a people how they have grown and sprout only from one man Avraham (Devarim 1:11). But the actual text (Devarim 1:1-4) does not even mention sinning, just places and journeys taken in the wilderness, in such places as the Arava, Paran, Tophel, Lavan, Chatzerot and Di Zahav. How is this introspection in the slightest?

Rashi explains that each place corresponds to a place where the Jewish nation sinned. For example, Paran refers to the sin of the spies, and Tophel and Lavan according to Rabbi Yehoshua are alluding to the complaints regarding manna. Here there is certainly a lesson: what needs to be reflected upon is hidden, we need to search deep down to find the true essence of what’s important in life. Is it my car? Is it my house? Is it my new watch? Or is it my child’s Jewish education? My Child’s closeness and connectivity to Hashem? How much time I invest in growing my own connection to God?

These are the questions you should be asking yourself during Tisha B’Av, just as Moshe did with all of B’nei Israel, searching deep down into the soul and remembering.

There is a pasuk in Tehillim, Perek 137, that starts off by saying, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, we also wept, when we remembered Zion.”  How much more appropriate can this pasuk be than this weekend, as you’re mourning and in deep thought over the destruction of the first Beit Hamikdash and all the ways that it challenges us.


Shabbat Shalom

Yosef Nemanpour