Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Why the Bais Hamikdosh Hasn’t Yet Been Rebuilt

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Throughout our history, the month of Av has marked some of the most wrenching, catastrophic events for the Jewish people. That legacy of sorrow and disaster continues to hound us to the present day.

As we shed tears over the latest tragedies both here and in Eretz Yisroel, we wonder what we can do to reverse this terrible cycle and when it will all end. We flail about seeking to find answers for the seemingly continuous cycle of pain, affliction and death. We are neither neviim or bnei neviim and it is totally presumptuous of us to imagine we know why things happen.

But we should recognize that the root of all our sadness and misery is the churban Bais Hamikdosh, which we mourn not only during the Nine Days and Three Weeks, but also all year round. We reflect on the well-known Gemara in Yomah (9b) that tells us that the first Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed because we did not observe the halachos of avodah zorah, gilui arayos and shefichas domim.

The Gemara says that at the time of the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdosh, the Jews were proficient in Torah and gemillus chassodim. What brought about the churban was the sin of sinas chinom.

We are taught that the third Bais Hamikdosh will not be erected until sinas chinom is purged from the Jewish people.

The true nature of sinas chinom goes beyond the concept of senseless, baseless hatred. Its deeper dimensions are hinted at in the Gemara in Maseches Shabbos that discusses kabbolas haTorah.

The Gemara states that Har Sinai was given its name because of the “sinah” that Matan Torah triggered amongst the nations of the world toward Klal Yisroel. Rashi explains that once the Torah became exclusively ours, we became universally hated. We had sole access to something of immeasurable value and the world could not forgive us for that.

Jealousy seems to be the underside of hatred. Sinas chinom is the animosity a person harbors toward one who possesses that which the hater lacks - something he is not willing to go the extra distance to attain for himself. That feeling of emptiness spawns an implacable hatred.

The nations of the world could be megayeir and accept the Torah upon themselves. But instead of giving up their carefree existence, they prefer to hate.

The Gemara in Yomah quoted above states that the sin of sinas chinom is equal to the collective sins of avodah zorah, gilui arayos and shefichas domim. The reason for this is because sinas chinom is the polar opposite of ahavas Yisroel, one of the Torah’s key mandates, derived from the posuk of “V’ahavta lereyacha kamocha.”

We are all familiar with the statement of Rabi Akiva in Pirkei Avos: “V’ahavta lereyacha kamocha, zeh klal gadol baTorah… The commandment to love your fellow Jew is the major rule of the Torah;” the rest is commentary.

We also recall the tale of the ger tzedek who asked Hillel to teach him the whole Torah on one leg. Hillel told him, “D’aloch sani lechavercha lo sa’avid…what is hateful to you do not do unto others; zuhi kol haTorah, ve’idach zil gemor.”

If v’ahavta lereyacha kamocha is the most fundamental rule in the Torah, it stands to reason that sinas chinom, its diametrical opposite, is a most serious aveirah. What is so grievous about sinas chinom? Why was the punishment for sinas chinom equal to the punishment for the three cardinal sins? Why did it cause the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdosh and prevent the construction of the third?

Sinas chinom is derived from a feeling of inferiority and inadequacy. People suffering from these feelings can fill the vacuum by emulating others who lead exemplary lives. On the other hand, they can try to destroy those who do good by minimizing their accomplishments and destroying their reputations. This helps the inferiority-ridden person feel redeemed and guilt-free over his own lack of accomplishment.

Sinas chinom is the antithesis of positive involvement in the community. Sinas chinom is what prevents good people from constructive accomplishments. Sinas chinom is by no means a victimless crime. It actually prevents people from getting involved; it seeks to destroy those who do and belittles and undermines their undertakings.

If someone puts his heart into finding a remedy for a community problem and is met with nothing but snide remarks for his efforts, he will be discouraged from seeing his project through.

Poking fun at someone for having his name engraved on a building in tribute to his donation will cause that person to reconsider the next time he is solicited for a contribution.

The same holds true for someone who participates in a worthy campaign and has his picture published in the newspaper. Finding himself the butt of thoughtless ribbing by baalei sinas chinom will induce the person to stay home next time.

How many people shy away from getting involved because they are aware of the negative feedback trailing them? How many people shun awards at yeshiva dinners, which could raise much needed funds for Torah, because they know they will be mocked by their neighbors and friends? And if someone donates a lot of money to good causes and is honored for his largesse by roshei yeshiva and rabbonim and smart people, why do people feel an obligation to minimize what the person has done to benefit the community and the world?

Baalei sinas chinom compensate for their lack of accomplishments by knocking others and ripping down what they have done. They create a negative spirit that kills the desire of people to rise above the masses to enhance the lives of others and help prepare the world for Moshiach.

This may be why sinas chinom has to be thoroughly uprooted in order for the redemption to arrive.

Good people need encouragement to succeed. Good people need other people to work with. Good people need to be surrounded by positive, pro-active people in order to facilitate their accomplishments.

As long as sinas chinom breeds naysayers and cynics, too many noble but orphan causes will be left to peter out.

How many at-risk kids would be drawn closer if people would not hesitate to get involved? At- risk children need people to care for them, as do children who have been abused and harmed in different ways. Yeshivos need people to come to their aid. Mechanchim desperately seek saviors to help them make ends meet. How do we expect “umalah ha’aretz dei’ah es Hashem” if we don’t pay our teachers a living wage and don’t provide children the education and care they are entitled to?

People who raise money for good causes need people to answer their calls and let them in their homes. How many more volunteers would there be for worthy chesed organizations if people didn’t have to fear the ridicule of their neighbors?

There are too many people who are sick and need physical and emotional support; too many orphans who need a shoulder to cry on. How many of us are willing to be there for them?

Several years ago, I wrote an article on this topic and quoted something that the noted askan of Detroit, Mr. Gary Torgow, had told me. We were talking and I commented that it is truly amazing to consider all that Rabbi Avrohom Abba Freedman zt”l of Detroit accomplished - how many causes and people he helped, and how many individuals he was able to draw to Torah.

Gary told me that he once had a similar conversation with Rav Matisyahu Salomon when he visited Detroit and he asked the Lakewood mashgiach to what he attributed Rabbi Freedman’s success.

Rav Salomon’s response was penetrating. He said that the secret of Rabbi Freedman’s success was that no one was jealous of him.

Think about that.

Because no one was jealous of Rabbi Freedman, he was able to operate under the radar and not be destroyed by envious people out to undermine him. Because no one was jealous of him, he was able to be wildly successful as he brought more and more people into the tent of Torah. He was able to lead “missions” to Torah centers and minister to dozens because no one tried to impugn his character.

Because no one was jealous of him, he was able to convince hundreds of children to go to yeshiva. He was able to help so many people and be the best friend of every good cause in town.

There may be other people like Rabbi Freedman out there who have the ability to prepare the world for the coming of Moshiach, but we get in their way, we doubt their intentions, we play down what they have done and we impede them from doing more.

If we’d banish sinas chinom, we’d permit more Rabbi Freedmans to flourish and prosper, and we’d be closer to the place we need to get to in order to merit the geulah shelaimah.

In all times and in all places, there are always people who are richer than others. There are always people who have been blessed with wealth and people who are poor. There are smart people and there are those who are not so smart. There are tall people and there are short people. That’s how G-d made them. Everyone has a mission to accomplish in life, and looking over our shoulders to see how we match up to the other guy will not help us accomplish our mission.

We constantly remind our children to look at their own plate and not at that of the child sitting next to them, to be happy with what they have and not to always look at what other people have. The same applies to us as well.

Jealousy is a terrible middah, but it’s worse than that; it leads us to be miserable, grumpy and unhappy with ourselves. It leads us to hate people we don’t even know. It causes us to misjudge and be disparaging of others.

We each have our own pekel. We each have been blessed in different ways. As we enter the month of Elul, let us begin with some introspection into what lies inside of our hearts and remove the evil thoughts we have about others from there.

I once had the occasion to introduce an Israeli journalist to Rav Aharon Schechter. The conversation didn’t last too long. Rav Aharon looked at the man and said to him in Hebrew, “Tilmad l’histakel al kol dovor b’ayin tovah.” Literally translated, what the Rosh Yeshiva said was, “Learn to look at everything with a good eye.”

I don’t know if his words had any affect on that fellow; I hope they had some influence on me. These words should be a mantra for everyone, not just journalists. The world would be a better place and it would lead to the imminent arrival of Moshiach.

Let us seek to praise others and find sources of merit for their actions and not seek to rip them down. Let us be blessed to recognize the good which lies in others, instead of looking to find their faults. Perhaps that way, others will look to find the good in us and judge us favorably.

The Yom Hadin is approaching. We all want Hashem to judge us favorably. A definite source of merit would be to judge others the way we want to be judged.


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