This Shabbos is not a normal Shabbos by any means. It is Tisha B’av, the anniversary of the destruction of both Batei Mikdash. Since we are not allowed to fast on Shabbos, we fast instead on Sunday but the actual day of Tisha B’av falls out on Shabbos itself. So even though outwardly it won’t look like we are mourning, we must, at least inwardly, spend some time on Shabbos thinking about the Churban and what it means for us. Perhaps this will help.
Sefer Devarim is known as Mishneh Torah, the Review of the Torah. With Bnei Yisrael just a few weeks away from entering Eretz Yisrael, Moshe, knowing that he cannot enter with them, gives his final address to the nation. In our parshah, Parshas Devarim, he tells over some of the events that happened to Bnei Yisrael in the desert, including the story of the Meraglim, the Spies. He explains that the punishment for this was an extra thirty-eight years in the desert, where the entire generation involved with the sin, died, and only then, the Bnei Yisrael began their battles against Sichon and Og in preparation for their battles for Eretz Yisrael.
At this point, the Meforshim point out a very interesting language switch found halfway through the parshah. “וַיְהִי כַאֲשֶׁר תַּמּוּ כָּל אַנְשֵׁי הַמִּלְחָמָה לָמוּת מִקֶּרֶב הָעָם וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֵלַי לֵאמֹר” “So it was, when all the men of war finished dying from among the people, and Hashem spoke to me saying” (Devarim 2:16-17). Rashi points out that while Moshe had been telling over the story of the Spies and the travels in the desert in this parshah, whenever Hashem spoke to him, the word “וַיֹּאמֶר” was used. Why the sudden change at this point to the word “וַיְדַבֵּר”?
The answer of each commentator depends on their understanding of the connotations of the words “וַיְדַבֵּר” and “וַיֹּאמֶר”. Rashi answers that the usage the word “וַיְדַבֵּר” shows an extra affection for Bnei Yisrael. This word denotes that Hashem spoke to Moshe directly, face to face, while the word “וַיֹּאמֶר” is used to refer to the normal way Hashem would converse with a Navi. This shows us that for all the fact that Moshe spoke to Hashem face to face in a way that no other person ever did, this was only in the merit of Bnei Yisrael. During the thirty-eight extra years in the desert when Bnei Yisrael were being punished, Moshe did not speak to Hashem in this way since the Bnei Yisrael were not on the proper level. Only at this point, when the punishment was up and they were about to enter Eretz Yisrael, was Moshe able to resume speaking to Hashem face to face. This shows the tremendous love that Hashem has for Bnei Yisrael, for it was not only Moshe, but every Prophet was only able to receive prophecy when Bnei Yisrael were deserving of it.
The Kli Yakar gives the explanation that most Meforshim give on these two words. He says that when the Torah uses the word “וַיְדַבֵּר” when Hashem speaks to Moshe, it means that He is speaking in a more serious tone. In general, whenever the Torah uses the root word “דַּבֵּר” in any form, it is coming to rebuke. The word “וַיֹּאמֶר” however, is a less intense way of speaking. Based on this, the Kli Yakar asks how Rashi’s explanation makes any sense. How could the word which is a more serious way of speaking also be the word which implies a greater affection for Bnei Yisrael?
To answer, he brings a pasuk from Mishlei, “כִּי אֶת אֲשֶׁר יֶאֱהַב יְהֹוָה יוֹכִיחַ” “for Hashem chastens the one He loves” (Mishlei 3:12). When a person truly cares about someone else, they will do everything and anything to make sure the person they love stays on the right path, including giving them heavy rebuke to show them what they are doing wrong. A person can even go so far as to completely lose his cool in these situations as he is completely consumed with keeping his loved one safe. However, a person will not be as strict with someone else since they don’t care as much. So when Hashem speaks with “וַיְדַבֵּר”, it makes perfect sense for it to show an extra affection to Bnei Yisrael, he is rebuking us because he loves us! By just speaking with “וַיֹּאמֶר” for all those years in the desert, Hashem showed us the worst thing possible, that He really did not care so much! But right when the punishment was complete, He came right back to us with the same love He had showed us all those years earlier.
As we said, this Shabbos is Tisha B’av, the anniversary of the worst day in the history of our Nation. Over the thousands of years we have been in exile, there have been many questions; why are we still in galus? Why doesn’t Hashem bring us back and rebuild the Beis Hamikdash? One thing we must remember is that with every tragedy that has befallen us in our history, “כִּי אֶת אֲשֶׁר יֶאֱהַב יְהֹוָה יוֹכִיח”, the fact that these punishments happen is the surest sign of Hashem’s love! In fact, we cannot really call them punishments at all, they are reminders from Hashem of our true purpose in this world and of his love. The fact that he still reminds us after so many years is proof of this. Let us work on ourselves so that we may reach the level where these painful reminders are no longer necessary and may this be the last Tisha B’av where we must cry over the Beis Hamikdash. May it be rebuilt speedily in our days!
Have a Shabbat Shalom and an extremely meaningful fast.
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