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Shabbat Parashat Devarim 5774

Parashat Hashavua: The Chazon of Shabbat Chazon

Harav Yosef Carmel

The Shabbat before Tisha B’Av is known as Shabbat Chazon because its haftara begins: “Chazon (the vision of) Yeshayahu ben Amotz.” At such a serious time, it behooves us to soul search about the moral causes of the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and our own standing in these matters.

Chazal summarized three destructions of Temples – Shilo and the two Batei Hamikdash – as follows. “Rav Yochanan ben Torata said: Why was Shilo destroyed? Because of the disgrace of kodashim (sacrifices) within it. The first Beit Hamikdash was destroyed because of idolatry, adultery, and murder. However, regarding the final one, we know that they toiled in Torah and were careful about tithes; why were they exiled? Because they loved money and hated their fellow man. This teaches you that Hashem despises hatred for one’s fellow to a degree that is equivalent to idolatry, adultery, and murder” (Tosefta, Menachot 13:22).

Before learning from the statements, let us reveal the identity of Rav Yochanan ben Torata. The Pesikta (Rabbati 14) tells of a Jew who had a cow for plowing, which he had to sell to a non-Jew due to poverty. The non-Jew tried to work the cow on Shabbat, but the cow refused to budge. The buyer decided the cow was flawed and wanted to nullify the sale. The seller realized that the cow was unaccustomed to working on Shabbat and offered to get it to work. He spoke to the cow, saying: “While you were used to not having to work on Shabbat, since, due to my sins, I had to sell you and you are now owned by a non-Jew, I ask of you to get up and plow.” The cow did just that. When the buyer saw this, he promptly decided to convert, and he became known as Yochanan ben Torata (Aramaic for “son of the cow”), and he became a respected scholar.

The destruction of Shilo was prompted by the actions of the sons of Eili, who disgraced the institution of sacrifices by turning the Mishkan into a lucrative business for the marketing of various meat products. There is no greater disgrace to korbanot than to turn them into a business. Rav Yochanan’s explanation of the destruction of the first Beit Hamikdash is the standard one.

The explanation that the second Beit Hamikdash was destroyed due to baseless hatred is also well-known, but Rav Yochanan ben Torata adds that they were occupied in Torah and were careful about ma’asrot, yet they loved money and hated their counterparts, which was as despicable as cardinal sins. Their carefulness about important elements of the Torah did not prevent them from loving money and the related sins of lack of honesty when money is involved or from hating those who were different from them. [Ed. Note- the language implies that they hated those who were similar to them as well, as was the case with Rabbi Akiva’s students.]

Let us ask ourselves if we have sufficiently opened our hearts and doorways to converts and if we have been concerned about Shabbat not just for ourselves but for the betterment of others in society as well. Let us ask whether we have been careful to increase love between all elements of society in Israel, even those who are not in our niche. We will leave these questions open for contemplation in our lives (not those of others) on this Shabbat that leads into the week of Tisha B’Av.

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