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Shabbat Parashat Vaetchanan| 5764
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Double Consolation - Condensed from Shvilin, Tishrei 5723
R. Akiva convinced R. Yehoshua that R. Gamliel had the religious authority to set the beginning of the month (and, as a result, the occurrence of Yom Kippur) even if it was an objective mistake. R. Yehoshua’s reaction was recorded as follows: “He said to him in the following wording, ‘Akiva, you have consoled me, you have consoled me.’” (Rosh Hashana 25a). When R. Akiva explained to his colleagues that the devastation they saw at the sight of the destroyed Beit Hamikdash was actually an omen to its eventual restoration, the gemara relates their reaction as follows. “They said to him in the following wording, ‘Akiva, you have consoled us, Akiva, you have consoled us’” (Makkot 24b). The introduction to their reaction (“… in the following wording”) indicates that the phraseology is important, and, therefore, we must take note of the double language that they employed. Eicha Rabba notes: “They sinned doubly … were punished doubly …and will be consoled doubly, as it says, ‘Be consoled, be consoled, my nation.’” We see the phenomenon of double in terms of sin, punishment, and, once again, consolation. What does it mean?
The Kuzari writes: “Yisrael among the nations is like the heart among the limbs of the body” (2:36). One can compare the relationship to that of concentric circles, in which the inner circles affect the more distant ones. If something is off in the inner circle by even a little, it will magnify the problem in the outer ones. For example, if the trajectory of a missile is off by even centimeters at its point of launching, it can cause its landing to be off by thousands of miles. Therefore, Hashem is exacting with his tzadikim like the thread of a hair, because the little that a great tzadik is lacking can have a horrible, ripple effect on those who are more on the periphery.
When Bnei Yisrael are lacking, it reflects itself not only in their spiritual state and the treatment they deserve from Hashem. Rather, when the “heart” does not effectively spread the blood throughout the body, the limbs begin to malfunction, as well. The nations are likely to become more immoral and brutal in their treatment of us, as their dedication to such obligations as not to kill are further compromised by the atmosphere of spiritual deficiency that Bnei Yisrael’s sins create. Thus, Bnei Yisrael’s sin is double, causing their own deterioration and that of the nations. Similarly, their affliction is double. They deserve Divine retribution and are exposed to enemies whose ruthlessness exceeds its normal levels.
However, the consolation is double, as Bnei Yisrael will always remain the heart of the nations. As they are purified from iniquity, the rest of the world will be elevated and will live in an atmosphere of “no nation will hold up the sword against another.” The world will be unified in service of Hashem, and will benefit from a religiously symbiotic relationship.
We can also understand the doubling of R. Akiva’s consolations. When R. Akiva saw the desolation, which was so poignant specifically by what was the most holy of all places, he realized and taught that it was the still the most sensitive place, as the place of the Temple was still the center of the circle. It was a sign that it would, in the future, serve as the center of the circle in terms of positive effect. So too, R. Akiva taught R. Yehoshua that the judicial center of Bnei Yisrael has the power to determine the cosmic question of when the new month begins. If their leaders had such power even when not within the Temple, then certainly the entire nation was the center of the circle. This realization is conveyed to future generations by the deliberate use of the double language of consolation.
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