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Parshas Va’eschanan: ‘Wholeheartedly’


The verses of Shema, recited thrice daily, form the cornerstone of our faith, responsibility, and devotion to G-d. A Jew is obligated to state with conviction, “You shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your ‘me’od.’”[1]

The Gemara[2] offers two explanations of the word “me’od.” The first: that me’od means “with all of your resources”; one must place G-d before his money and physical resources. The second: that one must love G-d despite whatever middah (character trait/Divine Attribute) G-d utilizes towards him. At times G-d may act towards a person with the attribute of justice, at other times with compassion. But no matter which attribute it is one must realize that G-d does all for the good and He must love G-d for that.

A Jew must love G-d on Tisha B’Av in the same way that he loves G-d on Simchas Torah. Even when events are inexplicable and painful, during times of loss and sadness, one must remind himself that G-d loves him and is always with him. Through that realization one will come to love G-d, regardless of which middah He utilizes towards him.

The great Chassidic master, Reb Levi Yitzchok of Barditchev, was renowned for his extreme piety and passion in his service to G-d. One night Reb Levi Yitzchok was staying at an inn and at midnight sat down on the floor to recite Tikkun Chatzos [3] as he did every night.

When the innkeeper was awakened by the sounds of weeping coming from one of his rooms, he was alarmed and went to see what was wrong. Reb Levi Yitzchok gently explained to the ignorant innkeeper that he was reciting special prayers to mourn the destruction of the Temple and the long exile that we are subject to. The innkeeper replied that those tragic events transpired centuries earlier. Why cry over spilled milk? The Rebbe described to his host the grandeur and opulence that was Jerusalem. He described the Kohanim doing the service in the Bais HaMikdash and bringing the offerings on the altar, while the Leviim sang harmoniously. He delineated the many miracles that were omnipresent in the Bais HaMikdash, and the feeling of closeness and connection that every Jew felt with his Creator.

When the innkeeper heard the Rebbe’s description he began to cry. In fact, he cried so intensely that soon Reb Levi Yitzchok had to put his arm around the innkeeper to console him. “Despite what we have lost, we are actually quite fortunate,” began the Rebbe. “On Tisha B’Av afternoon, after spending hours sitting on the floor and reciting lamentations, recounting all the tragedies that have befallen us as a people during the exile, we arise and don our Talis and Tefillin.[4] During Mincha we recite the added prayer “Nachem” which requests G-d to console us for our losses. How does this drastic transition occur? How can we begin to accept consolation when moments before we were in a state of inconsolable grief? Furthermore, most of the Bais HaMikdash burned during the afternoon of the ninth and the morning of the tenth of Av. Why are we rising from our most intense state of mourning during the time when the flames were ravaging the Sanctuary?”

The Rebbe continued, “The truth is that we do not comprehend G-d’s kindness and love for us. Our Sages explain that G-d destroyed the Bais HaMikdash in order to preserve us. Had He allowed us to receive the retribution we justly deserved we would have been destroyed. But because He channeled His anger, as it were, towards the physical structure of the Bais HaMikdash, we were able to survive the harrowing and traumatic ordeal. Therein lies our solace! The very fact that G-d destroyed the Bais HaMikdash demonstrates His love for us, for He destroyed His own home and exiled Himself, as it were, rather than destroy His beloved Nation.

About the Author: Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead, as well as Guidance Counselor and fifth grade Rebbe in ASHAR, and Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor. He can be reached at stamtorah@gmail.com. Visit him on the web at www.stamtorah.info.

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