Parts of the months of Tammuz and Av are currently designated for mourning the loss of the Beis Hamikdash, the avodah, Yerushalayim and Eretz Yisrael. While Hashem has, through open miracles, gifted us permission to visit and dwell in many parts of Eretz Yisrael, including the Old City of Yerushalayim, we still lack the splendor and glory of the Malchus Hashem reigning in Yerushalayim and the performance of the avodah in the Beis Hamikdash. As we are all aware the Gemara tells us this was due to sinas chinam – baseless hatred.
We recently read Parshas Korach, where we learned of the horrific effects that a machlokes can have. The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos contrasts the machlokes of Korach and that of Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel. The Mishnah says that the machlokes of Korach was not l’sheim Shamayim, while those of Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel were.
The Mirrer Mashgiach, Rav Yeruchem Levovitz, zt”l, points out that from the fact that the Mishnah even compared the two machlokesim enough to contrast them, we learn that Korach’s machlokes was one of ruchniyus – spirituality. (If the machlokes wasn’t one of ruchniyus, how would the Mishnah even compare someone challenging authority for his own personal gain to a machlokes in learning?) Yet, even a machlokes for ruchniyus purposes carries the same detrimental capabilities.
It is difficult to write about such a topic, but from an outsider’s perspective it seems that there are so many ongoing communal machlokesim today.
We also recently read Parshiyos Balak and Pinchas where we learned of the quintessential kana’i, Pinchas. The pasuk testifies that Pinchas acted to avenge Hashem’s kinah, without any ulterior motives. This is the necessary component for anyone attempting to act on behalf of Hashem.
There is a story told about a man watching a crowd throwing rocks at oncoming traffic on Shabbos in Yerushalayim, chanting in the commonly used monotone, “Sha-bus!” The onlooker was amazed to notice that one man had a perfect windup and was throwing fastballs that were hitting his targets every time. After a few minutes the pitcher, who was dressed in Yerushalmi garb, noticed his audience and responded in a clear American accent, “Hey, you think it’s easy being a kan-oi?!”
Whether this story is fact or fable, it illustrates a strong reality: many machlokesim and acts of kana’us are not l’sheim Shamayim. The galus that we are currently suffering through was caused by sinas chinam, or machlokesim and acts of kana’us that were not l’sheim Shamayim.
The Netziv, in his hakdamah to Bereishis, explains that the sinas chinam that occurred during the times of the second Bais Hamikdash was “l’sheim Shamayim,” so to speak. When someone saw another person not acting according to his standards, he would suspect him of being an apikores.
In a similar vein, there are certain aspects of Yiddishkeit that have wrongfully become associated with certain “sects” of Klal Yisrael. For example, nitzotzos (sparks of kedusha) are not unique to Chassidim; Navi is not meant for Maskilim; and Mashiach is not exclusive to Chabad. Today, if one speaks about chibas Eretz Yisrael he fears being called a Zionist or a Tziyoni. Perhaps people don’t realize that every time they recite the second bracha of bentching they are thanking Hashem for giving us an “Eretz chemdah tovah urechavah.” Perhaps they don’t pay attention to the many times in davening where we pray for Hashem to return us to Tzion, and rebuild Yerushalayim.
A rebbi of mine once told me that his father wrote on his grandfather’s matzeivah “Oheiv Eretz Yisrael.” He asked his father, was Zaidy a Tziyoni? His father responded that he had simply loved the land and yearned to go to Eretz Yisrael.
When my great-aunt and uncle, who survived the War, got off the plane in Eretz Yisrael (in the old airport where one would exit the plane onto the ground and then board a bus), they literally bent down and kissed the ground. This was how the Amora’im (Kesubos 111), the Rishonim, and Acharonim acted, and until a few years ago how Klal Yisrael acted and felt toward Eretz Yisrael. The sefer Meged Givos Olam (vol I page 62) documents that the Chafetz Chaim would ask of everyone who came to visit him, “Take me to Eretz Yisrael!”
During the time of year that is designated for mourning the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and the avodah in Yerushalayim, we should try to soften our newfound divisive boundaries. If each person individually would be careful not to engage in enforcing the confines of his halachic and hashkafic divisive perimeters, we would have the necessary achdus and ahavas chinam required to bring the Geulah sheleimah speedily in our days.