“For this our heart was ill, for these our eyes were dimmed. For Mount Zion which lies desolate; foxes prowl over it” (Eichah 5:17-18)
The Talmud (Makkos 24b) relates that Rabban Gamliel, R’ Elazar ben Azaryah, R’ Yehoshua, and R’ Akiva were going to Yerushalayim after the destruction of the Temple. As they approached the Temple Mount, they saw a fox emerge from the Holy of Holies. The sages began to cry, and R’ Akiva laughed.
When they asked R’ Akiva why he was laughing, he responded by asking them why they were crying. The sages said: This is the place about which it says (Bamidbar 1:51), “And the non-Kohen who approaches shall die.” Now foxes are walking here, should we not cry?
R’ Akiva said to them: That is precisely why I am laughing. When Hashem revealed the future to Yeshayahu HaNavi, it says (Yeshayahu 8:2), “And I will take to Me faithful witnesses to attest: Uriyah the Kohen and Zecharyahu the son of Yeverechyahu.” Uriyah prophesied during the time of the First Beis HaMikdash, and Zechariah prophesied during the time of the Second Beis HaMikdash. Including the two in the same pasuk establishes that the fulfillment of the second prophecy is dependent on the fulfillment of the first.
In the prophecy of Uriyah it says (Micha 3:12), “Therefore … Zion will be plowed as a field, Yerushalayim shall become rubble, and the Temple Mount as the high places of a forest [where foxes are found].”
In the prophecy of Zechariah it says (Zechariah 8:4), “…There shall yet be elderly men and elderly women sitting in the streets of Yerushalayim…”
R’ Akiva continued: Now that the prophecy of Uriyah has been fulfilled, there is no doubt that the prophecy of Zechariah will likewise be fulfilled. When the sages heard his words they were comforted.
The Aruch L’ner asks: Why was it specifically a fox that emerged from the ruins?
He cites the Talmud (Yuma 69b) that during the time of the Second Beis HaMikdash, the sages prayed to Hashem to destroy the evil inclination for idol worship. It had caused the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the murder of the righteous people, the exile of the Jewish Nation, and in fact was still actively trying to entice people to worship idols. The sages cried, “Didn’t you give us the evil inclination so that we could receive reward for conquering it? We are prepared to give up the reward for overcoming the evil inclination as long as it departs from us.”
Hashem answered their prayers and a fiery lion cub, which the prophet Zechariah identified as the evil inclination for idol worship, emerged from the Holy of Holies.
The Aruch L’Ner explains that the lion represented the evil inclination that had caused the destruction of the First Temple, the violation of the three serious transgressions – immorality, bloodshed and idol worship – that are like a lion in that the evil inclination has the strength and tenacity of a lion to cause a person to sin in these areas.
The second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred, represented by the fox, which the sages saw emerging from the ruins. With the cunning and guile of a fox, the evil inclination instigates and stimulates baseless hatred, dissent, and strife.
The Vilna Gaon makes an alarming statement, noting that hate is the outgrowth of a lack of faith in Hashem. If a person would truly believe that one does not hurt his little finger unless it was so decreed in Heaven, he would never hate someone else. He would realize that any pain, loss, damage or, conversely, a positive episode happens only because it was so directed by Hashem.
The Chovos HaLevavos says similarly in Shaar HaBitachon that hate, jealousy and bad character traits are a result of a lack of bitachon. On a deeper level, the Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 241, tells us that when a person is troubled or distressed he should know that it is for his good. It means there is something in his life that needs to be corrected. There is an exact accounting for everything that occurs in a person’s lifetime, and one should never seek to lay blame on others for their personal situation. The individual who seems to have contributed to our hardship is merely Heaven’s messenger. Baseless hatred is the product that results when one chooses to disregard this concept and, nevertheless, nurtures a hatred of the other person.
A Tisha B’Av Turnaround
For many years on the night of Tisha B’Av, R’ Taussig has been speaking to those gathered in the main beis medrash of Vishnitz in Eretz Yisrael.
Two years ago, on Motzoei Tisha B’Av after kiddush levanah, a man came over and asked to speak to him.
As the man began to speak, tears flowed down his face. “For eight long years, we have had a hostile relationship with our neighbors who live in the same building. We have not spoken to each other all these years, and deliberately ignored each other. I was swindled out of thousands of dollars, and although we went to a din Torah a number of times, I never got the money back. It has been very difficult these last eight years.
“Last night I heard your drasha, when you spoke about the great anguish of every father whose children quarrel among themselves. You cited many Chazal (axioms of the Sages) about the terrible suffering of Hashem when there is hatred among Jews. You told of the evil inclination who prevents the parties involved from being appeased and allows for no resolution of the situation.
“I couldn’t sleep last night knowing that I had been distressing my Father for the last eight years.
“This morning, before I went to say Kinnos, I knocked on my neighbor’s door. As you can imagine, he was shocked to see me. I began to cry and told him that I had heard a drasha about the devastating effects of discord and strife, and I had come to reconcile with him. I emphasized that I wholeheartedly forgave him and absolved him of the $10,000 debt. I only requested in return his own words of forgiveness.
“It was extremely difficult for me, but I knew I was doing something special. To my surprise and amazement, my neighbor responded that he too had been present at your drasha. The shul was dark, as is the custom on the night of Tisha B’Av, and obviously I had not seen him. Similar feelings had been aroused within him, and he had resolved to come ask for my forgiveness, but evidently I had beaten him to it.
“This evening,” continued the man, “ten minutes after the fast was over, my neighbor accompanied by his wife, knocked on my door, holding an envelope and a bottle of schnapps. ‘I cannot agree to your dispensation of the debt. I have $5,000 here, and I will cover the balance in payments.’
“I told him it was not necessary as I had already forgiven him with all my heart.”