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Parashat Devarim


A question was asked in the house of study: Neither in the Musaf prayer of Shabbat nor in the musaf prayer of Rosh Hodesh (the new month) is there a mention of the destruction of the Holy Temple. However, when Rosh Hodesh falls on the Sabbath, there is a mention of the destruction. One would assume that when the new month falls on Sabbath that there would be an even greater joy, so why is there mention of the destruction? Why do we say, " because of our sins our city was destroyed and our temple was made desolate and our glory was taken and the honor was taken from our house?"

The answer to this question can be explained by using an allegory. Imagine a beautiful palace that was burning down. A passerby watching this seen would surely be impressed by the grandeur of this palace and in his heart mourn for its destruction. Someone who had the good fortune of once visiting this palace would mourn even more because he would know the beautiful works of art and priceless things that were being destroyed. However, the ones who would mourn the most would be the owners of the palace. Only they know that what was also being destroyed were countless certificates and coupons which in themselves could have been redeemed for enough money to buy 100 more palaces just like this one!

The same applies to one who mourns over the destruction of the temple. Of course, there is no Jew that does not mourn a little bit. However, there are different degrees. The simple Jew prays that his troubles will stop when the tine of the building of the temple comes. The Jew on a slightly higher level is aware of all of the spiritual influences which emanate form the temple, and as one's understanding of the great spirituality of the temple goes up, so does one's yearning and feeling of loss. Therefore, on a day which is spiritually greater, the feeling of loss over the temple is also greater.

Therefore on a day which is neither Shabbat nor Rosh Chodesh, but both, one is spiritually uplifted and feels the loss of the temple more acutely. We also know that one who mourns more for Jerusalem is merited to have more spiritual tools to appreciate its rebuilding!


The Torah is a book of life, and it is possible and necessary to learn an eternal message from each verse. This can be seen from the very first verse in our parsha. Moshe Rabbeinu gathers the nation in order to summarize the years of travel in the desert and also to admonish them on their errant behavior. However, Moshe does not mention the people's sins explicitly. Rather, ho cloaks them in hints. Why? "For the honor of Israel." (Rashi). How amazing! We learn form here the proper way to admonish someone. You want to admonish someone? Fine. But do it in a way in which you guard the honor of that person. Don't use harsh words, and certainly do not embarrass the person. This is actually a condition in the mitzvah of admonishing one's neighbor. It say in the Torah," You shall surely admonish thy kinsman." And we learn: "Can it be that you can admonish even in a way which embarrasses them? Certainly not, and therefore the Torah continues and says "and you shall not bear a sin." Rashi explains that this means that you must admonish with respect. As an aside: If one admonishes his neighbor in an embarrassing fashion, not only has he transgressed the above law, but his act is futile. For certainly his admonishment will not be accepted if presented in such a caustic manner - it will only lead to further estrangement and tension. It is interesting that Moshe mentioned the sin of the golden calf - ostensibly the worst of all of the sins committed in the desert - last. The hint which he uses to address this event is, in Hebrew, "Di Zahav." This is hint to this event because it makes reference to the gold that was used by the Jews to make the golden calf. Rashi explains: "He admonished them on account of the golden calf which they made because of the multitude of gold that they had." However, is it not strange that Moshe did not pick some other aspect of their sin to emphasize in his hint rather than a reference to the gold they used. What about their neglect of God and their rejection of God's yolk? Why does Moshe emphasize that they had too much gold and it is because of that they sinned?

The answer is that the purpose of admonishment is not to dwell in the past but to learn from the past. Therefore, Moshe did not mention the actual sin that they did, but rather what caused them to sin. Indeed, what caused them to sin was an excess of material things as well as not using their time at Har Sinai constructively. This was the root of their sin, and this is the lesson that can be taught to all generations.

All of this takes on added significance when we realize that we are reading them before Tisha B'av. In the temple, we had everything. It was the place for worship of Hashem and the source for the influence on all spiritual and materialistic matters. It was also the opposite of the experience which the Jews had in the desert around the time of the sin of the golden calf. When Jews had free time and material abundance, they did not become corrupt and fall into sin. Rather, they came to Jerusalem to celebrate in the temple. When there was no mandatory sacrifices to bring and there was still an abundance, they brought their bounty as a voluntary sacrifice in the temple. They were able to turn material excess from a potential danger of sin into a spiritual activity.

We must remember that every synagogue is a miniature temple. And in this manner every man is tested to see whether his mourning over the loss of the temple is sincere: what does he do with his free time. Does he sanctify his free minutes to his "miniature temple" or to his "calf." Does he attend sermons at the synagogue or does he waste his time with frivolous pleasures? When he has a week of vacation, does he spend it in a Torah way by spending part of the time resting and rejuvenating his body and the other time learning Torah, or does he waste his time on excesses and purely material things. For if he chooses the latter path, how can he dare ask for the rebuilding of the temple? They will answer him from heaven, " You did not even want to participate in the miniature temple... now you want the real one!!??"

The Skin

It is not for nothing that the Holy One Blessed Be He created skin to cover the body of man. Without skin, man would have no protection against germs and foreign bodies. The skin serves as a protective shield against infection and bacteria that are likely to endanger the life of man. The skin also protects the vital body fluids.

The skin is composed of two principal levels: the thin outer layer (the epidermis) and underneath this lies a thicker, softer layer (the dermis, also called "true skin").

The outer layer itself is composed of two layers one outer (keratin), which has no veins and nerves. This layer is composed of dead cells, which fall off during washing without our even knowing.

The question to be asked is- how is it that the skin does not completely deteriorate when day in and day out dead cells are removed from the skin? Not only that, the skin we feel today is just like the skin we would feel a few days prior.

This is no wonder. For the lower layer of the outer layer is constantly creates new cells which rise to the upper layer, are exposed to air, and subsequently dry out. Underneath these two layers which comprise the outer layer, lies the "true skin." It is comprised of different nerves which transmit sensations of pain, pressure, and temperature. It also holds sweat glands, sebaceous glands, and white blood cells which protect the skin from infection.

There is no end to the kindness of God to his creations. The Holy One Blessed Be He, even created a protective mechanism for the skin that protects us.

The Laws of Tisha B'av.

  1. Children who have not become Bar or Bat Mitzvah are exempt from fasting on this day. The same applies to a sick person (even if there is no immediate danger), and to a sick person who is recovering from an illness.
  2. A mother who has given birth is exempt during her first 30 days after the birth. However, even those who are permitted to eat should refrain from eating delicacies and should fast until mid-day.
  3. An elderly person who is feeling week because of the fast may eat even if they have no specific illness.
  4. 3) On Tisha B'av it is forbidden to eat, drink, wash, use ointments, wear leather shoes, and have marital relations. The prohibitions last from sundown to the time the stars come out on the next day.
  5. EVERYONE (besides the exceptions mentioned above) is obligated to fast. Anyone who eats will not merit to see the joy of the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
  6. It is meritorious to refrain from smoking on Tisha B'av, especially during the reading of Eichah and the Kinot. Of course, it is ideal for health reasons to refrain from smoking all year round. In this way, one helps fulfill the obligation of maintaining one's health.
  7. It is forbidden to wash on T"B, even to stick your finger in water. However, to remove dirt, it is permitted.
  8. When getting up in the morning, one may wash his hands, but only to the ends of one's fingers. One should not wash one's face directly with water, but rather use the excess water from the fingers to wipe his eyes and face.
  9. One who uses the bathroom may also wash his hands up until the knuckles at the end of his fingers.
  10. One who is preparing food for after the fast after mid-day may get their hands wet because their intention is not to wash for pleasure.
  11. One may not wear a leather shoe or even a wooden show which is covered in leather.
  12. It is forbidden to learn Torah on T"B because it gladdens one's heart, as it says, " the laws of Hashem are just, they gladden the heart."
  13. However, it is permitted to learn the Midrash on Meggilat Eichah or topics in the Gemara which deal which the destruction of the temple (Gittin 58). It is also permitted to learn the book of Job and the prophets who spoke about the destruction of the temple ( Jeremiah). Also, books which encourage one to do Tshuvah are permitted. It is permitted to learn the chapter of "Eilu Megalchin" in Masechet Moed Kattan.
  14. One should know that the obligation to learn Torah is still in effect on T"B. One should simply learn from that which is permitted.
  15. It is permitted to read all of the sacrifices of the day in the siddur. However one should not learn "Hok Leyisrael" or seder "Ma'amadot."
  16. One should not greet one's neighbor. For example, one should not say "good morning" or "how are you?" However, if your friend greets you, you should respond with a low voice and in a serious manner.
  17. It is the custom not to work in T"B. One who does work will not see financial gain from that work.

Hashem should hasten our redemption, hurry our savior, and should turn the "fast of the fifth month" into happiness and mirth!

The Golden Column
Hagaon Rabi Yehezkel Moshe Halevi Z"L Hagaon Rabi Yehezkel

Moshe Halevi Z"L, the author of the book " Yama vakedma", the Rabbi of the city of Bagdad, was occupied his whole life with mourning over the Holy temple and the exile of the divine presence. He was distraught by the sons who were "thrown off their father's table" and would beg the merciful father in heaven to return to them in mercy.

Not only would he mourn during the day, as he would never show any laughter or levity, but also at night he did not let himself relax. He would sleep on a short bed and his feet would hang in the air. In the middle of the night he would rise wail about the exile of the divine presence and would say "Tikkun Hatzot." His neighbor would hear him cry as he said the Tikkun. Hagaon R"S Agasi has also testified that he would get up to wail and cry about the exile and then would spend the rest of the night learning Torah until the sun rose.

Harav Moshe Chaim Shamash tells a story of the great Rabbi. He once saw Rabi Yehezkel with a snuff box, and inquired about it, as he knew that Rabi Yehezkel was not the type of person to indulge in such a habit. Rabi Yehezkel told him that inside that case he kept ashes which he would put on his forehead in the place of his Tefillin shel rosh while he said the Tikkun Hatzot, as a sign of mourning for the destruction of the holy temple.


"Across the Jordan"

The Or Hachaim explains that if one wants to admonish a son or pupil, he should wait some time with patience before actually doing it. That time will allow the student's or child's heart to open up to the admonishment. This is the lesson to be learned form the fact that Moshe waited to admonish the Jews until his mission as a leader was about to end, as they were waiting on the plains of Jordan to enter Eretz Yisrael. Moshe waited forty years with patience until he finally felt it was the right time for words of summary and admonishment.

"11 days from Horev"

Rabbi Ovadiah Seforno explains that the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years as a result of the sin of the spies. During every leg of the journey, Moshe would say to them: "Remember that when you were free from sin, you would be able to travel a journey of 11 days in three days. now that you have sinned, a journey of a few weeks has taken 40 years!!" We see from this what a sin can cause. A righteous person has the help of Hashem and all of his efforts are blessed whereas many stumbling blocks are placed in front of a sinner.

"Your care, your burden, and your strife"

According to the Ramban, three aspects of the leadership skills that are required from the leader of the generation are mentioned here:
1) "Your care" refers to the guidance in teaching Torah to the people.
2) "Your burden" refers to dealing with the people's everyday problems and blessing them and praying for them.
3) "Your strife" refers to resolving legal disputes and dispute over Torah law.

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