This is my column for Tishah B’Av, to raise a voice...to object in the name of G-d and his People
hazal (Rosh Hashanah 18b) teach that “the death of tzaddikim is equivalent to the burning of the House of our G-d.” This can be understood with the words of the Nefesh Hachayim (1:4), that the ultimate purpose of the dwelling place for the Shechinah, which we call the Beis Hamikdash, is to enable every individual Jew to bring that Divine Presence into himself. Righteous Jews suffused with Torah and yiras Shamayim are living Temples, human personifications of the entire purpose of the inanimate structure standing on the Har Habayis.
I sometimes try to imagine standing in the Beis Hamikdash at the unspeakably painful moment when the crazed Roman hordes first breached its holy walls, or when a flaming arrow first found its mark, igniting the blaze that would soon reduce Makom Hamikdash to smoldering ash. The true aveilus, of course, is over the complete destruction of the Bayis. But there’s a certain poignancy to that first brazen breach, the taking of a flame to the abode of the Master of the Universe. I close my eyes and witness it, and I cry inside.
If the demise of a tzaddik is tantamount to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, then perhaps an assault on the honor, certainly on the actual person of such a holy Jew, is nothing less than a flaming arrow aimed at Hashem’s dwelling place. Just weeks ago, such a sacrilege took place, when several of Jerusalem’s renowned elder talmidei chachamim traveled to a site along the main highway in Gush Etzion, where the graves of Jewish ancestors were said to have been disturbed by excavations related to widening the road. Among those who made the arduous trip to register their protest were the frail, aged Eidah Hachareidis Gaavad Rav Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss and Breslov mashpiah Rav Yaakov Meir Schechter.
As they sat in the cars that had brought them there, police lobbed multiple stun grenades in the direction of those vehicles, landing right near them. These “less-lethal weapons” emit an intensely loud noise of 170 decibels and a blinding flash capable of causing flash blindness and deafness; these stun grenades are used in order to create disorientation but have been known to cause serious permanent injury. One demonstrator showed how the entire begged of his tzitzis was badly singed.
But the lethality is, of course, not the point. The point is how those flaming arrows were outrageously aimed at living Batei Mikdash in the first place.
Regardless of the specific details of what led to the protest in which these venerable leaders took part, it is worth noting that the issue of desecration of kevarim is one that gedolei Torah have always regarded as a matter of utmost severity.
In his book B’michitzasam, Rav Shlomo Lorincz — faithful emissary of gedolei Yisrael in klal-related affairs — tells of his visit to the home of the Brisker Rav during a time when archaeological digs were taking place in the vicinity of the Rambam’s kever in Teveria:
The agony of the Brisker Rav during that period is indescribable. One day, I entered his room, where there was a couch that he would lie upon. I could see that the pillow the Rav had laid his head on was entirely wet, and, assuming there must be a rainwater leak, I looked up toward the ceiling.
The Rav saw my surprised expression and said, “You should know that the pillow is soaked through from side to side with the tears I cried all night long over the desecration of the graves of our holy ancestors.”….Someone who didn’t see the pillow of the Brisker Rav soaked with his pure tears isn’t capable of understanding how it’s possible. Indeed, it’s a level that is beyond us, but nevertheless it has to penetrate and influence us too.
Following this recent assault on two of our generation’s gedolei Torah, thousands of Jews gathered in the heart of Jerusalem to voice their pained protest. They were addressed by esteemed leaders representing a cross-section of Torah Jewry that included the elder Sephardi Rosh Yeshivah Rav Moshe Tzadka; renowned mashpiah Rav Meilich Biderman; the Rebbes of Toldos Aharon and Satmar, and the sons of Rav Michel Yehudah Lefkovitz, Rav Michel Feinstein and Rav Yisrael Yaakov Fisher. A letter expressing the anguish of leading American roshei yeshivah was read there, too.
On these shores, however, it was difficult to find anyone who had heard of the tragic incident and the response of Eretz Yisrael’s Torah Jewry. But the Beis Hamikdash belongs to all Jews, wherever they live. The visages of gedolei Eretz Yisrael — including those who were the recent targets — grace the covers of the publications found in our homes. We study their words of wisdom and read stories of their greatness, seeking to be included under the blessed canopy they provide for the Shechinah in this world.
And so, this is my column for Tishah B’Av, to raise a voice, even if barely audible, even for just a fleeting moment, to object in the name of G-d and his People. For Him, and for us, if for no one else.
Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 869. Eytan Kobre may be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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