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Dvarim –Chazon

The Torah reading of this Shabbat and the attendant Haftorah from the book of Isaiah always precedes the week of the fast day of the ninth of Av. It is as though our teacher Moshe, a millennium before the destruction of the First Temple, already envisioned the disaster that would befall the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.

This is also true regarding the words of the prophet Isaiah who, a century before the destruction of the Temple and the exile of Israel to Babylonia and Egypt, predicts and describes the sad event. It is not only the gift of prophecy that Moshe and Isaiah possessed that allowed them to so graphically portray what would happen in the distant future. It is their keen ability to see the problems that actually produced the sad result that we commemorate this coming week.
Moshe despairs over the pettiness of their behavior, their constant carping and complaining, and of the burdens that they unnecessarily place upon their leaders and teachers. Isaiah complains regarding the moral and monetary corruption of their leaders and society, and of the acceptance by the people of such failings. There are no voices raised in objection to the obvious destruction being wrought on Jewish society.
There is no feeling in the general society that somehow they were to be an exceptional people and a light unto the nations of the world. Without this societal feeling there apparently existed no reason for the Jewish kingdom and its holy Temple to survive and continue. Without the mission of the Torah and the feeling of Jewish exceptionalism, the purpose of the Jewish state and its Temple became irrelevant.
It would first take decades and later ages of exile to somehow impress the Jewish people as to their true role in society and civilization. Even then vast numbers of Jews would remain unaware of their place in society and of their purpose for existence. They would view themselves as though nothing exceptional was to be demanded from them and they would measure their achievements by the yardstick that others established for them.
So, it would take a world of millennia-long persecution, discrimination and anti-Semitism to drive home to the Jewish people that they are somehow exceptional, different and that their history, and their God Who guides it, places a unique and holy mission upon them and all of their generations.
The anniversary of the destruction of the Temples serves to remind all of us of the cost of not realizing who we are and, just as importantly, why we are. This day of sadness serves also to be a day of contemplation and renewed dedication to the values and mission that the Torah and our tradition imposes upon us. It is not only a day of mourning but it is a day of self-renewal and commitment. That is why the rabbis saw it as a day of potential joy and a holiday. May it turn out to be that way even this very year.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein

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