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Destroying That Is Building

The Torah commands us to destroy idols and houses of idol worship and concludes "lo taasun keyn lashem Elokeichem" - don't do this to Hashem. Meaning - it is forbidden to destroy a Jewish house of worship. This includes all shuls and of course the Beis Hamikdash. So the question cries out to the heavens: The Medrash says that Hashem keeps the mitzvos [and that is what it means when we say "asher kiddishanu bi'mitzvosav" - He sanctifed us with HIS mitzvos], so how could He transgress the prohibition of destroying the Beis Hamikdash? Spiritually, HE did it [see, for example Berachos 3a, seven lines from the bottom] - the goyim were merely messangers of Hashem.

Rav Leibel Schapiro gave the following explanation: Let's say I want to renovate a shul. The halacha is that I am allowed to destroy it in order to rebuild it in a more beautiful way. That is called "soser al minas livnos". The act of destroying is really viewed as an act of BUILDING! The gemara in Megilla says that when zekainim [elders] destroy they are really building. A fortiori ["kal vachomer" in the Talmudic vernacular] when Hashem destroys, certainly it is in order to build.

On Tisha B'av when the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed it was really the first step in the building of the Third Beis Hamikdash and the ultimate redemption. So is Tisha B'av a good day or a bad day? Both! [Such a Jewish answer]. Are birth pangs good or bad? They hurt, but hey, no birth pangs - no baby! That is why the gemara in Taanis calls Tisha B'av a "mo'ed" - a holiday. A holiday? Yes, a holiday. As I pointed out in a previous piece - on Tisha B'av we don't say Tachanun because on a deep level it is a happy day. [For some people I know, there is no greater way to enhance their simcha than by skipping tachanun. The sense of ELATION people feel when someone bangs on the bimah after chazaras hashatz and calls out "kaddish" [meaning "no tachanun"] is palpable!!]

This is why, explains Rabbi Zev Hoberman in his "Zev Yitrof", the Navi promises that our fast days will one day in the future turn into "sasson visimcha". Yes, friends, days of great joy and not merely regular days like any other. We will understand in retrospect how these days - the saddest days of the year - were really the times when the seeds were planted for the ultimate redemption.

This of course also explains Rebbe Akivas laughter [at the end of Masseches Makos] upon seeing a fox walking on Har Habayis. What is so funny? Why do we laugh? We laugh when the unexpected happens, when everything turns around. That is the secret of a good punchline in a joke. [Example: I went to the cinema, and the prices were: Adults $5.00, children $2.50. So I said, "Give me two boys and a girl." Or another - I bought used paint. It came in the shape of a house. One more: I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time." So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.] Rebbe Akiva was able to look into the future and see how all of the destruction was really the beginning of the building. What looked so horrible was really the greatest blessing.

Maybe that is why the story appears in Maseches Makkos. To teach us that all of the Makkos we receive in life are all part of our building process. Without suffering there is no growth. Punishment from Hashem is a means to enable us to reach greater heights. It is an act of love.

That also explains why the keruvim in the Kodesh Hakodoshim were found in an embrace at the time of the destruction, expressing Hashem's love for us [see Yoma 44]. Love, now?

Yes, love now.

May we all be zoche to recognize how all of the difficulties we face individually and as a nation are really the greatest blessings.

כתוב בגמרא, וכל המתאבל על ירושלים - זוכה ורואה בשמחתה, לא כתוב "יזכה ויראה" בלשון עתיד אלא "זוכה ורואה" בלשון הווה - במבט מעמיק כמו שזכה לו רבי עקיבא, אפשר כבר היום לראות את השמחה וניצני הגאולה

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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