This week’s alumni dvar torah is by Davida Kollmar
This week we read Parshat Devarim. One of the major topics of the Parshah is the sin of the Meraglim. Moshe sends out spies to tour Eretz Canaan, but the spies deliver a report which causes the Jews to not want to enter the land. As a result, Hashem punishes them by forcing them to wander in the desert for forty years as that whole generation dies.
It is significant that this Parshah is read this week. This Sunday we will be commemorating the fast of Tisha B’Av, although the actual date of 9 Av is on Shabbat. One of the most well known reasons for the fast is the destruction of the two Batei HaMikdash, which happened on that date. However, the Gemara in Taanit 29a lists three other reasons for the fast. One of them is that the sin of the Meraglim happened on the night of Tisha B’Av. The Gemara first uses dates to prove that the sin aligned with the 9th of Av. It then cements its proof with a Drashah:
וכתיב (במדבר יד:א) ותשא כל העדה ויתנו את קולם ויבכו העם בלילה ההוא. אמר רבה אמר רבי יוחנן: אותה לילה ליל תשעה באב היה.אמר להם הקדוש ברוך הוא: אתם בכיתם בכיה של חנם – ואני קובע לכם בכיה לדורות
And it says (Bamidbar 14:1), “And the whole nation raised their voices and they cried on that night.” Raabbah says in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: That night was the night of the 9th of Av. Hashem said to them: You cried a cry of no purpose, and I will set for you crying for generations.
The Gemara is honing in on the language of crying and relates the crying of the spies to the cries of Tisha B’Av for generations to come. Bamidbar Rabbah on Parshat Shelach elaborates on this, and says that at the time of the sin of the spies, Hashem decreed that the Beit HaMikdash would be destroyed and that the Jews would be exiled.
(As a side note: Drawing on the language of crying in Eichah 1:2, the Midrash in Eichah Rabbah also quotes the crying at the sin of the Meraglim as a source of the crying on Tisha B’Av. However, it adds another source – the crying of the Jews in the desert in Parshat BeHaalotchah that they wanted meat. This incident led to the appointment of the elders, an event to which it can be argued that the appointment of judges in the beginning of this Parshah is related.)
What is interesting, however, is that the Parshah read this week is not Parshat Shelach, where the story of the spies originally occurred; rather, it is Parshat Devarim, where the story is repeated to that generation’s children, the generation of Jews who are about to enter the land. Other than the technical reason that this is how the calendar falls out, what is the significance that it is the repetition of the story which we read before Tisha B’Av?
The Maharsha in his Chiddushei Aggadot on Taanit 29a discusses the difference in tellings between the two Parshiyot. One of the differences that he notices is that in Parshat Devarim (1:22), Moshe says, “ותקרבון אלי כלכם”, and all of you came before me. The Maharsha asks how Moshe could say this. After all, it was not his current audience who came before him, it was their parents’ generation. The Maharsha, quoting a Midrash, answers that in fact, the children were involved in the sin. Their fathers responded to the spies’ report by crying in their tents in fear of what would happen to their children if they entered the land, and the children cried along with their fathers. The Maharsha continues that the reason why Moshe rebuked the next generation was so that they would improve their ways as well, because if they would not, it would be them who would be experiencing the crying for generations that was caused by the sins of their fathers.
This focus on the children relates to our commemoration of Tisha B’Av. The Gemara in Sanhedrin 27b notes a contradiction between 2 Pesukim: Shemot 34:7 seems to indicate that Hashem punishes children for their parents’ sins, whereas Devarim 24:16 states that children will not die for their parents’ sins. The Gemara resolves the contradiction by saying that the children will die for their parents’ sins if they continue in the ways of their sinning parents.
This idea of children following in the ways of their parents is precisely what Moshe is warning against. The crying of generations would be a result of the cry of the parents only if the children would follow in their parents’ footsteps. Unfortunately, generations later, that is exactly what happened. Because of the Jews’ sins, they were punished with the destruction of the Batei Mikdash on the exact day of their parents’ original sin. And the fact that the Beit HaMikdash has not been rebuilt is a testament to the fact that we have not yet completely left our ancestors’ path of sin.
This Shabbat afternoon, immediately preceding Tisha B’Av, we will read the beginning of Parshat Va’Etchanan. In this part of the Parshah, Moshe pleads with Hashem for the opportunity to enter Eretz Yisrael. Unfortunately, Hashem refuses to give in to his request and only allows him to see Eretz Yisrael from a distance. May it happen soon that the requests of Moshe and of subsequent generations to enter the land of Israel and rebuild the Beit HaMikdash will be granted.
Davida Kollmar is an alumna of SBM 2014. She rejoined CMTL this summer to act as the Program Administrator for SBM and Midreshet Avigayil.