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  • Why the community of ancient Jerusalem was destroyed?

    Shmuel Katanov

    The 9th of Av is the most horrible and darkest day in Jewish history. Thousands of Roman troops came to the walls of Jerusalem and on 9th of Av, Jerusalem was on fire. Why? What did the Jews in the community do, so this happened to the nation?

    The Talmud, Gittin 55–56 says, that Second Bet Hamikdash was destroyed because of an argument of two people - Kamtza & Bar Kamtza. The story goes like this, there are was a man who made a party and he asked his servant to go and invite his friend Kamtza. The servant went, but instead of going to Kamtza, by mistake he invited his enemy Bar Kamtza. Already on the party, as the host was going from table to table, he noticed his enemy sitting and having a good time with the rest of the people. The host came over and asked him: What are you doing here? Bar Kamtza answered politely and said, that he was invited by his servant. That's when the host realized that his servant made a mistake, and called the wrong guy. Furiously, he asked the guy to leave the party, but Bar Kamtza offered to pay for his meal and asked him not to make a scene and humiliate him in front of everyone. But the host refused and asked him again to leave. Bar Kamtza offered to pay for half of the cost of the party and then for the whole party, but the host refused and threw him out from the party.

    The Talmud says, that people present at the party, especially the Torah sages, sat quietly and didn't get involved. The Talmud rebukes this behavior and says at the end, that this incident was the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple.

    Any argument is accompanied by gossip and spreading of rumors.

    The same thing happened many times in our history, and every time the reaction from Hashem was very severe. 

    - Yosef was saying about his brothers to his father, and for that they hated him. Because of this, the brothers sold Yosef, and later the whole family emigrated to Egypt. (Bereshit Chapter 37, and Bereshit Rabah 84:7)

    - Moshe was puzzled at why the Jewish people had such a hard life being slaves in Egypt. But when he found out that amongst them were people that spread rumors, he understood why this was their fate. (Shemot and Rashi 2:14)

    - When the spies came back and slandered the Eretz Yisrael, those that believed paid with their life - all the adults died and were buried in the desert. (Parashat Shelach)

    - Doeg, the Head of Sanhedrin, was solely responsible for the killing of the City of Kohanim. (Shmuel 22:9)

    - The armies of Shaul HaMelech were losing battles with Philistines because people were spreading rumors about (already anointed and future) King David. (Midrash Shocher Tov 7:8)

    There are lots of other stories where people slandered and all of them have one thing in common - all these events break one commandment: The Commandment of Lashon Hara - which means to say something bad, even though this is true. (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Hachaim 156:10)

    - It is forbidden to repeat something about someone, even though this may not be negative, this is called Rechilut. (Vayikra 19:16, Mishneh Torah, Chilchot Deot Chapter 7)

    - It is forbidden to listen when someone says something negative about someone. The person should admonish the speaker, and if this is not possible, he needs to remove himself from his presence. (Chafetz Chaim 6:2, based on Talmud Ketubot 5A and many other sources)

    - And even if the person heard something negative about someone, he is not allowed to believe it, on the contrary, he needs to give him a benefit of the doubt and justify his actions, and always judge a person for good. (Talmud Pesachim 118A, also in the commentaries of Rashbam in Perek HaMekabel)

    In the Book of Shemot, Parashat Vayera 18:1 - 18:33 talks about Avraham Avinu right after he made a brit, the three angels came to him. One of the angels said that he came to destroy the cities of Soddom and Gomorrah. When Avraham Avinu heard that, he started praying to Hashem and asked Him if there are fifty righteous people that live there - for their sake not to destroy the cities. Hashem told him, there are not. Then he asked him to save the cities for forty five and again He said they are not there. Then he asked for thirty, and twenty and still he got a negative answer. Then once again he approached Hashem in prayer and asked to save the cities for ten righteous people and still, Hashem said even ten don't exist in those cities. Rashi says, that lawyer - Avraham Avinu fell silent, and Hashem left his presence since there are were not even ten tzaddikim in order to save the cities in their merit.

    In the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, there are were no ten members of the community that have thought well of Bar Kamtza, and who were willing to get up and publicly defend him and stop the host of the party. People have been gossiping about Bar Kamtza, and others believed and have been spreading it further, this was an epidemic in the society that had laws against this kind of behavior. People were so sure that Bar Kamtza was the guilty party, that they have assumed the roles of the observers at the party. They were judging Bar Kamtza unfavorably since they already had an opinion of him, which was under an influence of all the gossiping and rumors going around before this incident at the party. And with all of this - laws of lashon hara and other laws were broken, which led to the destruction of the Second Temple, loss of millions of lives and an exile till our time.

    We are in exile, which means this disease is still plaguing us. And if there's a person amongst us, about whom everyone is talking, and talking very badly, and people believe and spread rumors, and based on these rumors he is being judged and treated differently, while imposing on him more and more of the new labels and accusations - this is called Lashon Hara - talking badly, spreading of rumors and gossiping, which Torah calls in two words - Sinat Chinam or Baseless Hatred. 

    And if in that place you still have 50, 45, 30, 20 or 10 righteous people, that do not believe all that gossip - contrary to public pressure, then there's still hope that Hashem's fury can be turned away. We should always try to prevent the community from speaking and spreading rumors, using our influence and communal pressure, and squash this type of behavior right from the start. 

    And if not? And the rumors went far - then there's a job to do - he should be cleaning up - when he sees those that heard and those that might have heard, he needs to convince them that this is not true, and ask Hashem for mercy. (Sefer Chafetz Chaim). Otherwise as was said in the previous articles, our Small Batey Mikdashim - homes, synagogues, and social places are at stake.

    Our Chachamim taught, "Any generation in which the Temple is not built, it is as if it had been destroyed in their times" (Talmud Yerushalmi, Yoma 1A). Because that generation continues at the footsteps of the one that caused the destruction of the Temple. They are not trying to fix the mistakes of the past generations, but continue doing the same destructive sins in the eyes of Hashem and the nation.

    Our goal - is to build strong families and communities which have to live by Torah laws. Based on our life experience we need to help people, by giving them advice, guiding and encouraging all those that fell in life - and to do this not because we owe them or they owe us, but just like that, as the Gemara says: Loving and helping another Jew without any reason - Achavat Chinam - Baseless Love

    This action alone will grow, multiply and strengthen the Jewish Nation and our communities while doing an unforgettable action of bringing peace between people and families, for which Hashem Himself will repay. This action will be responsible for many that have left to return back to Hashem and to His Torah and mitzvot. And based on everything that is said above, we and our families will merit to see Moshiach, while doing our part to his speedy arrival to free us from this prolonged exile.

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  • За что была наказана община в древнем Иерусалиме?

    Шмуэль Катанов

    9 Ава - это один из жутких и тёмных дней в истории Еврейского народа. Тысячное войско римлян подошло к  стенам Иерусалима и девятого Ава Иерусалим горел. А почему? Что такое сделали евреи чтоб такое произошло с народом?

    Талмуд Гиттин 55-56 рассказывает, что Второй Храм был разрушен из-за раздора двух людей Камцы и Бар Камцы. Однажды один человек сделал пир и пригласил множество гостей, и сказал своему слуге позвать его друга Камцу. Но слуга перепутал и случайно позвал его врага Бар Камцу. Уже в разгаре пира, хозяин торжества заметил что его враг сидит за столом. Подойдя к нему он с удивлением спросил его, что он здесь делает? Тот вежливо объяснил что его пригласил его же слуга. Поняв ошибку своего слуги, он потребовал чтобы тот немедленно покинул торжество. Тогда "незваный гость" предложил заплатить за своё место за что он получил отказ. Тогда он предложил заплатить за половину торжества, а после и за всё торжество, но он опять получил отказ и был выставлен за двери. 

    Талмуд говорит, что присутствующие гости, а именно знатоки Торы молча сидели и не остановили хозяина во время стычки с этим гостем. Талмуд очень осуждает это поведение и говорит в конце, что это и послужило причиной разрушения Второго Храма. 

    Любой спор сопровождается сплетнями и разносами ложных слухов. 

    Такое же повторяется много раз в истории нашего народа, и каждый раз ответная реакция Г-спода очень суровая. 

    - Ёсеф говорил негативно своему отцу Яакову про своих братьев, за что они его ненавидели. Это поведение привело к тому что его продали и вся семья должна была переселиться в Египет. (Берешит глава 37, и Берешит Раба 84:7)

    - Моше удивлялся почему Еврейскому народу досталась такая тяжелая участь быть рабами в Египте. Но когда он узнал что среди них есть разносчики слухов, он понял почему у них такая судьба. (Шемот и Раши 2:14) 

    - Когда разведчики оклеветали землю Израиль то поверившие им люди поплатились жизнью и никто не попал в Израиль. (Глава Шелах)

    - Доэг, Глава Санхедрина, был виноват в бойне всего Города Коэнов. (Шмуэль 22:9) 

    - Армии Царя Шауля проигрывали бои с Филистимлянами потому что люди пускали слухи про (уже помазанного и будущего) Царя Давида. (Мидраш Шохер Тов 7:8)

    Есть много других историй где клеветали, и все они имеют что-то одно общее в себе - все эти события нарушают один запрет: Запрет Лашон Ара - что означает говорить о ком-то плохо, даже если это правда. (Шулхан Арух, Орах Хаим 156:10)

    - Запрещено повторять что-то о ком-то, даже если это не негативное, это называется Рехилут (Ваикра 19:16, Мишней Тора, Хильхот Деот Глава 7)

    - Запрещено слушать когда говорят о ком-то плохо. Человек должен сделать говорящему выговор, а если это невозможно, просто убрать себя из этой ситуации. (Хафец Хаим 6:2 основываясь на Талмуд Кетубот 5А и на другие источники)

    - И даже если человек услышал что то негативное о ком-то, то ему запрещено этому верить. Наоборот, человек должен оправдать того человека и всегда судить другого человека в хорошую сторону. (Талмуд Песахим 118А, а также в комментариях Рашбама в Пэрэк ХаМекабэль).

    В Книге Шемот, Глава Ваера 18:1 - 18:33 рассказывается что когда Авраам Авину сделал себе обрезание, то к нему пришли 3 ангела. Один из ангелов сказал что он пришёл разрушить города Содом и Гоморра. Услышав это Авраам Авину попросил Г-спода не разрушать эти города в заслугу пятидесяти праведников которые там живут. В ответ Г-сподь сказал ему что там их нет. Тогда он попросил а может там сорок пять в ответ было нет. А может там тридцать, всё то же нет, а может двадцать и опять нет. И тогда Авраам Авину попробовал в последний раз и спросил а может десять, и он услышал всё то же нет. Раши говорит, что когда адвокат - Авраам Авину замолчал, Г-сподь покинул его, потому-что там не было даже десяти праведников чтобы в их заслугу спасти эти города. 

    В истории с Камцой и Бар Камцой не оказалось даже десяти членов общины которые думали бы о Бар Камце хорошо, и посчитали бы нужным публично за него заступиться и остановить хозяина торжества. Про Бар Камцу разносили слухи, а другие верили и разносили дальше, это было эпидемией в обществе в которой есть законы против такого вида поведения. Люди настолько были уверенны в том что Бар Камца был не прав, что они молча смотрели со стороны на их спор. Они судили его негативно потому что они уже имели о нём мнение которое уже было под влиянием слухов и которое было привито им до этой встречи. И этим поведением они нарушили законы злословия и ряд других законов, что и послужило разрушению Храма, потере миллионов жизней и изгнанию до сегодняшнего дня.

    Мы в изгнании, а значит этот недуг всё ещё с нами. И если среди нас есть счастливчик про которого говорят, и говорят очень даже плохо, и все верят и разносят слухи ложные или даже правдивые о нём, и этим его судят и смотрят на него по новым меркам, навязывая на него всё новые и новые ярлыки и обвинения - это и называется Лашон Ара - Злоязычие и распространение слухов, которую Тора называет в двух словах - Синат Хинам или Беспричинная Ненависть

    И если в том местечке всё ещё есть 50, 45, 30, 20 или 10 праведных людей, которые не верят всем тем слухам - наперекор общественному давлению, то всё ещё есть надежда что гнев Г-спода можно предотвратить, ну а если нет? Мы всячески должны стараться не допустить чтобы  в общине говорили и распространяли слухи, используя наше влияние, должны присекать такое поведение прямо в началеА в случае если они были уже распространены - то у него есть работа надолго - он должен заняться чисткой - при встречах с теми кто слышал, и как далеко это пошло, переубедить их что это не правда, и просить Г-спода о пощаде. (Сефер Хафец Хаим). Иначе как было сказано в предыдущих статьях, наши Маленькие Батей Микдашим - дома, синагоги и социальные заведения на кону и стоят под ударом

    Наши Мудрецы говорят, "В том поколении в котором Храм не был построен, как будто он был разрушен в их дни" (Иерусалимский Талмуд, Трактат Ёма страница 1А). Потому что, это поколение следует по тем же стопам тех поколений из-за которых был разрушен Храм, не стараясь исправить ошибки предыдущих, а продолжая делать всё те же самые разрушающие и пакостные преступления в глазах Г-спода и народа. 

    Наша задача
    - построить сильные общины и крепкие семьи которые должны жить по законам Торы. Основываясь на наш жизненый опыт мы должны помогать людям, давая хорошие советы, помогая и подбадривая всех тех кого подкосила жизнь - и делать всё это не потому что мы им чем-то обязаны или они нам, а делать всё это просто так, или как Гемара называет: Любить и помогать другому еврею без причины - Ахават Хинам или Беспричинная Любовь к ближнему

    Этим мы способствуем росту и укреплению всего Еврейского народа, делая незабываемый вклад в мирные отношения между людьми и семьями, действие которое может по настоящему оценить и наградить только Вс-вышний. А также это возвратит обратно всех тех которые ушли от Торы, и возвратит их к Торе и исполнению митцвот. Основываясь на всё что сказано выше, мы и наши родные удостоимся увидеть Мошияха, делая свой вклад к его скорейшему приближению и полному освобождению из этого затянувшегося изгнания.

     

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  • Arguments for the Sake of Heaven

    Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

    The Korach rebellion was not just the worst of the revolts from the wilderness years. It was also different in kind because it was a direct assault on Moses and Aaron. Korach and his fellow rebels, in essence, accused Moses of nepotism, of failure, and above all of being a fraud – of attributing to God decisions and laws that Moses had devised himself for his own ends. So grave was the attack that it became, for the Sages, a paradigm of the worst kind of disagreement:

    Which is an argument for the sake of Heaven? The argument between Hillel and Shammai. Which is an argument not for the sake of Heaven? The argument of Korach and his company. (Mishnah Avot 5:17)

    Menahem Meiri (Catalonia, 1249–1306) explains this teaching in the following terms:

    The argument between Hillel and Shammai: In their debates, one of them would render a decision and the other would argue against it, out of a desire to discover the truth, not out of cantankerousness or a wish to prevail over his fellow. An argument not for the sake of Heaven was that of Korach and his company, for they came to undermine Moses, our master, may he rest in peace, and his position, out of envy and contentiousness and ambition for victory.[1]

    The Sages were drawing a fundamental distinction between two kinds of conflict: an argument for the sake of truth and argument for the sake of victory. 

    The passage must be read this way, because of the glaring discrepancy between what the rebels said and what they sought. What they said was that the people did not need leaders. They were all holy. They had all heard the word of God. There should be no distinction of rank, no hierarchy of holiness, within Israel. “Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” (Num. 16:3). Yet from Moses’ reply, it is clear that he had heard something altogether different behind their words:

    Moses also said to Korach, “Now listen, you Levites! Is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near Himself to do the work at the Lord’s Tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near Himself, but now you are trying to get the Priesthood too.” (Num. 16:8–10)

    It was not that they wanted a community without leaders. It is, rather, that they wanted to be the leaders. The rebels’ rhetoric had nothing to do with the pursuit of truth and everything to do with the pursuit of honor, status, and (as they saw it) power. They wanted not to learn but to win. They sought not verity but victory.

    We can trace the impact of this in terms of the sequence of events that followed. First, Moses proposed a simple test. Let the rebels bring an offering of incense the next day and God would show whether He accepted or rejected their offering. This is a rational response. Since what was at issue was what God wanted, let God decide. It was a controlled experiment, an empirical test. God would let the people know, in an unambiguous way, who was right. It would establish, once and for all, the truth.

    But Moses did not stop there, as he would have done if truth were the only issue involved. As we saw in the quote above, Moses tried to argue Korach out of his dissent, not by addressing his argument but by speaking to the resentment that lay behind it. He told him that he had been given a position of honour. He may not have been a Priest but he was a Levite, and the Levites had special sacred status not shared by the other tribes. He was telling him to be satisfied with the honour he had and not let his ambition overreach itself.

    He then turned to Datan and Aviram, the Reubenites. Given the chance, he would have said something different to them since the source of their discontent was different from that of Korach. But they refused to meet with him altogether – another sign that they were not interested in the truth. They had rebelled out of a profound sense of slight that the tribe of Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn son, seemed to have been left out altogether from the allocation of honours.

    At this point, the confrontation became yet more intense. For the one and only time in his life, Moses staked his leadership on the occurrence of a miracle:

    Then Moses said, “By this you shall know that it was the Lord who sent me to do all these things, that they were not of my own devising: If these men die a natural death and suffer the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.” (Num. 16:28–30)

    No sooner had he finished speaking than “the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them” (Num. 16:32). The rebels “went down alive into the grave” (16:33). One cannot imagine a more dramatic vindication. God had shown, beyond possibility of doubt, that Moses was right and the rebels wrong. Yet this did not end the argument. That is what is extraordinary. Far from being apologetic and repentant, the people returned the next morning still complaining – this time, not about who should lead whom but about the way Moses had chosen to end the dispute: “The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. ‘You have killed the Lord’s people,’ they said” (17:6).

    You may be right, they implied, and Korach may have been wrong. But is this a way to win an argument? To cause your opponents to be swallowed up alive? This time, God suggested an entirely different way of resolving the dispute. He told Moses to have each of the tribes take a staff and write their name on it, and place them in the Tent of Meeting. On the staff of the tribe of Levi, he should write the name of Aaron. One of the staffs would sprout, and that would signal whom God had chosen. The tribes did so, and the next morning they returned to find that Aaron’s staff had budded, blossomed, and produced almonds. That, finally, ended the argument (Num. 17:16–24).

    What resolved the dispute, in other words, was not a show of power but something altogether different. We cannot be sure, because the text does not spell this out, but the fact that Aaron’s rod produced almond blossoms seems to have had rich symbolism. In the Near East, the almond is the first tree to blossom, its white flowers signalling the end of winter and the emergence of new life. In his first prophetic vision, Jeremiah saw a branch of an almond tree (shaked) and was told by God that this was a sign that He, God, was “watching” (shoked) to see that His word was fulfilled (Jer. 1:11–12).[2] The almond flowers recalled the gold flowers on the Menorah (Ex. 25:31; 37:17), lit daily by Aaron in the Sanctuary. The Hebrew word tzitz, used here to mean “blossom,” recalls the tzitz, the “frontlet” of pure gold worn as part of Aaron’s headdress, on which were inscribed the words “Holy to the Lord” (Ex. 28:36).[3] The sprouting almond branch was therefore more than a sign. It was a multifaceted symbol of life, light, holiness, and the watchful presence of God.

    One could almost say that the almond branch symbolised the priestly will to life as against the rebels’ will to power.[4] The Priest does not rule the people; he blesses them. He is the conduit through which God’s life-giving energies flow.[5] He connects the nation to the Divine Presence. Moses answered Korach in Korach’s terms, by a show of force. God answered in a quite different way, showing that leadership is not self-assertion but self-effacement.

    What the entire episode shows is the destructive nature of argument not for the sake of Heaven – that is, argument for the sake of victory. In such a conflict, what is at stake is not truth but power, and the result is that both sides suffer. If you win, I lose. But if I win, I also lose, because in diminishing you, I diminish myself. Even a Moses is brought low, laying himself open to the charge that “you have killed the Lord’s people.” Argument for the sake of power is a lose-lose scenario.

    The opposite is the case when the argument is for the sake of truth. If I win, I win. But if I lose I also win – because being defeated by the truth is the only form of defeat that is also a victory. 

    In a famous passage, the Talmud explains why Jewish law tend to follow the view of the School of Hillel rather than their opponents, the School of Shammai:

    [The law is in accord with the School of Hillel] because they were kindly and modest, because they studied not only their own rulings but also those of the School of Shammai, and because they taught the words of the School of Shammai before their own. (Eiruvin 13b)

    They sought truth, not victory. That is why they listened to the views of their opponents, and indeed taught them before they taught their own traditions. In the eloquent words of a contemporary scientist, Timothy Ferris:

    All who genuinely seek to learn, whether atheist or believer, scientist or mystic, are united in having not a faith, but faith itself. Its token is reverence, its habit to respect the eloquence of silence. For God’s hand may be a human hand, if you reach out in loving kindness, and God’s voice your voice, if you but speak the truth.[6]

    Judaism has sometimes been called a “culture of argument.”[7] It is the only religious literature known to me whose key texts – the Hebrew Bible, Midrash, Mishnah, Talmud, the codes of Jewish law, and the compendia of biblical interpretation – are anthologies of arguments. That is the glory of Judaism. The Divine Presence is to be found not in this voice as against that, but in the totality of the conversation.[8]

    In an argument for the sake of truth, both sides win, for each is willing to listen to the views of its opponents, and is thereby enlarged. In argument as the collaborative pursuit of truth, the participants use reason, logic, shared texts, and shared reverence for texts. They do not use ad hominem arguments, abuse, contempt, or disingenuous appeals to emotion. Each is willing, if refuted, to say, “I was wrong.” There is no triumphalism in victory, no anger or anguish in defeat.

    The story of Korach remains the classic example of how argument can be dishonoured. The Schools of Hillel and Shammai remind us that there is another way. “Argument for the sake of Heaven” is one of Judaism’s noblest ideals – conflict resolution by honouring both sides and employing humility in the pursuit of truth.

    Shabbat Shalom,

    Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

    [1] Meiri, Beit HaBechira ad loc.
    [2] See L. Yarden, The Tree of Light (London: East and West Library, 1971), 40–42.
    [3] There may also be a hint of a connection with the tzitzit, the fringes with their thread of blue, that according to the Midrash was the occasion for the Korach revolt.
    [4] On the contemporary relevance of this, see Jonathan Sacks, Not in God’s Name (New York: Schocken, 2015), 252–268.
    [5] The phrase that comes to mind is Dylan Thomas’ “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower” (from the poem by the same name). Just as life flows through the tree to produce flowers and fruit, so a Divine life force flows through the Priest to produce blessings among the people.
    [6] Timothy Ferris, The Whole Shebang (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997), 312.
    [7] David Dishon, The Culture of Argument in Judaism [Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Schocken, 1984).
    [8] I have written more extensively on this in Future Tense (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2009), 181–206.

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