What we really need to be mourning on Tisha B’Av
Translated and excerpted from Rabbi Eliezer Berland’s words, as brought in the Tzama Nafshi newsletter.
“These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel, across the Jordan, in the wilderness, in the Plain, opposite the Sea of Reeds, between Paran and Tophel and Laban, and Hazeroth and Di-Zahav….” – Devarim 1:1
Rashi tells us that it’s obvious that ‘Zahav’ – gold – refers to the sin of the Golden Calf.
When Moshe Rabbenu admonished Am Yisrael over the worst and the biggest transgression they’d ever done, he only spoke in hints.
This is hard to understand, because after all, Moshe could have said things directly. Why did Moshe have to talk about this via hints? The Komarna Rebbe explains that Moshe Rabbenu was scared to ‘wake up’ judgments over the nation of Israel, because it’s forbidden – always! – to give rebuke.
Because when we rebuke, from that point on a person is considered to be sinning deliberately.
Up until now, he sinned because he wasn’t paying attention, he didn’t know what they’d do to him, he forgot about his sins, he was sinning “inadvertently”.
But once we admonish someone, and remind him of his sins – and he still doesn’t wake up – then he’s now already considered to be sinning deliberately.
So, Moshe was nervous that perhaps Israel wouldn’t feel embittered about their sin, and they wouldn’t make teshuva the way they should, so he was scared to give over his rebuke openly, and only admonished them via hints.
By acting in this way, Moshe earned two different benefits. Firstly, that if a person didn’t wake up from the hints, he still wouldn’t be actively reminded of his sins. You aren’t waking up? You don’t understand the hints? So, there’s still no ‘din’, no judgment upon you (i.e. he remains in the category of someone who is sinning “inadvertently”.)
The second benefit earned by Moshe relates to those students who learn Torah in great depth and great detail, because the rule is that by way of learning the Torah in-depth, the judgments are sweetened. Moshe was talking to them via hints, so also here, in this way, the judgments would be sweetened by way of his students focusing intently on every single word that he said.
Because a person who really thinks deeply in the Tzaddik’s hints, and who really concentrates on every single word: What does the Tzaddik really mean? – This by itself sweetens all the judgments for him, and this by itself is his teshuva. This by itself gives hime the merit of waking up, and rectifying his sins.
Rabbi Natan says that this is how we bring the Moshiach:
We sit on the floor, and we cry and mourn over the destruction [of the Temple]. And what are we really grieving about? Over our own sins. We have to believe that I destroyed the Beit HaMikdash, only me, and nobody else besides me. When I don’t guard my eyes, I destroy Jerusalem, and I cause a spirit of tumah (spiritual impurity) to hover over Jerusalem.
By way of doing hitbodedut, and by nullifying his ego, and by searching his deeds, and hanging the destruction of the temple upon himself – this the only way the geula is really going to come!
What does it mean, to do hitbodedut?
Hitbodedut is really just one thing, to get to that place of ego nullification, and to know that I am zero, I am nothing, and that I shouldn’t have the slightest trace of arrogance or tangible substance.
Because people spend their whole day thinking that I’m the smartest, I’m the sharpest, I’m the most successful, I’m the most learned….
24 hours a day, they are just thinking arrogant thoughts, proud thoughts about themselves, and seeing visions of themselves. That’s he’s the most successful, and the most fortunate, and the sharpest mind. His brain is working around the clock, because the mind is infinite. If we could open up someone’s mind, we would see a million thoughts a second:
I’m the sharpest, I’m the cleverest, I’m the most successful….
The purpose of hitbodedut is very simple, that we start to have a full hour where we slow our thoughts down.
We need to relax a little. You aren’t the most, the most, the most… There are other clever people in the world, there are other successful people in the world, there are others who understand things, too.
Your poor soul! It can’t return to its spiritual root. It wants to return to ‘nothingness’. The soul is Divine, it doesn’t want to keep hearing all these figments of the imagination. Give it some comfort – just one hour a day! And the main point of hitbodedut, the Rebbe tells us, occurs at night.
Likutey Moharan I:52:
“[I]t is impossible to reach surrender [of the ego] other than by way of hitbodedut, for by secluding oneself and expressing oneself before God, one thereby merits surrendering all of the lusts and negative character traits, until one merits completely surrendering one’s materiality and becoming contained within one’s Source….
“Now, hitbodedut requires a special place and time, so that one is not distracted by disturbances. The special time is at night…when everyone is sleeping. And the special place is along an isolated path, rather than on a trodden path, so that one is not disturbed by passerby.”
Dafka, this is why we need the night.
When it’s quiet, and when no-one is really thinking about how he can grab more dollars, and how he can run to the bank, etc. At that hour when everyone else is sleeping, and weary, sit down, do some hitbodedut, and work on your humility.
And only this type of hitbodedut will nullify all the decrees and judgments.
And if, chas v’halila, we see a harsh judgment in our hour of hitbodedut, it’s a sign that we didn’t do our hitbodedut correctly. I did some hitbodedut about becoming the next Moshe Rabbenu, I did some hitbodedut about seeing Eliyahu Hanavi. I did some hitbodedut about bringing the Moshiach.
These are all wonderful goals. But, this is not the purpose of hitbodedut. In truth, when a person does hitbodedut, and he sits on the floor and he knows – I’m doing things wrong every single second, every thought I have, every criticism I make, every judgment I pass, the whole way I look at things – everything is wrong.
So then, the geula shleima (complete redemption) will come immediately, Bezrat Hashem.