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Oct 21, 2009 by Rabbi Pesach Siegel

 

The mishna tells us that five tragedies occurred on shiva asar biTammuz. The luchos habris were shattered by Moshe Rabeinu, King Menashe placed a pair of idols within the confines of the first Beis HaMikdash, The Greek king Apustumos had a sefer torah committed to flames, the offering of the korban tamid ceased prior to the destruction of the second Beis HaMikdash, and twice, on this day, the wall around Yerushalayim was breached.

 

Are these just five random events that coincidentally fell out on the same day?

 

Let us explore:

 

The gemora determines the exact date Menashe’s idols were placed in the Beis HaMikdash by quoting a passage in Sefer Daniel, “Ume’es hussar hatamid velosais shikutz shamem”, loosely translated as, “When the korban tamid ceased to be brought, the desolate idol was placed”.

 

Menashe brought the idol into the first Beis Hamikdash. At the time, the korban tamid was still being offered. It was terminated, much later, during the period of the second Beis HaMikdash. Why was the later event used as a reference point for the earlier one? Wasn’t it the other way around? In addition, the source for the date of the bitul hatamid is  a tradition, a mesorah. The passage in Daniel is identifying the day the idols were placed, by referring to an event that is not mentioned anywhere in the written Torah. This is perplexing.

 

Here is another example of “time-shifting.”  The wall surrounding Yerushalayim was breached. The posuk in Yirmiyahu tells us this was on the ninth day of Tammuz. The Talmud Yerushalmi explains this is a mistake. A MISTAKE?! The Maharsha explains, At that time of year the solar calendar differs from the lunar one by a span of eight days. Our enemies, the idol worshippers have always sought to deny us our lawful practice of keeping time according to the lunar calendar. They made decrees forbidding it, and due to their interference an error was made. The breach was thought to have occurred on the ninth day of Tammuz, but in reality, it was the seventeenth. We know this to be accurate based on a medrash Chazal. The posuk in Yirmiyahu  compares the period between shiva asar biTammuz and tisha bi’Av to the process of an almond tree. Just as it takes twenty one days for an almond to develop, so too, it took twenty one days for the destruction to reach its culmination. The posuk states clearly the breach of the walls was on the ninth of Tammuz, yet we determine it to be an error. Because when starting from tisha bi’Av and counting backwards twenty one days, one arrives at shiva asar biTammuz.

 

The Torah is the source of truth. If the people were in error, why is their error recorded in Sefer Yirmiyahu, (and is restated in Sefer Melachim) for all eternity?

 

It is time to discuss the two other tragedies, the breaking of the luchos habris and the burning of the sefer torah. The Maharsha explains that they are one and the same. The luchos habris were the vehicles that Hashem used to give us the Torah in a written form. Had Hashem not given us the Torah in that manner, we would be unable to derive any benefit or understanding by gazing at the written words of the Torah. If the giving of the luchos is the process, then the sefer torah is the culmination of that process. We are blessed. We can actually see Torah before our very eyes, and understand it with absolute clarity. There can be no machlokes concerning the written word, just look inside and see what is there.

 

This was destroyed….twice. Once, due to our sins, by Moshe Rabeinu, and once by the wicked Apustumos.

 

Our clarity of vision is a vast threat to those who wish to escape their destiny and hide from the truth. Wasn’t it Hitler, yemach shemo vezichro, who said, “The Jew is the conscience of the world, and man cannot truly be free as long as the Jew walks the earth?”

 

It now becomes clear why these events took place specifically during the months of summer. As the Maharal explains, the destruction took place in the summer months, the months that the sun reigns supreme.

 

The gemora teaches us that the nations of the world are compared to the sun. The sun is overpowering, the sun grants life to the entire world, it is a constant, never wavering. Day after day it rises, unfailingly. When it shines there is no presence of darkness. Darkness and sunshine cannot co-exist.

 

“What is so dreadful about this?”, one might wonder. Because even worse than a lack of clarity is distorted clarity. A mistaken sense of reality is dangerous. When one suffers a lack of clarity he can proceed with caution, because at least he knows “that he doesn’t know”.  He may eventually arrive at the emmes. But those that are confident in their distorted perception of reality, those that assume that the way they perceive things are clear as the light of day, will never arrive at the truth.

 

Our oppressors are not satisfied in simply suppressing us. They must totally overcome us by replacing our perspective, our value system, with one of their own. They are determined to view reality by their own light. It is for this reason that they are compared to the sun.

 

Now perhaps we can gain an understanding in why our enemies were so tenacious in altering the way we mark time. They want us to be prisoners of their reality, their sense of time, the way they see things by the light of their constantly shining sun. Their sun shines for them, and enables then to cast their own imprint on creation.

 

We have an infinitely different view of the sun, as well as all the heavenly bodies. They exist to bring light to G-d’s world. We see the G-dliness within them and are filled with love and awe for the One who created them. One who gazes at them properly can be illuminated with understanding and wisdom. There are korbanos brought every month according to a lunar schedule. And there is a  korban brought on a constant daily basis, day after day, never fail. The korban called “tamid” – constant.

 

The seventeenth day of Tammuz is when the sun ascends to its zenith; the three weeks following are when the full force of the sun is revealed. It is the day when the forces opposed to us endeavor with all their might to replace our true light with their false anti-light.

 

And so, the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash began with the bitul hatamid – the extinguishing of the avoda that represents a constant light.

 

Darkness, confusion, and obscurity are the very roots of avoda zara. Menashe had two idols placed in the Beis HaMikdash. The Maharal explains the reasoning behind this.  Avoda zara represents the misconception that the forces within creation are independently empowered. This mistaken assumption leads to the following conclusion: Contradictory powers cannot emanate from the same source. There must be two separate sources. The source for fire cannot be the same source for water. They are mutually exclusive. It is though this prism that the idolaters view the world. Menashe placed two idols within the confines of the Beis HaMikdash. This was an act of replacing the illumination of the Beis HaMikdash with the sun of a false reality.

 

Rav Chaim of Volozhin teaches us in his Sefer Nefesh haChayim, that the Beis HaMikdash does not conform to the normal rules of time and space. It cannot be destroyed by normal physical means. Titus was only able to destroy the Beis HaMikdash because the Jewish nation had already destroyed the soul of the Beis HaMikdash within their own hearts. It would be entirely beyond the realm of possibility for an avoda zara to make its way into the confines of the Beis HaMikdash. Totally inconceivable. Unless … the path was prepared for it beforehand. The idols were brought in on the day the korban tamid ceased to be brought. This is true in both the physical sense and in the metaphysical sense. In the physical realm, the placement of the idols preceded the cessation of the tamid. But on an internal level, the order was reversed, the korban tamid within the soul of the Jewish nation, ceased. And so, our opening difficulty is resolved. The idols were placed on the actual day that the internal korban tamid came to an end.

 

Shiva asar biTammuz is a day when the very words of the Torah were shattered. Anyone who attempts to unearth the truth buried within the depths of the Torah from studying the written word alone, will inevitably come to the same conclusions, the same meanings, that the nations of the world have assigned to these words. It is their sun that is shining now. We no longer possess the faculty of understanding pure unadulterated Torah shebiksav. When the Torah identifies the day the walls were breached, it does so by including with the very words of the Torah “the mistaken date”. Why does the Torah do this? Because from that time on, we see the written word through their eyesight. It is, therefore, the calculation based on the sun that is recorded, not the lunar date of shiva asar. It is no mistake, it is the new reality.

 

Thus, the five tragedies that befell us are all one. There is a common thread running throughout. We can no longer trust our perceptions of reality. Yerushalayim is called, “Oro shel olam”, the source of light for the world. The walls around Yerushalayim have been breached. But the greatest part of the tragedy is the breach within us.

 

May we merit to break through the darkness masquerading as light, which envelops us.

 

 

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