Shiv’ah Asar B’Tamuz is a fast day on which we commemorate many tragedies that occurred to the Jewish People. It begins The Three Weeks, the saddest time in the Jewish calendar leading up to Tish’ah B’Av. Shiv’ah Asar B’Tamuz is a long fast, and it can be difficult to focus on what needs to be changed; but with the help of beautiful inspiring shiurim hosted by Chazaq, our community was uplifted and energized in the proper way. On Sunday, July 1, from early afternoon until the night, rabbanim spoke at the Agudath Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, located in the Yeshiva of Central Queens building. The shiurim were streamed live on TorahAnytime so people all over the world gleaned this wonderful inspiration, as well. This article will focus on a few of these amazing shiurim.
Rabbi Moshe Bamberger, Mashgiach Ruchani at the Lander College for Men and the Beis Medrash L’Talmud, spoke first. He shared some memories of Rabbi Shimon Segal, a special rav who was niftar last month at age 95. Rabbi Bamberger stated, “Rav Segal built Torah in tremendous ways. He was the head of the Kamenitz Yeshiva. He gave me my first job in chinuch. He was very encouraging to me.” Rabbi Segal maintained a close bond with, among other g’dolei Torah, Rav Mordechai (Mottel) Pogramansky, one of the Torah giants of Lithuania.
Rabbi Bamberger then spoke about the moment when Yosef and Binyamin reunited, which should have been a moment of extreme joy. Yet, we find Binyamin cried on Yosef’s shoulder and Yosef cried on Binyamin’s shoulder. According to Rashi, they each saw through prophecy that the two Temples would be destroyed. The question arises that this wouldn’t happen for thousands of years, so why were they crying here? Rabbi Bamberger explained that this was Rav Mottel Pogramansky’s question. He then shared the rav’s answer. They cried tears of joy. This concept of tears of joy only came about because the Temples were destroyed. When the Temple will be rebuilt, there will not be tears of joy; only pure, unadulterated joy will exist. With the Beis HaMikdash destroyed, there cannot be unadulterated joy in the world. He said, “Picture an ocean of tears with some islands floating on top that represent happiness. On the whole, we are swimming in oceans of tears over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. When we enjoy a moment too much, we wade back into the ocean of tears of the Beis HaMikdash.” Rabbi Bamberger explained that when a person is too happy in this post-destruction time, he subconsciously is reminiscing about Yerushalayim, and it brings tears.
Rabbi Bamberger taught that bad tiding, sickness, and death in galus come because we don’t have a Beis HaMikdash. He stated, “The Churban is very much alive with us at every chasunah, bris, every Shabbos, every day, and in bad times. We say to a mourner, Hashem should comfort you with the mourners of Tzion. He shared that we try to get through The Three Weeks, but the only way to appreciate the Churban is to understand how every minute of our lives is affected by it. He taught, “Those of us who experience the mourning and feel the pain will merit seeing the joy of the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash. We have gone through too many millennia of tzaar. May Hashem grant for us to see it rebuilt.”
Next, Rabbi Lior Dahan of Fresh Meadows posed some fascinating questions about Shiv’ah Asar B’Tamuz. The Luchos were broken after the golden calf, so why don’t we mourn the golden calf? Why is breaking the Luchos so tragic? Why is the fact that the korban tamid stopped so bad? Why do we focus on this? Also, the breaking of the walls of Yerushalayim was not really where the tragedy lies. So why is the breaching of the walls emphasized? His answer was the following: “Events can be catastrophic if they reveal a turning of the tide in our relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu.”
When Moshe Rabbeinu broke the Luchos, it was like a chasan taking the ring away from his kallah. It will never be the same as the first Luchos. “Loss of the tamid offering shows a relationship that was lost with Hashem. Breaking the walls showed that we weren’t impervious and Hashem was not protecting us.” He taught,” The first signs of the final galus were when we realized we are not strong in our relationship with Hashem.”
Rabbi Dahan shared that Hashem said, I will sacrifice My glory for the sake of My people. He took his wrath out on stones and sticks rather than on am Yisrael. “How can we not have that emotion to realize what the Beis HaMikdash meant for us?”
He shared how Plato was puzzled when he saw Yirmiyahu the Navi in tears over the destruction of the Temple. Plato said: You are a wise person; how can you cry over the destruction of stones and sticks, and also it is not the way of a wise person to cry over events in the past? Yirmiyahu responded that as a philosopher you must have quandaries you have not resolved. Plato admitted that this was so. He then expressed his philosophical issues and Yirmiyahu solved all of them to his satisfaction. Plato said, “You can’t be someone mortal.” Yirmiyahu responds, “That wisdom all came from sticks and stones.” Rabbi Dahan taught, “It is incumbent on us to cry the same tears of Yirmiyahu.”
Yirmiyahu taught that your heart has to be vibrant. “We don’t just have an intellectual relationship with Hashem. We have an emotional bond. We have to honor that bond.”
Rabbi Yosef Palacci spoke next about the fact that when Hashem gives us a command, we have to listen and there are no cheshbonos. King Chizkiyahu didn’t want to have children, because he saw with prophecy that he would have a wicked child. This was wrong. Chizkiyahu prayed for Hashem to save him, even when it looked like the decree was final. Even when a sharp sword is at your neck, you can still be saved. He taught, “A Jew understands that no matter what situation you are in, don’t ever, ever, ever give up hope.” Chizkiyahu turned towards the wall, meaning he turned towards the wall of his heart. He prayed from the depths of his heart and he got answered. The Gemara is teaching us that when we pray, Hashem answers.” Rabbi Palacci stressed, “Whatever you want in life, you have to pray for. Hashem is waiting to hear your voice.”
He taught that Hashem loves us, and He wants to give to us. “We have to pray for our success. It doesn’t come automatically. We have to keep praying for health.” He advised that if you always say Asher Yatzar with kavanah, it is a good protection from illness.” When we are learning, we should pray before we open a Gemara that there shouldn’t be a stumbling block before learning. Before taking medicine, there is a prayer asking Hashem to help the medicine to be effective.
Next, Rabbi David Shelby taught the fact that the first night of Pesach and Shiv’ah Asar B’Tamuz and Tish’ah B’Av always come out on the same day of the week and this teaches us an important lesson. The purpose of what Pesach commemorates was to free B’nei Yisrael so that we would ultimately be able to receive the Torah. The purpose of the Torah is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” To stop these sad days, we need to love our neighbor the way we love ourselves. He stated, “Just make another person feel good. Say “Good morning.” Tell someone something that makes the person feel good, and this can change the whole world.”
He noted how Hashem cries every day because there is no Beis HaMikdash. He noted that we know how much punishment there is for lashon ha’ra, so imagine how much reward a person gets for speaking good things. It is a million times more. “Hashem only wants to give us reward.” He pointed out, “Evil is the absence of G-d in our lives.”
The marathon continued with inspiring shiurim from Rabbi Yaaqob Menashe, Rabbi Eliezer Zetouneh, Rabbi Boaz Bardea, Rabbi Shay Tahan, Rabbi Elan Segelman, Rabbi Mordechai Fishman and Rabbi Moshe Sokoloff.
All of these shiurim can be viewed on TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber