Stop It Already

Toms River

The most frequently used concluding words of speeches and letters are, “Let us be zocheh that the Bais HaMikdash should be rebuilt speedily, in our days”. 

Let us be honest; are we doing enough for that wish to be recognized!

The Gemara (Yerushalmi, Yoma 1:1) says that in every generation that the Bais HaMikdash is not rebuilt, it is as if that in that generation it was destroyed. The reason for this is that if we would do sincere teshuva for the sins that caused Bais HaMikdash to be destroyed, we would merit seeing it rebuilt. The fact that it is not rebuilt yet is a sign that we are continuing in the wrong ways that led to its destruction. In fact, the Rambam says that the entire purpose of a fast day is to contemplate and repent for our sins, and our ancestors’ sins, that were, and continue to be, the cause of tragedies (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Ta’anis 5:1). Based on this, it is incumbent on us to understand, and fix, the actions that caused the Bais HaMikdash to be destroyed, and which are currently preventing it from being rebuilt.

Chazal (Yuma 9b) state, “Why was the Second Beis Hamikdash destroyed? Because baseless hatred was prevalent during its period.

Now, this is obviously no benign quality, and one must expend all manner of energy to avoid the violation of any prohibition. Yet, in contrast to the three cardinal sins of the First Bais HaMikdash, the involvement in sinas chinam seems much less severe. After all, there is no obligation for one to give up his life rather than violate it. And although one who willfully engages in this behavior has indeed violated a prohibition, as it states (Vayikra 19:17), “ You shall not bear hatred against your fellow in your heart”, this is a standard-level prohibition by which the perpetrator does not incur the death penalty, nor even any other form of corporal or monetary punishment.

Furthermore, the perpetration of the much more severe transgressions — the Three Cardinal Sins — resulted in a much lighter sentence, one that was finite and revealed in nature; the entire exile lasted for a relatively short, only seventy-year period. But the sin of sinas chinam, constituting just a “standard” prohibition, occasioned a galus of seemingly infinite duration, one which — after more than two thousand years — we continue to endure. How many prayers were offered, how many rivers of tears were shed, how much blood was spilled throughout this long and trying period! We know that Hashem’s judgments are all fair and just, but in what way does this extensive punishment fit the offense?

As the title of this article states, “Stop It Already”.  Let us stop destroying the Bais Hamikdash.  Yes, you can!  As we begin The Three Weeks, let us make sure that this is the last time we mourn the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash.

This work of building the Bais HaMikdash is something that we can work on hand-in-hand with our children.  By showing an example, we can work with them as the laborers of building the greatest building. 

When we talk about sinas chinom, it is primarily in the way we talk to and about others.  I don’t hear or see many incidents of physical fighting amongst us.  If anyone ever wants to tell you that words are meaningless, tell them that they are wrong. 

When we were growing up, it was common to hear the false phrase that, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” It is very sad and unfortunate that many people still use that saying and they may even belief that that words don’t hurt.  The fact is that words do hurt and sometimes very deeply. It is true that there are some people that have developed a thick skin and they don’t allow the painful words to easily penetrate.  I know some of those people and trust me when I tell you that the hurt is still there and it does affect people differently.

In thirty-five plus years in the field of education I have witnessed way more people being hurt by words than by sticks and stones or even hands.  I am also keenly aware of many people that were hurt by words that would trade the pain caused by the words for the pain that would be caused by sticks and stones. 

At times we all say things that have hurt.  It is because we speak without always thinking or the words slipped out in a moment of anger.  That is normal and acceptable to some degree.  I am more concerned with those people that purposely use words as their weapons of destruction.  They desire to cause as much pain as possible.    

We must impress our children that words can be powerful tools for great things and also powerful weapons of destruction.

I would like to conclude with a great pashat of Rav Yonathan Eibschitz zt’l in several Pasukim in Sefer Shemos (21:18-19) which reinforces the message of this article. 

The Torah tells us what happens if men quarrel and one strikes his fellow with a stone or with a fist.  The Torah tells us what happens if he does not die but falls into bed.  If he gets up and goes outside under his own power, the one who hit him is absolved.  He must only pay for the lost wages and for the healing. 

Rav Eibschitz used these words to teach us that if two are in a quarrel (something that is inevitable), and something has to be used as a weapon, that it should be with a stone or a fist and not with words.  He reads the words and one strikes his fellow with a stone or with a fist as an instruction.  He explained that with a stone or with a fist, there is a chance for healing.  Words, on the other hand, leave a deep scar and wound.

There are way too many children (and adults) that are walking around wounded with painful words and stabs of hateful language.  Let us all do our part in putting an end to this pain and suffering.  Let us use words of praise, love and encouragement!     Let us finally build the building!  It can be financed with our words.