We are in the midst of the Three Weeks.
Rabbi Yehuda Michel Lefkovitz zt”l discusses the difference between the destruction of the First and Second Temples.
In the time of the Second Temple, Am Yisroel were busy with Torah, mitzvos and acts of kindness. So why was it destroyed? Rabbi Lefkovitz says, “The people in the era of the first Bais Hamikdosh knew they were sinners and therefore there was a chance that they would do teshuva and return to their Father in Heaven. However, during the era of the second Bais Hamikdosh, the people did not even recognize their sins. Each person had his own personal interest and calculations which twisted his mind and led him to think that his sins were not sins, but spiritual accomplishments.”
This is frightening, especially because we are still in the Exile which resulted from this blindness to our sins. This is a tremendous lesson. In order for us to climb out of Exile, we have to know that we are in Exile!
If we know we are in trouble, there is a hope that we will do teshuva.
Rabbi Yaakov Galinsky zt”l discusses the preparation for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. How can we hope for a favorable judgment? What merit can we place before Hashem?
“The Chofetz Chaim concludes that (the decision in Heaven) depends on how the person treats others. If he is inclined to judge them favorably, then he will be judged favorably. And if he tends to see [others] as liable for everything they do and he speaks badly of them, then also the angels on High will speak badly of him.
“This,” Rabbi Galinsky says, “is in line with the Ba’al Shem Tov’s famous explanation of the Mishnah, ‘Judge every person favorably.’ The Ba’al Shem Tov asks, ‘Is every person supposed to make himself a judge? Who appointed him and gave him semicha? The answer is, Yes, he is a judge. By viewing his friend favorably, he is passing judgment on himself!’”
I personally am weak in this area; reading Rabbi Galinsky was an eye-opener.
Working on this character flaw is urgent not only during the Three Weeks, but also because the Jewish People are so exposed before the entire world at this moment in history. Many sources tell us that, in the days before Moshiach, the entire world will surround us and threaten our very existence. We need merits to survive! As our Rabbis tell us, the merits of immersion in Torah and acts of kindness will save us.
Now is the time for us to show kindness to each other and for the entire Nation of Israel to unite as one people, a nation of brothers and sisters. “This is the conduct that will save us on the Day of Judgment. If we will be defenders of others, Hashem will act as our defender. If we will judge everyone favorably, even if the possibility that the person is meritorious is very remote and we have to come up with creative reasons to avoid judging him negatively, then we too will be judged favorably on High ….”
The entire world is trying to put an “eyen hara” on us, to judge us unfavorably, to invent absurd accusations against us. Even if they are totally false, the world will use them to denigrate us and rationalize their hatred of Am Yisroel.
Our only defense in this battle is to judge each other favorably, uniting as an invincible force which puts us in the best position to merit the Heavenly assistance we need to save ourselves against a world of violent adversaries. We are now in the count-down to the culminating struggle of all history.
Here are words from our arch-enemy Bilaam, from last week’s Torah Portion, attempted curses which Hashem turned into eternal blessings: “I see it, but not now. I behold it, but it is not near. A star has shot forth from Yaakov and a scepter has arisen from Israel…. One from Yaakov shall rule and destroy the remnant of [Rome].”
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch comments: “Stars are signposts in the sky by which people find their way on earth. Until now, because of his weakness, Yaakov has been little respected. But a star will set out from Yaakov and, keeping to the course set for it by
G-d, it will show mankind the way. This star will also be a scepter. It will be invested with governing influence over the nations. It will arise as a scepter out of Israel, out of the people that proclaims and spreads ‘G-d’s sovereignty.’” This, my friends, is nothing less than the complete destruction of Western Culture, which is descended from Rome! As Rashi writes, “And there shall be no remnant of the house of Esav.”
We are witnessing in our days events of monumental, cosmic, earth-shaking proportion, and our personal protection begins with this one simple subject: how we treat others.
If we judge others favorably, Hashem may in turn judge us favorably and allow us to survive until the day when He “shines a new light on Tzion.”