Vertluch: Parshas Va’eschanan

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The Haftorah of this week’s Parsha begins with the legendary words of solace, ‘Console, console my people,” says Hashem. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her, for she has become full [from] her host, for her iniquity has been appeased, for she has taken from the hand of Hashem double for all her sins.’ Hashem is telling klal Yisroel that he will comfort us doubly for we have sinned and were duly punished doubly. However, we were taught and believe that there is no such thing as a person getting punished double. Everything that occurs to a person happens because he deserves it, and Hashem planned it that way. How can we explain the pasuk when it says that we are being comforted twice because we were punished double for our actions?

To put this question in perspective-Harav Meir Hershokowitz, Rosh HaYeshiva of Stamford, CT had lost a daughter. This loss was a few months after the untimely passing of a son and now-a few months later-he was undergoing a very serious surgery. After the surgery, he is lying in his hospital bed when one of the people by his side remarked ‘wow, what a year you had; too many tzares.’ Usually a soft spoken man, Reb Meir got very annoyed and rebuked the person by saying ‘you think it without a calculation? Hashem wanted it specifically to be this way!’ So here too, there’s no such thing as double punishment without a chesbon?

The gemara in chagiga (5b) says that ‘Rebbi was once reading from a kinus: when he came to the verse, ‘He hath cast down from heaven unto the earth’, whereas, the kinus he was holding fell from his hands. Rebbi said: From a roof so high to a pit as deep!’ Meaning that in addition to the churban Beis Hamikdash, the bnei Yisroel lost their elite status that they had over the rest of the world. Certain things that klal Yisroel did weren’t in line with how we normally acted and thus our splendor was gone. That, Rebbi couldn’t deal with. Besides the churban and everything that happened to us and to top it all off we also lost our elite status. It was these two elements that we were punished with ‘doubly’.

In 1911-1912, there was the famous trial in Warsaw known as the Mendel Beilus trial. A Jew was wrongly accused of murdering a gentile. One day in middle of the trial, his lawyer came in to court with a huge book. When asked what it was he replied that it was a Polish history book of the last 900 years and in it you will not find that a Jew ever murdered anyone. Therefore it is impossible that my client committed this act; and that’s how he ultimately won the case for Mendel. He proved to the judge that frum Jews do not kill and the evidence, and the facts, were convincing.

Bnei Yisroel as a whole has an elite status. When something does happen, lo aleinu, and a Jew does something erroneous, even though it is individuals, our image is altered and tarnished; we lose our shine. We are all obligated to uplift and restore our glory we once had. We have just finished a meaningful Tisha B’av and we all yearned for the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash when the ninth of Av will be a yom tov. Don’t let that yearning fade; let it continue and advance it towards yearning for the day when Hashem will re-instate that special glory we once had-which we are all waiting for.