Thursday, June 15, 2023

Parshas Shelach 5783



Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Shelach

27 Sivan 5783/June 16, 2023

Mevorchim Chodesh Tamuz


“Rebbe, why do we have to learn this?”

Last week my 9th grade bekius Shiur at Heichal HaTorah completed learning Maseches Tamid and Middos. Tamid is the shortest masechta in Shas with only six dafim (folios) and includes a couple of dafim that contain only Mishnayos. However, there is a modicum of challenge in its study in that Tamid and Middos detail the structure of the second Beis HaMikdash, destroyed in the year 70 C.E.

One of my students often asked me why it was relevant or important for us to know what the structure of a building destroyed over 1,950 years ago looked like?

For some time, I was trying to think of an analogy that could resonate with him. Last week I shared the following:

The first time I took my son Avi to a Yankees game he was 6 years old. He was very excited about the game and as we entered the stadium his excitement only grew.

I will never forget his reaction when we walked out of the concession area, and he got his first glimpse of the field. For about thirty seconds his head slowly tilted upwards, from the field to the fabled facade at the top of the stadium, then slowly all the way to the right and then slowly to the left with his mouth open as he tried to grasp the enormity of the stadium. He was absolutely mesmerized.

A few years ago, our family went on an official tour of Yankees stadium during the baseball offseason. Honestly, it was rather disappointing. We were led through Monument Park, where there are tributes to the great Yankees players of the last century. We were also allowed to enter the Broadcast booth where announcers sit and we saw the field from their perspective. But we weren’t allowed to even see the visiting clubhouse where the visiting players’ lockers are, and definitely were not permitted anywhere near the dugout or field.

Contrast that experience with Citi Field, where Mets fans have many more kid-friendly events, at times even being permitted to run the bases.

Why the difference?

The Yankees seek to foster a sense of mystique and awe for their hallowed stadium and its field. The unverbalized message is that non-players are unworthy to touch the field upon which Gehrig, Ruth, DiMaggio and Mantle once played. (Yes, I know they didn’t actually play in this Yankees Stadium. But the new stadium is a continuation of the old one. In yeshivish jargon it has a “chalos shem of the old Yankees Stadium.”)

Part of the experience of attending a Yankees game and being a Yankees fan is connecting with the team’s storied history.

When I think back to Avi’s reaction when seeing the stadium that first time, I feel somewhat sad. If only he, and I, could have that type of experience when peering up at the Beis HaMikdash. Even merely seeing depictions and drawings of the majesty of the Beis HaMikdash evokes a deep emotional feeling in the Jewish faithful. Can we begin to imagine what the feeling will be when we see the real structure?

Of course, Yankees Stadium does not belong in the same sentence with the Beis HaMikdash, but my students were able to relate to the analogy.

Learning about the Beis HaMikdash, its dimensions, chambers and structures evokes within us nostalgia for past greatness and yearning for future glory. It helps make the Beis HaMikdash a reality and recognize that our lives as Jews without it is seriously hampered.

When asked how one could feel the Churban during the Three Weeks, Rabbi Yisroel Belsky would say that one should learn about the Beis HaMikdash and the Korbanos.

The Chofetz Chaim is legendary for having lived every day of his life anticipating Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash. Among his many other invaluable writings, he wrote a pamphlet entitled Torah Ohr in which he extols the value and strongly encourages learning about Korbanos and the Avodah performed in the Beis HaMikdash.

At the end of the first chapter, the Chofetz Chaim writes: “From all this (that I have previously written) one can understand how important it is that one learn Seder Kodashim (about korbanos) with alacrity. In doing so one brings pleasure to Hashem, as it were, because Hashem desires that during times of exile when there is no Beis HaMikdash, His children engage in the study of the laws of the holy offerings and the Beis HaMikdash. In the merit of doing so their sins will be forgiven. Not only does one fulfil the mitzvah of learning Torah when he learns about the korbanos, but in heaven it is considered as if he literally offered the Korban he is learning about.”

In recent years there has been worthy emphasis on creating shiurim about shalom bayis and taharas hamishpacha (family purity) during the winter weeks of Shovavim.

In the same vein, it is appropriate for there to be lectures and shiurim about topics relating to the Beis HaMikdash during the weeks leading up and to and including the Three Weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.

There is a broad genre of topics relating to the Beis HaMikdash that can appeal to all levels of learning and interests. The halachos of Korbanos itself is vast and has many different components. There are worthy discussions regarding building the Beis HaMikdash, waiting for Moshiach, archeological discoveries around Har Habayis, and the volatile question about whether a Jew could ascend Har Habayis (halachically, politically and otherwise). There is also worthy discussion among halachic authorities of previous generations whether we could we bring Korban Pesach today even without a mizbeiach, and many other fascinating topics.

The Beis HaMikdash must constantly loom large in the life of a Jew. Aside for our daily prayers for Moshiach, we must also long for that time constantly. The best way to engender those feelings is by learning about it and having a mental image of what we are yearning for.


Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

          R’ Dani and Chani Staum