LTTN med xp logo See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil

July 19, 2000

© 2000 Light to the Nations, Rabbi Chaim Richman - All Rights Reserved
A Message from the Temple Institute
 
Tomorrow (July 20), the Jewish people will observe the fast day of the 17th of Tammuz. It was on this day that Moses, descending from Mount Sinai and seeing the people of Israel reveling around the golden calf, cast the tablets of the Ten Commandments to the ground and broke them. Later in history, the walls of Jerusalem were breached on this same day, the Torah was burned, an idolatrous statue was placed in the Temple, and the daily sacrifices were suspended. This day marks the beginning of the three week period of national mourning which culminates with the solemn fast of Tisha B’Av (the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av), the day on which both the First and Second Temples were destroyed.
 
Although the destruction of the Holy Temple actually took place later, during the month of Av, our sages teach that the month in which we now find ourselves, the days of Tammuz, is considered a more severe time.
 
One reason for these negative associations with Tammuz is connected to the mission of the spies who were sent to the Land of Israel (Numbers 12). It will be recalled that the spies returned on Tisha B’Av, and delivered an evil, faithless report to the people of Israel. With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, who valiantly attempted to rally the nation, these 10 spies turned the hearts and spirits of the people against the Land of Israel. Based on their own feelings of inadequacy, they saw danger and power where none existed. Returning to the people, they spoke “lashon ha’ra,” evil speech against the Land. The nation accepted this report at face value and estranged themselves from G-d and His promises of Divine assistance. Thus the entire calamitous episode of the spies’ rebellion against the Land of Israel and the people’s rejection, was a result of seeing, speaking, and hearing evil.
 
The spies began their mission at the end of the month of Sivan, departing on the 29 day of that month, and returning on the ninth of Av.  Thus, the last days of Sivan, and the first part of Av, were tainted to some extent by the roguish reconnaissance of the spies. But as for the month of Tammuz ­ from the first day to the last, that period was completely taken up with their mission. The stain of the spies’ sortie inexorably affected each day in that month, and since then Tammuz has become a time fraught with difficulties.
 
Even at this writing, the mad spectacle of the Camp David “peace talks” continues. The very survival of the Jewish people is at stake, as our morally bereft leadership continues along a path of self-destruction, and promises our precious homeland to the enemy of the Jewish people in exchange for…nothing. And in the meantime, the Palestinians are preparing for war and mayhem.
 
However, at the same time, Tammuz is also the month which features the longest day of the year ­ the day with the most sunlight. It is merely an ironic coincidence that the month with the greatest propensity for spiritual darkness offers the most intense illumination?
 
This paradox is a reflection of the spiritual essence of the Jewish people and the secret of their survival. Even at the time of greatest darkness and opposition, the potential for redemption and the most powerful light is already inherent and rising.
 
The same is true of the magnificent generation in which we live. While some may decry it as base and lacking, in reality this generation is driven by a deep thirst for holiness and spiritual values. The current spiritual struggle being waged within Israel is being fought over the future of this singular generation ­ for the outcome will determine the future character of the State of Israel, and the Jewish people.
 
Last Shabbat, which Prime Minister Barak spent in Camp David, we read the Torah’s account of the heathen sorcerer Bilaam who was hired by the Moabite King Balak to curse the Jewish people (Numbers 22). Like Camp David, this was also a “summit meeting” whose purpose was to bring about the destruction of Israel.
 
However, the Holy One of Israel changed Bilaam’s curse into a blessing, for “G-d is not a man, that he should lie.” Instead of the powerful curses that Balak wanted delivered upon Israel, Bilaam recited beautiful prophetic blessings. “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel” is a “curse” uttered by Bilaam that has been incorporated into Israel’s daily prayers. Thus here in Israel we took heart from the timing of this event and the corresponding weekly Torah portion.
 
At the very moment of this writing, Israel Radio has reported a news flash that  Prime Minister Barak has decided to leave Camp David without signing an agreement, declining to even wait the 24 additional hours that President Clinton has requested for an extension. The report says it has become clear to Barak that the Palestinians are not acting as genuine partners.
 
Perhaps Prime Minister Barak, having heretofore mistakenly followed the path of the spies, and having shown fear and hesitation, has now decided to change his curse into a blessing. Or perhaps these reports of Barak’s planned exit are nothing but a bluff, more disinformation, and that ultimately an agreement will be signed. An agreement that will disgrace Israel, endanger its future, place its children in jeopardy, and sell its birthright for emptiness…but that will insure a peace prize for its signers.
 
In these uncertain days of Tammuz, we would do well to ponder the misdeeds of the spies, both ancient and modern. Let us seek to rectify their destructive actions, and to reverse the current trend of turning against the Land that G-d has promised us. Let us endeavor to see, speak, and hear no evil against the Land of Israel.
 

Rabbi Chaim Richman
THE TEMPLE INSTITUTE JERUSALEM