Tu B’Av 5772 Part Eight
Transcribed by: Transcription for Everyone: I often tell this story how my father used music, The Four Seasons, to teach me how to read a passuk. But not everyone can appreciate music; some people appreciate art. My daughter, Shoshana Batya, I took her — she’s very visually oriented — so when I wanted to teach her how to daven and teach her how to read a passuk I took her to the St. Louis Art Museum.
It was a very powerful, very intense experience. She saw a Rodin sculpture. She looked at the sculpture and she started crying, weeping. She was five or six years old and she said, I feel like my life is over. The name of the sculpture is Despair.
I took her to see my favorite artist, Rembrandt, because Rembrandt is the name of my yetzer hara. We’re looking at this painting and —
Audience Member: We won’t ask you why.
Rav Simcha Weinberg: You all know, I hold very strongly you have to give your yetzer hara a name, right. You have to give your yetzer hara a name because then you can treat it as something outside of yourself.
The one person in Great Britain who wasn’t depressed when the whole country was falling apart was Winston Churchill. He was able to give everyone hope and yet he was chronically depressed. How did he do it? He gave his depression a name — Black Dog. So whenever he got depressed he would just speak of it as this other party called Black Dog.
So when the whole country was depressed, he wasn’t. He was the one who gave them hope. That’s why the night they made him Prime Minister — the whole country is falling apart — his first comment is, finally, I can sleep at night — I’m in charge. He’s not depressed.
I hold very strongly you have to give your yetzer hara a name. It has to be a name of how your yetzer hara presents itself to you. So for me, the yetzer hara has the power to make black, something dark, look very beautiful and colorful. If you look at Rembrandt, you’ll see that in his paintings he can take dark, dark colors and it’s black and yet you can see the layers of it and it can draw you in. So I call my yetzer hara Rembrandt.
So I took her to see Rembrandt because she already knew by that age that my yetzer hara’s name is Rembrandt. She’s looking at this painting like this — little kid, five or six years old — like this. She got it.
This guy walks in and he was dressed in a $5,000 suit, a really expensive handmade suit and shirt and cufflinks and everything, really top-notch dresser. He walks in, he looks at the painting, and turns to his companion. He says, wow, look at this frame, it must have cost a fortune.
Shoshana Batya turned to me and she said, he doesn’t deserve to look at this painting. That’s why we don’t deserve Shabbos if we’re going in as shleppers. That’s the idea of kavod Shabbos. Kavod Shabbos is that we act with more dignity, meaning we act as royalty. What right do you have to access the treasure of G-d when you think every shlepper does? That’s why the whole idea is that we give our children, our students, our families a sense of your royalty today.
So Yerovam ben Nevat understood that’s what a Beis Ha’mikdash was. A Beis Ha’mikdash was a place where you would walk in and you would experience that because I am connected to this building, I am royalty, I am different. I have to be royalty and be at such a level in order to appreciate its beauty. So as long as a Shlomo Ha’melech is alive it’s possible because you have a king there who can tell you, this is what it is.
But without a Shlomo Ha’melech you can’t do it. If you have a Shlomo Ha’melech and you come in and he goes oh, Rabbi Sher, I know exactly what you need from this building. He would point out to you exactly what you needed to do in the Beis Ha’mikdash and then you and then you and then you, each one of you would say this is the part of the Beis Ha’mikdash that’s perfect for you. This is what your role should be.
He was a king who could listen to you and he understood exactly what you were all about — such a person. You wouldn’t possibly walk into the Beis Ha’mikdash without a sense of royalty, but without him it couldn’t be that way. For anyone to see a king sitting — which he would do once every seven years, but only a king and the descendant of David is allowed to sit in the Beis Ha’mikdash when he’s reading the sefer Torah for hakhel, when all the Jews would get together to hear the king read the sefer Torah. It can’t be. A king has to be a king.
The difference between Ner Yisroel, when my grandfather was alive and my father was alive — but it was even different with my grandfather. This was someone who knew the Chofetz Chaim, Rav Chaim Ozer, the Dvar Avraham, the Alter of Slabodka. He was connected to all of them. They wrote about him and this and this.
When he would just enter the room there was such a sense of wow that the aspirations of the students were different because he represents royalty and there was this incredible sense of royalty around him. It’s not always there. That’s why what we aspire to are people like that.
So Yerovam ben Nevat said — and he was 100 percent right — the only real king in this generation is me. The worst thing for anyone to experience is for them to go to a Beis Ha’mikdash and see some shlepper, because he’s officially the king, sitting and I am not. Because then they are honoring the position instead of honoring the greatness. If you’re not honoring greatness, you’re going to lose your whole connection to the Beis Ha’mikdash, so don’t go. It’s no different than the golden calves. He put up two golden calves.
You want to go? You have to aspire to go. You have to be willing to risk everything to go. That he understood. He was incredible. He did it the wrong way; he caused many people, many generations to sin — for which he loses his portion in the World to Come. You can’t even to begin to understand his greatness and what his intentions were.
Hoshea ben Ela took away that whole sense. That’s why the 10 tribes were destroyed — he took away any sense of greatness, of you needing to be great, you needing to do something fantastic in order to go to the Beis Ha’mikdash. He took it away. That’s why he was immediately killed by the Assyrians and the 10 tribes were executed.
So then why make the 15th of Av a holiday, and not just a holiday, but a holiday equal to Yom Kippur? It’s an incredible thing. This is going to be a little difficult. I hope I can articulate it well, with Hashem’s help.
I think that he was the first person in generations to understand what Yerovam ben Nevat had wanted to do —
Audience Member: Who was it?
Rav Simcha Weinberg: Hoshea ben Ela, the last king of the 10 tribes. The fact that he understood what Yerovam ben Nevat wanted to do even though he said, ah, there’s no one else who wants to do it — but the fact that he understood and appreciated Yerovam ben Nevat‘s intention meant he understood that there was a part of Judaism that’s totally different when the whole message of Judaism is you have to live as royalty.
He understood it. He couldn’t access it and he couldn’t use it but he understood it. Do you hear the difference? It had been lost. People just accepted, you can go on the highway. People go yeah right, you can’t do it. No one understood, no one cared. They became idol worshippers. Yerovam ben Nevat went about it the wrong way, chazal say. G-d forbid for me to say that about him.
They lost any sense of what it was Yerovam ben Nevat was trying to accomplish until this Eisvarff (ph), he’s a rasha, the Gemara says. He was a wicked man. The Yerushalmi goes more into how wicked he was. But this wicked man understood what Yerovam ben Nevat wanted to do and he said, it doesn’t matter anymore because there is no sense of greatness or royalty.
But he understood that the Beis Ha’mikdash, he understood that Judaism represented royalty, represented dignity, represented I’m never a peasant when I go to the Beis Ha’mikdash. That’s what it was supposed to do.
The fact that he appreciated that one thing is a cause for incredible celebration because here they are, everything is being destroyed and yet what’s the one thing everyone is talking about? What’s the one thing everyone is talking about? Not the building but the fact that in order for people to live as Jews they have to be royalty.
He said we’re not Jews anymore but he got people talking about the fact if you’re living without any sense of royalty, you’re not living as a Jew. If you’re living without any sense of I deserve to access Shabbos, I deserve to access prayer, I deserve to access Torah because I have great dignity.
It is taught to children — it’s not just, do you realize what a zechus it is to study Torah and do mitzvos — without giving a child, speaking down to a child is a little contradictory, is it not? You can’t speak down to someone and say, do you understand how lucky you are to study Torah?
But to literally convey a sense every time the kid is learning, wow, you’re so lucky. Wow, this is because of who you are and what you are. Building everyone who comes to learn into seeing their potential and their royalty — when they’re coming to learn, when they’re doing mitzvos, when they’re davening.
Hoshea ben Ela appreciated that and he got people discussing it. That’s what saved our future because even without a Beis Ha’mikdash there were Jews left who understood that to live with this level of relationship with G-d is to be royalty. That is as great as Yom Kippur.
Even the one who’s fighting it, even in the fighting it, he understood what he was fighting. He understood what he was fighting. That’s his greatness.