Tu B’Av 5772 Part Seven
Transcribed by: Transcription for Everyone: How hard has it been for the United States to “seal” its border with Mexico? Audience Member: Impossible. Rav Simcha Weinberg: So what do you think Yerovam ben Nevat, when he blocked the highway so people couldn’t travel to Yerushalayim — how effective do you think it was? It was just on the official roads. The Gemara even describes — the Yerushalmi more so — the complicated process people would do because people wanted to continue to go to Yerushalayim.
So there were some people who were bright enough to just go through the forests and the mountains, the same way people are going to illegally cross the border into the United States. Then there were other people who would take the major highway and they would just pretend that they were going for business and all sorts of — a whole complicated thing.
But what was the point of Yerovam ben Nevat?
Audience Member: To stop — to make it slightly more difficult.
Audience Member: Giving those people who are looking for an excuse an even —
Audience Member: No, to stop the people who really didn’t want to go.
Audience Member: To make himself feel like he was doing something.
Rav Simcha Weinberg: I just want to point out one thing. If he only put people to stop them coming from the north to the south, what other issue does he have?
Audience Member: People trying to leave.
Rav Simcha Weinberg: People coming from the two-and-a-half tribes on the other side of the Jordan. He’s got two-and-a-half of his tribes who are on the other side of the Jordan. They don’t need to go from north to south in order to get to Jerusalem.
So the whole thing is just — he’s making a statement. Everyone has their way they read the Gemara, so on and so forth. There are those who very mistakenly — very mistakenly believe that Yerovam ben Nevat was an idol worshipper. He was not. Yerovam ben Nevat was a very anti-idol worship person.
The first time that you have someone of great substance speaking of Yerovam ben Nevat as an idol worshipper is in the 20th century — the Chazon Ish. Everyone misreads what other people say but everyone — through the Maharal, from the Rishonim, the Achronim, the Maharal — they make it absolutely clear his issue was not that he was an idol worshipper.
The issue was that he was the greatest person of his generation and had outsmarted King Solomon on numerous occasions because he understood the danger of a Solomon, of having a king who was beyond any human comprehension. He felt that Shlomo Ha’melech really — if he was the one who constructed the Beis Ha’mikdash, and that could very well be, you know. He built a really nice building and it’s incredible the way he did it and how he did it, the perception that went into it, the planning — it’s brilliant beyond brilliant, what he did.
But the only way it could be maintained was by a Shlomo Ha’melech. In fact, if you read the pesukim carefully, but certainly if you read the midrashim or the Targum — he built the Beis Ha’mikdash with the secret tunnels that they were going to use to hide all the vessels of the Beis Ha’mikdash when it would be destroyed because he understood that part of its very nature was that it eventually would be destroyed.
It was something that couldn’t last. He understood it — otherwise, why build escape hatches inside of it? He understood it. The reason he wrote Shir Hashirim, if you look at the Targum Yonasan in the beginning of Shir Hashirim, the Targum says that he understood that whatever they experienced — the Song of Songs — whatever they experienced from the day of the dedication of the Mishkan wouldn’t last. It wouldn’t last.
So therefore he tried to incorporate all the ideas and all the passion and excitement of the day of the dedication of the first Beis Ha’mikdash into the Song of Songs, which is really an incredible book but it’s too sophisticated for me to understand. But that’s what chazal say about it, that it’s Holy of Holies. Everything else is holy and Shir Hashirim is Holy of Holies, kodesh kadashim, which has practical Halachic implications.
When Hoshea ben Ela removed the people who were blocking the roads, he said whoever wants to go can go. So it could be that he knew nobody really wanted to go. But there’s also a sense — if you speak to Russians who had a bris milah during the Soviet Union and you compare them to a Russian Jew now having a bris milah, it’s not the same. When they had to risk their lives in order to have a circumcision, it was fantastic because they understood — there was an entirely different sense.
Here you can have a bris and you have a party and you hand out cigars and the father’s all happy. The mother’s suffering, the baby’s suffering, but the father’s excited and everything. It’s really great. But remember, in Russia — everyone who was there at the party during the Soviet Union, they’re risking their lives in order to do it.
During the time of Yerovam ben Nevat and all the generations that followed, anybody who wanted to go to Yerushalayim risked their life. You want to go? You’re going to have to figure out a way to go and you’re going to have to risk your life.
So the people who went to Yerushalayim were the people who didn’t go because they had to or didn’t go because everybody else was going. They went because they really wanted. They went because they understood there was no place else they could be.
Yerovam ben Nevat was convinced it was the only way to keep Yerushalayim alive. If everyone would go to Yerushalayim in order because everyone goes or if everyone went to Yerushalayim because you have to and there was no sense of, this is so worthwhile I have to go — then you can’t match the magnificence of a Temple constructed by Solomon. It’s the most magnificent structure in the world; therefore you can only go if you understand how important it is to go to such a fantastic structure.
I took a plane from Moscow to St. Petersburg. We all had to stand up on the flight to hold the luggage compartments closed because the plane was bububu — like this. It was shaking so we all needed to stand up. All these businessmen were there standing up and holding it closed. Everyone’s laughing. Everyone was smoking on the flight. It was wild. This was in 2001, it was wild.
So why would I do that instead of taking the train? Because the train from Moscow to St. Petersburg — I took it back, it was incredible. What you see on a train is unbelievable. They left the Nazi tanks right outside the city to show you how close the Nazis came — right outside of Moscow. You could see the broken German machinery in the same way you had Napoleon’s — they left Napoleon’s weapons out so that people could see how far into Russia Napoleon got.
Any of you went to Madrid? You remember the fence, the arch? It is a common thing. It’s unbelievable when you take the train; it’s fantastic. Why did I take the plane? I was so desperate to see the Hermitage Museum because it’s the one place in the world — if you will not understand what malchus is, you can experience it there.
It’s first of all that a king was an engineer and an artist and a mathematician and a scientist and a philosopher. A huge Russia for sure, but that he was this incredible human being. What’s there and there’s a sense — for generations and generations no peasants were allowed into the Hermitage because, obviously, only royalty can appreciate this magnificence.
This is why on Shabbos — there’s a halacha. Why is a Jew allowed to have a pet elephant? You’re not allowed to have a pet elephant. Only a king is allowed to have a pet elephant. So why is a Jew allowed to have a pet elephant? Because all Jews are royalty.
In other words, you can only go into Shabbos if you have a sense of royalty. If you’re not royal — you have no right, you have no access to the greatness of what’s there. So a person who’s going into Shabbos without this sense of greatness and I have achieved something, I’m of a different status — you can’t fully appreciate a Shabbos. You can’t fully appreciate a davening. We don’t go into davening as shleppers. We go into davening as the children of G-d — royalty.
A peasant can’t access that sense of greatness. We don’t go in as shleppers. That was the gift of the Baal Shem Tov. He was able to treat the most simple Jew as royalty and he made them all feel that they were royalty. So Chassidim were wearing the clothes of nobility because you can’t have Shabbos unless you’re a nobleman. You can’t. You can’t do mitzvos unless you have this sense of nobility.
Who are you? Who are you, you peasant, to come and put on tefillin? Who are you, you peasant, to light Shabbos candles? You think that you have a right to access this?
Until there was a huge fire and all the peasants in St. Petersburg ran into the palace and they took all the art and they brought it outside into this huge courtyard, which in and of itself is magnificent. Not a single painting — none of the gold, none of the silver, the clocks — you can’t imagine what’s there — nothing was missing. They risked their lives to save the king’s art from a building they were never allowed to go in and not a single thing was missing.
It was no longer the king; it was Catherine at the time of the fire. So Catherine built a special section of the Hermitage where peasants could come and see lesser art. Now it’s the wing where they show American art.
But even then you have to understand. She realized that she had to acknowledge the peasants but you can’t allow a peasant to see it because a peasant can’t appreciate the magnificence of what’s there.