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Friday, August 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Devarim / Tish'ah B'Av

Apologies for the very late shtikle.

    A number of years ago I observed an interesting nuance in the targum of two words in this week's parsha.  When Moshe is in the midst of recounting the sin of the spies (1:29), he recounts having addressed the nation's concerns with the giants they would face in an attempt to enter Eretz Yisroel. He told them, "lo sa'artzun v'lo sir'un meihem," do not dread them and do not be afraid of them. The targum on "lo sa'artzun" is "lo sitab'run." Only thirteen pesukim later, we read about HaShem's having told Moshe to warn the "ma'pilim" not to try to conquer the land prematurely as HaShem would not support such an initiative. They are told not to go up and not to wage war "velo tinagfu lifnei oyeveichem," lest you be smitten before your enemies. The targum of "velo tinagfu" is "velo sitab'run," the exact same targum as that of "lo sa'artzun." There must be some significance to this.

 

    B'nei Yisrael were living in a time of unprecedented and unmatched Divine Providence. Their success or failure in all on national and personal levels were dependent directly upon their level of emunah. Although I do not have a concordance at my fingertips, I am not aware of any other instances of the root of "lo sa'artzun." The words "lo sitab'run," literally translated back from Aramaic, means "you shall not be broken." When the dor dei'ah were given a promise that they would defeat their enemy, it was demanded of them to have absolute faith and belief in that promise. Even the slightest doubt, the slightest fear of the enemy, was indicative of a breakdown of that belief. This breaking of the spirit, the lack of "lo sa'artzun," bore automatic consequences of  "tinagfu," military breakdown. Fear and defeat were a cause and effect so tightly bound that the targum deemed them synonymous.

 

    As parshas Devarim is always read on the Shabbos before Tish'ah B'Av, and indeed this year on the Ninth of Av itself, I was searching for a possible connection between this idea and the themes of Tish'ah B'Av. I was reading "Tear Drenched Nights," a book by R' Moshe Eisemann of Ner Yisroel which explores the profound and tragic effect that the sin of the spies had on our history, particularly the destruction of the two temples. In Chapter 7 he discusses one of the roots of the sin, that the spies lacked a belief in themselves. The moment they began to doubt the absolute promise that they would enter the land and conquer it no matter what the circumstances, everything came undone. This, the root of the tragic sin of the spies and thus, the root of generations upon generations of suffering in exile, is directly connected to the above idea.

 

    As we all strive to correct the sin of the spies in full faith in the "geulah ha'asidah," may we merit to see this month turned "miyagon lesimchah umei'eivel leyom tov!"

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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