Rabbi Zvi Homnick, Beis Moshiach
A terrified looking Jew showed up at the local KGB office. When asked what he was doing there he replied,
“I came to report that my talking parrot got loose.”terrified looking Jew showed up at the local KGB office. When asked what he was doing there he replied,
“Why did you come here? We are the secret police, go to the regular police.”
“I will. I just came to tell you that I totally disagree with whatever the parrot says about Comrade Stalin.”
Anybody even slightly familiar with Jewish history during the Second Temple Era, has to wonder why the Sages pointed to “baseless hatred” as the primary cause of the destruction that followed and has kept us in exile for over two thousand years. In fact, they specifically distinguish between the First Temple “when their disgrace was revealed (the three major sins of idolatry, adultery, murder), their end-time (70 years) was revealed,” and the Second Temple “when their disgrace was not revealed (baseless hatred which is in the heart – Maharsha), their end-time (still waiting…) was not revealed.”
The Second Temple period was marked by the Hellenist movement (plenty of idolatry, adultery and murder there), internecine battles in the Hasmonean royal family and the slave uprising that finished them off, the murder of the Sages, the false messiah we are still suffering from, the Tzadokim (Saducees), the Minim and Apikorsim (apostates and deniers of Torah), Roman collaborators and so much more. Yet, the Sages could only wonder, “but the Second Mikdash when they were engaged in Torah, mitzvos and acts of kindness, why was it destroyed? Because there was baseless hatred in it.”
Clearly, the Sages saw the generation as a whole as being righteous. What about all of the other negative stuff? Somehow, those were just external manifestations of the core problem of “baseless hatred,” and not a reflection on the general righteousness of the time period. How so?
Chassidus explains that a person’s entire outlook on reality and on life is based on his beliefs. Emuna/belief is higher than intellect and wields absolute influence over the conclusions of the intellect, and from there to the emotions and behaviors.
During the First Temple Era, when the Jews were in a face-to-face relationship with Hashem, belief in G-d was not an issue as He was literally in-your-face. In order for free will to exist there had to be powerful competing beliefs, and that came in the form of the powerful pull of idolatry. As one of the Talmudic Sages was told in a dream, “If you were there, you would have lifted up your cloak to run to serve idols.”
In the Second Temple Era, when the face-to-face relationship was less revealed and the focus became the study and explosive development of the Oral Torah, going beyond what Hashem “said” to trying to understand His “thinking” (see previous installment), the Evil Inclination for idolatry was abolished. Instead, the competing beliefs became about whether He really cares about all of the minute details of all this legal hair-splitting.
Is this really what His wisdom is invested in? Does He really care about us, about every little thing that we think, say or do? Why would He even care about this world at all? These questions are at the root of atheism, as the original atheists were deists (there is a G-d who created the world) but they rejected the notion of theism (that He handed down a set of laws for people and He cares about them and what they do or don’t do, and metes out reward and punishment accordingly).
These two sets of false beliefs (idolatry and atheism) are rooted in the original “lashon hara” said by the Serpent to Chavah in the Garden of Eden. The revealed “spoken” message was that Hashem said what He did about not eating from the Tree of Knowledge because he “hates” competition (idolatry). However, the “secret” message about G-d’s “thinking” was that He only cares about Himself and doesn’t really care about you (atheism), and if He were to see you as a “partner in creation” then He would hate you too. That is the source of all “baseless hatred” rooted in “lashon hara,” where I see the “other” as the “competition” to me and my well-being, along with all the alienation from his fellow Jews and from Hashem that a Jew experiences in exile.
G-D’S REAL SECRET
So how does G-d hiding His “face” even more, destroying the Second Beis HaMikdash and causing greater fragmentation among the Jewish people by dispersing them all across the world, help us get any closer to getting out of the “exile of thought” (see previous installment) and to reach the point where we “see eye-to-eye” with Hashem, as it will be in the time of the Future Redemption?
The only way to counter the “secret” message of the Serpent about what G-d is really “thinking” in “secret” and the “secret” sin of baseless hatred, was to begin to reveal the true “secret” messages contained in the Torah. Yes, Hashem has “secrets,” but the only reason that He kept them “secret” until now is because of the one central “secret” that is behind them all. As the Zohar says and we recite on Shavuos night, “Anan b’chavivusa talya milsa – our entire enterprise is contingent on love,” for which he cites a number of verses proclaiming Hashem’s love for the Jewish people.
The real divine “secret” is the direct opposite of what the Serpent claimed. Hashem’s infinite love for us transcends all natural laws, defies all logic, and the one thing that He wants more than anything else is for us to be His partners in creation and for each one of us to be “the Creator” (as the Baal Shem Tov taught). What He “enjoys” even more is a little bit of “competition” from us, just as a father enjoys when he offers a Torah argument and his clever son refutes it (as the Mezritcher Maggid taught). “The Holy One Blessed Be He was laughing and said, ‘I was bested by my sons, I was bested.’”
Similarly, when a Jew does teshuva and he elevates those sinful things that Hashem rejected, he “creates” a “dwelling place” for Hashem out of “materials” that are of his own making. That is the kind of “competition” that Hashem loves more than anything else. In fact, the “true purpose” for the descent of the G-dly soul is to be elevated from the level of “tzaddik” to the level of “baal teshuva” (as the Alter Rebbe taught).
All of the “secrets” of the higher worlds, the countless levels and spiritual energies hidden behind creation, behind the Torah and its commandments, are all there to provide us deeper insight into just how much He and His love for us is invested in us, in our world, in every little thing that we think, say and do out of our own free will. However, if they were revealed to us when we were in an open face-to-face relationship with Hashem, it would have caused the opposite outcome. Either our free will would have been overwhelmed or we would have become desensitized to all of that revelation.
It was only after Hashem hid his “face” all the more with the destruction of the Second Temple, and we became even more divided from our fellow Jews, that we could start to explore these “secrets” and the core “secret” behind them all. That is why the process of revealing these secrets began specifically in that time period with the Tannaim that lived immediately after the destruction (Rabi Akiva, Rabi Yishmael, Rabi Nechunia ben HaKaneh), and especially Rabi Shimon bar Yochai.
The more effort that we have to expend in order to encounter G-d “face-to-face” (through Torah study, prayer, joy, seeing Divine Providence, suppressing worldly desires, doing acts of kindness, loving our fellow Jew, elevating the “sparks” and “creating” a “dwelling place” for G-d etc.), the more we become full “partners in creation” and can more deeply appreciate and “see eye-to-eye” the true “secret” of creation. The underlying premise of the atheists is not wrong; it really does not make a whole lot of sense – until you know and internalize “the secret” of all secrets: Anan b’chavivusa talya milsa.
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