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Monday, July 16, 2007

Devorim 2:5. What Does Kibbud Av Ve'Eim Have to Do with Tisha Ba'av?

In this week's Parsha, we are told that Hashem enjoined the Bnei Yisroel from any infringement upon the territory of Eisov, the land of Sei'ir, because, the passuk says, their land was granted to them as an inviolable heritage-- and we had no right to take it from them. The Medrash Rabbah 1:15 here explains how Eisav merited this unique divine protection: Rav Shimon Ben Gamliel says that it was Eisav's exemplary "Kibud Av Ve'eim - the honor Eisav showed his parents, that protected his lands from being conquered. When serving and caring for his parents, Eisav would wear the same regal garments that he wore when he went out in public in his capacity as King of Sei’ir and when conducting his business. This illustrated Eisav’s philosophy that his behavior and appearance when he served his parents should express the same meticulous focus, respectfulness, and stateliness as he expected from his supplicants-- and as was expected from him-- when he held court in his royal chambers.

Note that Eisov’s kibbud was most likely, to some extent, duplicitous or self-serving, and Eisav’s legacy is primarily one of strife and imperialistic war, but the fact remains that he honored and brought happiness to Yitzchok.

One thing is evident from this Medrash. The specific Zechus of Kibbud Av Ve'eim strengthens one's bond and one's connection to his ancestral land. It was because of Eisov's mitzvas Kibbud that Hashem told us to leave him alone, to let him remain at peace in his homeland.

Now, see the Gemora in Kiddushin 31b that discusses the gentile Domo ben Nesinoh: his mother, who evidently was demented, used to publicly assault him, and he would just say “Da’yeich, Imi,” enough, my mother. The same gemora brings the story that Domoh’s father was sleeping on top of a key that would give him access to a gem he could have sold for a vast profit, but he refused to wake his father, and so he missed the fleeting opportunity for the great profit. The next year, Domoh was rewarded with a unique opportunity for an even greater profit.

Harav Rabinovich za’l, of Chicago, once pointed out that everyone knows the story on omud aleph, that Domoh got a reward of a great fortune, but nobody remembers the Gemora on omud beis that talks about R’ Avimi bar Avuho.

R’ Avimi bar Avuho was another exemplar of perfect kibud av ve’eim. His reward was the divine inspiration to understand the meaning of “Mizmor Le’osof, Elohim, bo’u goyim benachalosecho....”

R' Avimi's reward of an insight into a chapter of Tehillim may seem much less interesting than Domoh's reward of great wealth. In fact, however, the story of R' Avimi is far more important and, indeed, teaches a lesson that is relevant to our unbearably long Golus.

Rashi says that R Avimi's inspired pshat was the one which is brought in the Medrash in Eichoh Perek 4. The Medrash asks, this perek of Tehillim talks of the churbon, “Elokim bo’u goyim b’nachalosecho, tim’u es heichal kodshechoh, somu es Yerusholyaim l’iyim.” Mizmor means "song of gratitude"; why say a mizmor on the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh? It should say “Kinoh (Elegy) Le’osof”! But the explanation is that Hashem expended his anger on earth and wood, on inanimate objects, and thereby allowed Klal Yisroel to exist and have another chance to achieve their (our!) sublime national destiny.

Tosfos says that it was a different pshat that R' Avimi understood: he brings a different Medrash that 'Osof' was a descendant of Korach, and Osof was happy when he saw that the gates of Yerusholayim sank into the ground, because he then realized that just as we know that ultimately the ground will open up again and the gates of Yerusholyim will reappear, his ancestor, Korach, will also be brought back.

The Mahrsho says that according to Tosfos’ pshat, we see a connection between R' Avimi's mitzvoh of kibbud Av and the pshat he was given to understand, since Osof was concerned about the kovod of his ancestor. But according to Rashi’s pshat, it seems that R' Avimi's interpretation has no thematic connection with his kibbud Av. However, with the Medrash on this week's parshah, we can say that Rashi’s pshat is also connected to kibbud av: As we see in the Medrash with Eisov, kibbud strengthens a nation's bond with their ancestral land. R’ Avimi was shown a pshat that illustrates our unseverable bond to the land of Israel. Despite the terrible churbon, our national identity and our connection to Eretz Yisroel remains firm. Hashem expended His anger on the Beis Hamikdash, but the time will come that we return forever to the land and rebuild an even greater Bayis Shlishi.

The Mitzvah of Kibbud Av, in the Aseres Hadibros, is followed by "le'maan ya'arichun yomecha...ahl ha'adama asher nishba Hashem la'avoseichem...." The Netziv asks, why is "ahl ha'adamah" appended to the guarantee of arichus yamim? He answers that although kibbud is a mitzvah sichlis, the Torah teaches us that it, like all mitzvos, should be fulfilled not because of the sichli aspect, but instead because it is a divine commandment, and this is underlined by stating that the primary locus of this mitzvah is in the land of Israel, as is the case with all mitzvos. According to the Netziv, Kibbud is dependent on Ha'adamah. However, with this Medrash, we can give a new answer to the Netziv's question. The reason the Torah says "ahl ha'adamah" is because the Mitzvah of Kibbud is directly tied to our ability to safely and confidently dwell in the land of Israel. According to the Netziv, Kibbud is talui on Ahl Ha'adama. According to this pshat, Ahl Ha'adama is talui, dependent, on Kibbud!

On the most basic level, the relationship between the inviolable right to a homeland and kibbud av is straightforward: The most fundamental patrimony is ancestral land. If one properly respects his parents and their legacy, he is entitled to enjoy their patrimony, the land they made their own for themselves and their children. If one disrespects one's parents, he undermines the legitimacy of his own claim to a heritage.

Perhaps there is a deeper relationship between kibbud Av and deserving Eretz Yisroel. The underlying middos of Kibbud Av are hakkoras hatov and anivus. In Yeshi’ah 47:8, Klal Yisroel were called “adinah...ho’omeres Ani v’afsi ohd.” The idea of “Ani v’afsi ohd” as a yesod of the Churbon bayis rishon, might also underlie the sin’as chinom of the times of the bayis sheini. A person who thinks “Ani v’afsi ohd” will not even perceive what others have done for him, and he certainly will not be makir tov for it, whether through kibud ahv or ahavas Hashem or ahavas Yisroel, and he is also fundamentally incapable of doing chesed for other people.

And perhaps we can also add another point. What is the middoh k’neged middoh for Kibbud Av? The answer is, if you treat your father like a father, you will be treated like a son. So the Ribbono shel Olom told R Avimi, since you showed gadlus in Kibbud Ahv, I’m going to show you how my relationship with Klal Yisroel is like that of a father to a son. When I had to punish them, I made sure to do it in a way that inflicted the least possible permanent damage on them, and I did it by destroying eitzim v’avonim. This is because I am their father, and I am treating them like a son.

During the Nine Days that culminate in Tisha Ba'av, it is very important to remember the lesson taught by the Medrash and the Gemora of R' Avimi. They illustrate that along with the other things we need to do to end the golus, honoring our parents is essential to our claim to a homeland. On Tisha Ba'av, perhaps we should think about our personal relationship with our parents, and our relationship with the tradition they represent. Kibbud Av Ve'eim is the bedrock of our claim and our bond to Eretz Yisroel. It protects against Golus and it can hasten the coming of Moshiach.

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