This is from today's Hakhel Email:
Some great stuff about breaking desires, teshuva, talking in shul, etc.
Special Note Four: Last week’s Parsha, BeHaaloscha, describes how the meat-mongers (for want of a better term) among the Dor Deah, who had otherwise witnessed so many great events, had their fleishig consumption request fulfilled--they received the slav “until it would come out of their nostrils” (Bamidbar 11:20). Fittingly, the location of the terrible desire and the horrific aftermath that resulted was renamed “Kivros HaTaava--the graves of desire.” After this difficult and horrible ordeal, the Parsha made it a point of telling us that Bnei Yisroel left Kivros HaTaava and traveled to Chateizros. Incredibly, according to the Seder Olam as brought in the Siddur Bais Yaakov, TODAY (the 20th of Sivan) is the very day, described in last week’s Parsha, that the 30-day stay at Kivros HaTaava ended. We might think, then, that it is an auspicious time for great events to occur. And it most likely is. However, to date, two great tragedies are marked by this date. First, the Second Crusades in France took place. More recently, the 1648-1649 Cossack Massacres (known as the Gezeiros Tach V’Tat) in the Ukraine/Poland are specifically marked on this date. The Rabbonim of the time required all able-bodied women over 15 and men over 18, to fast and recite special Selichos known as the “Selichos of the 20th of Sivan.” In fact, it is recorded that this day was especially chosen because it can never (under our current calendar) come out on Shabbos, and the Rabbonim wanted to make sure that a year did not go by without properly remembering and repenting on this date.
It is well known that the Tosfos Yom Tov, HaRav Yom Tov Lipman Heller Z’tl attributed the Cossack Massacres to talking in Shul. He accordingly composed a special Mi She’Berach to be recited on behalf of those who refrained from talking in Shul, which is recited to this very day.
A true story we have reported in the past: A young man had arrived early to shul, and, realizing that there was not yet a minyan, he took out his cell phone and began to have a friendly telephone conversation. When an onlooker said, “Shmoozing--in Shul--on a cellphone?!?” He responded, “What’s the difference between talking to a friend, and talking on the phone?” The absurdity of talking on the cell phone in Shul did not strike him, but then again, he seemed pretty comfortable with engaging in ordinary conversation with his friend there, as well. The young man did, however, comport with the onlooker’s request. In this regard, we suggest that every reader take part in helping build a new or higher level of decorum and respect in his/her Shul. Perhaps one can begin with a sincere remark (NOT “SHUSH”) to a thoughtless congregant, or requesting the institution of the Tosfos Yom Tov’s bracha, given by the Rabbi or Gabbai. Let us never forget that, according to the Tosfos Yom Tov, one of the Gedolei HaDor at the time of the Gezeiros, the direct result of Shul talk was (if you have learned only a little bit about the calamity) literally ravage and massacre in its grossest form.
Let us return for a moment, however, to our departure from Kivros HaTaava on this day--why did it not become an auspicious time forever? Why is this very day marked by such suffering, such torture, such pain? Perhaps the answer belies the question. It may simply be that we have not sufficiently left the taavos--the improper desires--that we began with.
The story is told of a formerly wealthy man who was so beset by creditors that he could not leave the confines of his home for fear of his well-being. His Rabbi came to visit and comfort him while the man was eating dinner, and noticed the finest French wine on the table. When asked about the wine, the man replied, “Rabbi, I crave it. I simply crave it. I cannot be without it.” In truth, it is not the fine wine of this once-wealthy individual that should concern us, but our own behavior. The Ra’avad writes that breaking a desire is a key factor and display of Teshuva. From that extra helping of unhealthy food, that tempting smorgasbord, that unnecessary electronic (adult) gadget (no, there is no Mitzva to discover every last trick your cell phone can do), that extra measure of honor...even that extra pair of shoes are really serious mistakes, as they could (and probably will) mean the stunting of both one’s physical and one’s spiritual growth. As Akavya ben Mehalalel taught, “I would rather be a fool in the eyes of all my entire life, rather than a rasha in the eyes of Hashem for one moment.” Even the adage: “A second on your lips, forever on your hips” should ring true to our ears at the moment of temptation. It would seem that if we can consciously combat at least one temptation daily--we will be on the road of taking ourselves out of the graveyard of temptation and its historic tragic aftermath--to the pinnacles of success. How our world would have been different if Adom and Chava did not fall prey to the one temptation of the Eitz Hadaas.
Let us each do our part to begin with this--yes, auspicious--day to travel from the Kivros HaTaava to the true Gan Eden we can experience in the very same world.
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