Tuesday, August 09, 2011

When Jews are Desecrated - It is a Chilul HaShem

The following was taken from Kinot Mesoret HaRav - a collection of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's thoughts on the Kinos of Tisha B'Av.

Sechi U’Maos Hesimuni B’Edrei Chaverei – ‘They called me dirty and repulsive, worse than all my peers.’ So writes Rabbi Elazar HaKalir in the sixth Kina we say on Tisha B’Av.

Rav Soloveitchik explains that this phrase does not mourn for the physical destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. But rather it laments the desecration of Kavod Yisroel – the honor of Israel. When the honor of God’s chosen people is desecrated it is tantamount to desecrating the name of God Himslef – a Chilul HaShem.

What has made the 2000 years of exile so terrible is that it constitutes a constant degradation of the people of Israel and therefore a constant desecration of God’s name. That’s why redemption is so important. It represents the opposite of Chilul HaShem. God is in effect saying that ‘I will bring you back to Israel, rebuild the Beis HaMikdash, and restore your former glory not because you deserve it – but because My name has been desecrated.’

In reality God’s name cannot be desecrated by human beings, Not Rome, not Bavel, or any superpower. God’s name is only profaned by the fact that Israel is in exile. The prophet Yechezkel says (37: 27-28) that one of the reasons Moshiach will come is not because the Jewish people are worthy but because as long as we are in exile so too is God’s holy name. It is treated with contempt!

The tragedy of the Churban is that it has slowed the great promise made to Avaraham. Yechezkel says that God’s name will be sanctified when it will be demonstrated that the words of the prophets are correct and true and relate to the Jewish people and to no others.

At times of catastrophe Chilul HaShem becomes insufferable. During the Holocaust Christian clergymen argued the God abandoned the Jews and allowed the complete destruction of the Jewishy people – thus fulfilling the words of their bible. When Rav Soloveitchik was confronted with these words, he used to cry not only because of the Churban but because of the terrible Chilul HaShem these arguments represented. The establishement of the State of Israel finally put a stop to these arguments.

There is another element of Chilul HaShem hat does not relate directly to God but to the Jewish people. The phrase in this Kina ‘They called me dirty and repulsive, worse than all my peers’ epitomizes this element. The Churban led to the contempt and disdain held among the nations for the Jewish people also constitutes a Chilul HaShem. The enemies of the Jewish people are the enemies of God. That’s because they do not only want to persecute and kill Jews. They want to deny the extra quality of ‘chosenness’ that God gave us.

The word ‘Hesimuni’ is written in the singular. And that is key to understanding that the Churban should not only be see as an event that happened 2000 years ago – but as an event that is meant to be re-experienced today. Individually and not only as a community. The first Chapter in Eicha is addressed in the third person.

But the third chapter begins ‘Ani HaGever’ – I am the man (that has seen affliction). While the Churban was a communal experience, it cannot be truly felt unless it relates directly to ourselves. That is the message of the third chapter of Eicha. There is no discussion of the Jewish people as a community. Rather the focus is on each individual.