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22 Elul 5764 - September 8, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Comfort on the Tablets of Our Hearts

by Rabbi Mordecai Plaut based on a shiur of a rosh yeshiva in Yerushalayim

As we read the seven haftorahs of comfort that lead up to the Yomim Noraim, these insights into the true meaning of true comfort should prove very valuable.

Part IV

Part I discussed the fact that the seven haftorahs that we read from Tisha B'Av until Rosh Hashonoh show that consolation provides a crucial bridge that takes us from the Churban to the Tikkun that we have on Yom Kippur, equivalent to our receiving the Second Luchos on that day. However, we do not even understand what consolation is and how it could be possible. How can we console someone in the midst of a loss? Consolation does not mean distraction, so how is such a thing possible?

We must learn and absorb the words of the prophets. What is their message? . . . devorai asher samti beficho, lo yomushu mipicho umipi zar'acho umipi zera zar'acho, omar Hashem, ad olom. The prophets continued the experience of Sinai, by propagating the dvar Hashem in our community. What was (is) their message? Teshuvoh and Geuloh. We note that the role that the prophets play was given over to the chachomim at the Churban. The prophets also bring us consolation though in critical times Hashem brings us that message Himself. Putting these elements together, each in its proper setting, will help us grasp what consolation is and how it is effected in this period.

There is a pattern in Creation. Creation, destruction and the Creation; a reality, the destruction of that reality, and a new state after that destruction. We find this at the beginning at Bereishis: HaKodosh Boruch Hu created other worlds and destroyed them before creating our world. The destruction reveals the possibility of the second creation.

This pattern occurs also with the Beis Hamikdash, and in parallel with Chazal. It says that up until the destruction of the First Beis Hamikdosh, the dvar Hashem was given to prophets. After that it was given to chachomim. The chachomim are like the Second Luchos: they must bring the material upon which Hashem will write.

In the meantime, we have only the pieces of the shattered Luchos. But from these pieces of the shattered Luchos there is a possibility for us to create Luchos of our own. The same things that were written upon what was broken, upon what was taken from us, can be written on the luchos that we prepare.


It says that the writing flew off the First Luchos (Targum Yerushalmi Shemos 32:19). When Moshe saw the golden Eigel and the dancing, the words flew off the First Luchos and they became very heavy.

We can create the same thing that was originally given. Moshe Rabbenu had to carve for himself the tablets of the Second Luchos. The First Luchos were carved by Hashem.

This is the possibility that arises from churban. It is the prophecy given over to the chachomim. After they carve from themselves the substrate and ground for receiving the dvar Hashem, they can receive it from Hashem.

Like a golden thread, this theme is woven through every aspect of the way Hashem deals with us. This same pattern, process and possibility is found. In every generation, this can be seen.

In our weak generation, however, one needs deep contemplation and perception in order to see it.

On the posuk in Koheles (12:11), "Divrei chachomim kedorbonos, ukemasmeros netu'im baalei asufos, nitnu meiRo'eh echod" (The words of chachomim are like nails implanted, from those who gather, all given from one Shepherd).

When are the divrei Torah that were innovated by the gedolei doros implanted in those who must receive them? When their owners are gathered away.

When the innovators pass away, then their divrei Torah become implanted in their students. When one's teacher is alive, the divrei Torah are not implanted within him. If he has a doubt, he will just go and ask his rebbe. But when "their owners are gathered in," then their words become implanted and the plants themselves progress and bear fruit.

That is the shape of things at a deep level, with regard to everything that we receive from Above. Everything that is revealed to us, that is given to us from Above, that is, everything that comes from beyond us, is not fully a part of us, as long as it is purely from Above.

When does it become close to us? When the gift is taken from us. Then it becomes part of us.

Something is given to us, and it is given to us in a certain way. It is given to us upon a luach, and the day comes when the luach shatters. We receive every such thing upon luchos and these luchos eventually break- up. When these luchos break, they stimulate the second luchos.

You must bring the luach of yourself. And then, according to the luchos that you bring, there is a possibility of writing upon those second luchos the words that were upon the first luchos that you broke. That is what it means for things to be "netu'im" within the person.

The Emergence of Nechomoh

Every tzoroh whatever it is, the deeper it is, the harder it is, the worse it is -- all these make it grasped as such more immediately. Choliloh, when a tragedy befalls a person, it is perceived as an awful blow. That is how it is perceived. Everyone knows this -- may we not know it. That is the way it is.

The pain, the blow, may be terrible. Noroh ve'oyom.

Every blow that the Borei Olom gives, whether to an individual or to a community, partakes of the breaking of the original luchos. Every blow includes a shard of that crash.

The real luchos are our hearts, they are the heart of Klal Yisroel. "I will write it upon the luach of their heart."

The heart is the center of life. Mikol mishmar netzor libecho ki mimenu totzo'os chaim" (Mishlei 4:23) -- The center of life is the heart. The heart carries life itself. Life emanates from the heart to the rest of the body. Every pain, every blow that one suffers, the deeper it is, the heavier it is --

The gemora (Bovo Kammo 65a) says: Ma li kotlo kulo, ma li kotlo palgo. What difference does it make if one is completely killed or only partially (literally, half) killed?

There are levels of death. There are some blows that bring a person to the very gates of death. There are blows that as a result of them the sufferer feels throughout his being that he would rather be dead.

Dovid Hamelech lamented (Shmuel II 19:1): Beni Avsholom, . . . mi yitein mosi tachtecho. My son Avsholom, . . . would that I had died instead of you. Here there is a blow that is almost complete, and definitely much more than half- palgo.

This is the breaking of the luchos. These are the shattered luchos. The breaking of the luchos means the shattering of the source from which comes all life itself.

The breaking of the luchos was a death blow to Klal Yisroel, with also a death decree.

The new creation that was revealed from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur was, that from the very power of the breaking of the first luchos, the second luchos developed.

The medrash (Shemos Rabboh 46:1) says that Hashem comforted Moshe Rabbenu over the breaking of the luchos. Hashem, as it were, told Moshe Rabbenu, "Do not feel bad. The First Luchos only contained the Ten Commandments. But the Second Luchos I am giving you also include halochos, medrash, aggodos" -- a tremendous growth of Torah.

The New Growth is Tanchumim

All this growth in the second luchos is an entity unto itself. It is not just an expansion of what was already in the first luchos, but the addition of new material that was not originally present.

It is in this new material in the second luchos that lies what we call tanchumim. This innovation is the locus of comfort.

Looking only at the outside, at the superficial aspect of things, comfort does not exist. The blow is not erased. The pain and suffering continue.

Tanchumim applies to deeper systems. This comfort always comes, in every circumstance -- choliloh it should happen. But in every case in which there is an awful, deep, painful blow, almost a complete death-blow, then there is necessarily a subsequent comforting.

This comfort comes from taking the blow itself and making of it the ground upon which to receive Torah, as it were.

The Borei Olom is talking to us. He is saying something to us. When he tells us something that is shattering, something that shakes us deeply -- when something like this, choliloh, happens -- the tanchumim are when we receive the message that He is sending to us. We must hear what is being said to us.

We receive these messages like we received words of prophecy.

Let us understand. When Hakodosh Boruch Hu sends prophets, the words of these prophets have their source in the Ma'amad Har Sinai. These prophets bring us the Torah throughout the generations. Devorai asher samti beficho -- is a process that continues forever.

The prophets, of course, do not repeat exactly what was said on Sinai. The prophets are people of their times. They tell us what is appropriate to their own time. Some of what they say is also relevant to subsequent times, and the prophecies that were needed for the ages were written down. Chazal say that there were many prophets in Israel -- twice as many as those who went out of Egypt (Megilloh 14a).

Out of all of those, we remain with the messages of only 48 prophets and seven prophetesses. In their words we have everything that is necessary for us and for all other generations. It is only the prophesies of those 48 prophets and seven prophetesses that are "necessary for the ages." All the rest of those 1.2 million spoke only to their own generation, to the people alive then.

However all those words were the continuation of Ma'amad Har Sinai. They were the devorai asher samti beficho. This was the continuation of Sinai, which really continues throughout history.

If one understands the word of Hashem as expressed in what happens to him, he can participate in this too.

In the terms we have been using: If one prepares a luach in his heart, Hashem will write divrei Torah upon it. It is promised (Yirmiyohu 31:32): Nosati es Torosi bekirbom, ve'al libom echtevenoh -- I have put My Torah within them, and I will write it upon their hearts.

This is the comfort.

Even a great tragedy, when the sufferer feels that he would rather die instead -- mi yitein mosi tachtecho -- even such an event, if one looks deeper he finds that every suffering tells him something. Every suffering speaks to us. The Borei Olom reveals Himself to us. If one knows how to be comforted, he can take out of every tragedy things that can be reached in no other way.

These are the Second Luchos, that come in the wake of, or because of, the First Luchos that were broken.

There is no possibility to go from the Churban (on 9 Av) to the state of Yom Chasunoso on Yom Kippur except with the comfort of the prophets. These words of comfort teach us and enable us to take out the divrei Torah from every suffering. These divrei Torah would in no way be accessible if it were not for the suffering. We would not even dream that they exist, without that suffering, without that blow.

If the First Luchos had not broken, it would not be possible for us to carve Luchos here on the earth upon which the Borei Olom will write His words, the Commandments. The writing is the writing of G-d, but it is written upon our Luchos. This is the awesome innovation of the Second Luchos.

Therefore, during the month of Elul, we must learn the words of comfort of the prophets. This is what we do.

To be sure, this is not possible if we do not listen and learn the haftorahs seriously.

One of the ten reasons written in the machzorim, in the name of HaRav Saadiah Gaon, for teki'as shofar is that the shofar reminds us of the words of the prophets which are compared to a shofar. Kero begorone al tachsoch, kashofar horeim kolecho (Yeshayohu 58:1).

The prophets intended to shake the depths of the heart. The prophecies that we have are those prophecies that are necessary throughout the generations and we must learn them.

But especially we must learn these two pesukim, through which we fulfill our daily obligation to learn the words of the prophets (Uvo leTzion go'eil . . . Va'ani zos berisi . . . ).

If Yisroel are not nevi'im, they are bnei nevi'im. We are the Am Hashem, the am who accepted the Torah, a people of prophets. We are a people who had 1.2 million nevi'im, aside from the yotzei Mitzrayim who were themselves all prophets. A total of at least three times the yotzei Mitzrayim.

In truth, all of Klal Yisroel are open to hearing what the Borei Olom speaks to them. That is what it means by, "hanach lohem leYisroel . . . bnei nevi'im heim." Our ear is open, our ear is prepared to hear what Hashem tells us.

In general, if we do not hear, if we do not understand, it is not because we cannot understand but because we are sleeping. Therefore they come to awaken us, to arouse us.

Listen! The Creator of the World is speaking in a great voice that can be heard from one end of the world to the other. It is almost impossible to hide from it -- and yet we still manage to find some place.

In Elul we need to hear the words of the nevi'im, that are compared to a shofar.

What if Hashem really sent us a prophet who would go through the streets crying, "Another 40 days and Ninveh will be overturned"? He would be put into the hospital and treated with drugs.

Hashem does not send anyone. There is no one to send. Whatever He wants to say, He says Himself. Onochi, Onochi Hu menachemchem. Listen well to what He says himself.

Hashomei'a yishma vehachodel yechdal. (Yechezkel 3:27)

Things are more serious than we can imagine. We must listen. We have turned every which way to avoid it, but the end will come.

Rashi says that the Torah promised that Klal Yisroel will do teshuvoh and then we will immediately be redeemed. This is a promise of the Torah.

Click here to view Part 1.

Click here to view Part 2.

Click here to view Part 3.

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