Wednesday, July 18, 2018

To Bee Or Not To Bee

Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Torah written by Moses in first person, describes the highlights and low points of Moses’ tenure as leader of the Jewish people.

While offering a chronology of events in the wilderness, the Torah records: And the Emorites, who lived in that mountain, came out against you, and chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you in Se’ir, even unto Hormah (Deuteronomy 1:44).

While describing this particular military challenge, the Torah likens the Emorite attack to a swarm of bees. Rashi explains this strange language to teach that the Emorites were willing to sacrifice themselves, just as the bee stings despite knowing it will die as a result.

The renowned Rabbi Yitzchak Ze’ev (Velvel in Yiddish) Soloveitchik, who was the uncle of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, taught a great lesson based upon this interpretation of Rashi. Known also as the Brisker Rav in honor of the city of his youth, “Rav Velvel” (1886-1959) used the above-cited passage about the Emorites to teach the extent to which one can hate. If David hates Joseph and strikes him, David’s abhorrence for Joseph is not apparent. But if David strikes Joseph knowing he will be severely injured or killed as a result, this self destructive act is evidence of true revulsion.

Is this possibly similar to the profound animus for Jews that we have tragically witnessed over the past decades in the murderous actions of the suicide bombers? The pithy statement attributed to former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir captures this tragic reality: “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.”

During this week when we recall the destruction of the Temples, let us learn from the Emorites, the odious lesson of hatred, so we can stress and commit to its eradication through Ahavat Chinam (wanton love) and Ahavat Yisrael (love of Israel). This love is surely the antidote to the Sinat Chinam (baseless hatred) which served as a cause for the suffering commemorated on Tisha B’av.


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