Comments of Rabbi Dovid Shteiman on Weekly Parshah Matot

Three weeks between 17th of Tammuz and 9th of Av are called “between straights”. Some call these days “between misfortunes”. In the desert, on 17th of Tammuz Jews made the Golden Calf, and Moshe Rabbeinu broke the first Tablets of Covenant. Many years later, non-Jews surrounded Jerusalem, brought the idol into the Temple, and burned Torah scrolls. The period ends on the 9th of Av, when Jews saw how stones and wood of the Temple were burning, and from the flames the Temple rose up to Heaven.

Even though so many years have passed, Jews are crying until this day and wait for the coming of Mashiach and the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash. What are we crying for? And why Mashiach hasn’t come yet?

Weekly portion Matos, which falls within the Three Weeks, says, “If a man makes a vow to the Lord or makes an oath to prohibit himself, he shall not violate his word; according to whatever came out of his mouth, he shall do” (Bamidbar 30:3).

How is this week’s portion related to the Three Weeks?

We can answer the first question with the following story:

One time a group of Jews figured out a plan how to smuggle alcohol across the border. Every two weeks a group of 10 Jews crossed the border with a coffin loaded with alcohol. By the Jewish law, no one is allowed to open the coffin with the body. People would walk with their heads bowed down low, crying, showing all signs mourning. Border guards didn’t bother “broken” people. This went on for months… After some time people got used to the process, and their crying didn’t look real any more. Some of them were even smiling. Guards became suspicious and demanded to open the coffin. No pleading or reasoning helped, and when the truth came to light, transgressors began begging for mercy. Guards answered them, “You should have been crying earlier. Now it’s too late.”

In his book, Nesivos Shalom brings down that when Pharaoh’s daughter heard baby Moshe’s cry in the Nile, she said, “This is the Jewish baby.” Sages explain that she understood from the way Moshe was crying, that it was a Jewish cry. Jewish cry is the cry of hope, and the cry of the non-Jew is the cry of being lost, when a person feels completely defeated.

 Every year we cry for the Temple to be rebuilt. It is the cry of hope that we can’t wait until the moment comes, and the Temple will be rebuilt and will remain with us forever. With this cry we are rebuilding the Heavenly Temple.

But how truthful and pure is our cry? Does it really hurt us that we don’t have the Temple? How much do we really yearn for it? Coming of Mashiach depends on the answer to these questions.

Torah gives us the hint in this week’s Torah portion. Every word that the Jew utters must be followed by action. This way, every prayer, every request, and, of course, the prayer for rebuilding of the Temple, will be fulfilled.

Baal Shem Tov explains the words of King David, “G-d is your Shadow.” G-d behaves with us like our shadow, the same way we behave toward His commandments.

That’s why even if we are not able to feel the loss and cry like Jews, cry with hope, we have one more option. We can fulfill what we promised on the Mt. Sinai, to keep the commandments of the Torah. Because Jews faithfully kept their promise for thousands of years, they did not become lost among the nations. Many other nations disappeared from history pages, but the Jewish nation continues to live.

Our ancestors’ tears built the foundation and the main structure of the Temple. We are the ones who have to finish the building with our actions. May the day finally arrive when HaShem will return the Temple to us!

Source: Ohr HaTorah