Chicago Chesed Fund

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Devarim. What Does Kibbud Av Have To Do With Tisha Ba'av?

(Originally posted in 2007, minor updates)

In this week's Parsha, we are told that Hashem enjoined the Bnei Yisroel from infringing upon the territory of Eisav, the land of Sei'ir, because, the passuk says, their land was granted to them as an inviolable heritage, and we have no right to take it from them. The Medrash Rabbah 1:15 here explains how Eisav merited this unique divine protection: Rav Shimon Ben Gamliel says that it was Eisav's exemplary "Kibud Av Ve'eim" - the honor Eisav showed his parents, that protected his lands from being conquered. When serving and caring for his parents, Eisav would wear the same regal garments that he wore when he went out in public in his capacity as King of Sei’ir and when conducting his business. This illustrated Eisav’s philosophy that his behavior and appearance when he served his parents should express the same meticulous focus, respectfulness, and stateliness as he expected from his supplicants-- and as was expected from him-- when he held court in his royal chambers.

Note that Eisav’s kibbud was most likely, to some extent, duplicitous or self-serving, and Eisav’s legacy is primarily one of strife and imperialistic war, but the fact remains that he honored and brought happiness to Yitzchak.

One thing is evident from this Medrash. The specific Zechus of Kibbud Av Ve'eim strengthens one's bond and one's connection to his ancestral land. It was because of Eisav's mitzvas Kibbud that Hashem told us to leave him alone, to let him remain at peace in his homeland.

אמר רבן שמעון בן גמליאל, לא כבד בריה את אבותיו כמו אני את אבותי, ומצאתי שכבד עשו לאביו יותר ממני. ........
הא למדת שעשו היה זהיר בכבוד אבותיו. אמר רבי יודן כיון שבאו ישראל לעשות עמו מלחמה, הראהו הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה אותו הר שהאבות קבורים בו, אמר לו, משה, אמר להם לישראל, אין אתם יכולין להזדוג לו, עד עכשו מתבקש לו שכר הכבוד שכבד את אלו שקבורין בהר הזה, מנין, ממה שקרינו בענין, רב לכם סב את ההר הזה.

Now, see the Gemora in Kiddushin 31b that discusses the gentile Dama ben Nesinah: his mother, who evidently was demented, used to publicly assault him, and he would just say “Da’yeich, Imi,” enough, my mother. The same gemora brings the story that Dama’s father was sleeping on top of a key that would give him access to a gem he could have sold for a vast profit, but he refused to wake his father, and so he missed the fleeting opportunity. The next year, Dama was rewarded with a unique opportunity for an even greater profit.

Harav Rabinovich za’l, of Chicago, once pointed out that everyone knows the story on amud aleph, that Dama got a reward of a great fortune, but nobody remembers the Gemora on amud beis that talks about R’ Avimi bar Avahu.

R’ Avimi bar Avahu was another exemplar of extraordinary kibud av ve’eim. His reward was the divine inspiration to understand the meaning of “Mizmor Le’asaf, Elohim, ba’u goyim benachalasecha....”

R' Avimi's reward of an insight into a chapter of Tehillim may seem much less interesting than Dama's reward of fantastic wealth. In fact, however, the story of R' Avimi is far more important and, indeed, teaches a lesson that is relevant to our unbearably long Galus.

Rashi says that R Avimi's inspired pshat was the one which is brought in the Medrash in Eichoh Perek 4. The Medrash asks, this perek of Tehillim talks of the churbon, “מזמור לאסף א‍להים באו גוים בנחלתך טמאו את היכל קדשך שמו את ירושלם לעיים.” Mizmor means "song of gratitude"; why say a mizmor on the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash? It should say “Kinah (Elegy) Le'asaf”! But the explanation is that Hashem expended his anger on earth and wood, on inanimate objects, and thereby allowed Klal Yisroel to exist and have another chance to achieve their (our!) sublime national destiny.

Tosfos says that it was a different pshat that R' Avimi understood. Tosfos brings a Medrash that 'Asaf' was a descendant of Korach, and Asaf was happy when he saw that the gates of Yerushalayim sank into the ground, because he then realized that just as we know that ultimately the ground will open up again and the gates of Yerushalayim will reappear, his ancestor, Korach, will also be brought back.

The Maharsha says that according to Tosfos’ pshat, we see a connection between R' Avimi's mitzvah of kibbud Av and the pshat he was given to understand, since Asaf was concerned about the kavod of his ancestor. But according to Rashi’s pshat, though, it seems that R' Avimi's interpretation has no thematic connection with his kibbud Av. However, with the Medrash on this week's parshah, even according to Rashi, there is a connection between the Mizmor and
his kibbud av.

As we see in the Medrash with Eisav, kibbud strengthens a nation's bond with their ancestral land. R’ Avimi, our exemplar of Kibbud Av, was shown a pshat that illustrates our unseverable bond to the land of Israel. Despite the terrible churban, our national identity and our connection to Eretz Yisrael remains firm. Hashem expended His anger on the Beis Hamikdash, but the time will come that we return forever to the land and rebuild an even greater Bayis Shlishi.

The Mitzvah of Kibbud Av, in the Aseres Hadibros, is followed by "le'maan ya'arichun yamecha...ahl ha'adama asher nishba Hashem la'avoseichem...." The Netziv asks, why is "ahl ha'adamah" appended to the guarantee of arichus yamim? He answers that although kibbud is a mitzvah sichlis, the Torah teaches us that it, like all mitzvos, should be fulfilled not because of the sichli aspect, but instead because it is a divine commandment, and this is underlined by stating that the primary locus of this mitzvah is in the land of Israel, as is the case with all mitzvos. According to the Netziv, Kibbud is dependent on Ha'adamah. However, with this Medrash, we can give a new answer to the Netziv's question. The reason the Torah says "ahl ha'adamah" is because the Mitzvah of Kibbud is directly tied to our ability to safely and confidently dwell in the land of Israel. According to the Netziv, כיבוד is תלוי on על האדמה. According to this pshat, על האדמה is תלוי, dependent, on כיבוד!

On the most basic level, the relationship between the inviolable right to a homeland and kibbud av is straightforward: The most fundamental patrimony is ancestral land. If one properly respects his parents and their legacy, he is entitled to enjoy their patrimony, the land they made their own for themselves and their children. If one disrespects one's parents, he undermines the legitimacy of his own claim to a heritage.

Perhaps there is a deeper relationship between kibbud Av and deserving Eretz Yisroel. The underlying middos of Kibbud Av are hakkoras hatov and anivus. In Yeshi’ah 47:8, Klal Yisroel were called “עדינה היושבת לבטח האמרה בלבבה אני ואפסי עוד.” The idea of “Ani v’afsi ode” as a yesod of the Churban bayis rishon, might also underlie the sin’as chinam of the times of the bayis sheini. A person who thinks “Ani v’afsi ohd” will not even perceive what others have done for him, and he certainly will not be makir tov for it, whether through kibud ahv or ahavas Hashem or ahavas Yisroel, and he is also fundamentally incapable of doing chesed for other people.

And perhaps we can also add another point. What is the מדה כנגד מדה for Kibbud Av? The answer is, if you treat your father like a father, you will be treated like a son. So the Ribbono shel Olam told R Avimi, since you showed gadlus in Kibbud Av, I’m going to show you how my relationship with Klal Yisroel is like that of a father to a son. When I had to punish them, I made sure to do it in a way that inflicted the least possible permanent damage on them, and I did it by destroying eitzim v’avonim. This is because I am their father, and I am treating them like a son.

During the Nine Days that culminate in Tisha Ba'av, it is very important to remember the lesson taught by the Medrash and the Gemara of R' Avimi. They illustrate that along with the other things we need to do to end the galus, honoring our parents is essential to our claim to a homeland. On Tisha Ba'av, perhaps we should think about our personal relationship with our parents, and our relationship with the tradition they represent. Kibbud Av Ve'eim is the bedrock of our claim and our bond to Eretz Yisroel. It protects against Galus and it can hasten the coming of Moshiach.

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