Many years ago, in a land far away, lived a wise king and his precocious son. For a while, all was well. The people appreciated their benevolent ruler, whose wisdom brought happiness and prosperity to all.
But the peaceful times didn’t last. Bored by the good, the nation began to rebel. Sadly, once full of the happy sounds of flourishing commerce and frolicking children, the streets were now filled with the raucous sounds of angry, violent demonstrations.
The king realized there was nothing he could do to turn the tide back. The immediate future of the country would be bloodshed and war, of that, he was sure. Worse yet, he had little interest in a victory that would leave the country divided and miserable as before.
He called his son to his private chamber and said, “my dear son, the future looks bleak, but I have hope. I will disappear into hiding, and you will blend into the masses, allowing the rebels to gain control of the Government peacefully. You will not hear from me for many years, but rest assured that I will be keeping a close eye on you.
You will face many challenges. The world you are about to enter is unforgiving, cruel, and amoral.
If there’s one message that will carry you through it all, it’s this: You have what it takes!
The years you spent in the palace have given you the moral strength and fortitude to withstand anything. But the moment you forget to look inward, the moment you look outward to your corrupt environment, you fail.
You will not succeed all of the time. Undoubtedly, you will waver, you will forget who you truly are, you will stray far from the straight path. But with time, you will come back to your senses. It may not be fun, to say the least; tears of pain and yearning will flow from your eyes. The tears will teach you to look inwards, to access the deep reservoirs of strength and morality that I’ve planted in you.
After it’s all said and done, you, my son, will be better for it all. You will have learned and earned your very own understanding of the moral truths you’ve absorbed. Had you remained with me, you would never have achieved this independence. But don’t forget that the ultimate goal is to return back home!”
Over three thousand years ago, we stood at Mt. Sinai, one step away from vanquishing the angel of death and just a hairsbreadth from world-perfection. But we lost hope, panicked about Moshe’s return, and lost faith in reaching the land of goodness — the land of Hashem.
Hashem is good, and his actions are good, but we must appreciate it if we are to merit to receive the blessing. We need to create the vessel, and Hashem will send the rains. Now, as we approach Tisha B’av, we sadly recall that Hashem pulled away from His beloved creation. The world — for now — can’t hear the prophetic word and experience the Bais Hamikdash.
At this juncture, we begin the book of Devarim. This book was both the word of Moshe –as he left the nation he loved with words of rebuke and inspiration — and then ratified as the word of Hashem. Devarim is the root within the written Torah of the Oral Torah concept — teaching us that when the prophecy has fallen silent, we can find the word of Hashem in our own hearts.
On Tisha B’av we stop. We spend the day appreciating the brokenness within and without. We begin to cry; our tears obstruct our vision; we can’t see where this is all going.
And then suddenly, if only for a few seconds, it becomes clear.
We were looking for answers in all the wrong places. We have Torah implanted within our hearts. The key is in our hands, having been placed there by our dear Father in Heaven.
But as long as we continue down the same path, a new path remains an impossibility.
We must make a full stop. Then, and only then, can we start to build anew.