The Positive Aspect of the Churban
Pekudei (Exodus 38:21-40:38 )
Shemos, 38:22: These are the reckonings of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of Testimony, which were reckoned at Moshe's bidding...
Rashi, Shemos, 38:22: sv. The Mishkan; mishkan: "[It says the word mishkan] twice, to allude to us that the Temple that was taken as collateral (mashkon) by being destroyed twice because of the sins of Yisrael."
Rashi quotes the Midrash (1) that explains the double usage of the word mishkan. The word 'mishkan' alludes to the concept of a mashkon, which is the collateral that is given when someone borrows something; if he is unable to return what he borrowed then the lender keeps the collateral. In this instance, God made the two Temples collateral for the Jewish people. This is because at future junctures in history they would sin so badly that they would deserve to be totally wiped out, but God would instead take out His wrath on the wood and stone of the Temples, thereby sparing the existence of the people. This Midrash teaches us that there are positive aspects to even the most tragic occurrences such as the Destruction (Churban) of the Temples.
The following story demonstrates this point in a dramatic way; Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev zt"l was once staying overnight in an inn. He arose at midnight in order to pray tikun chatsos - the prayers that express our pain at the destruction of the Temple. He prayed with great fervor and emotion, and the innkeeper, a simple Jew, hearing the noise, came in to see why he was crying so much. He tried to explain what it meant to have a Temple and how God's presence was so apparent, and how lacking we are in Exile. He did such a good job that the innkeeper suddenly burst into uncontrollable tears at his sudden realization of the magnitude of the tragedy that had befallen the Jewish people. He cried so much that Rav Levi Yitchak worried for his health; so he began to reassure him that there was a positive aspect to the Churban - that which is mentioned by Rashi in this week's Parsha - that the Jewish people were spared being destroyed because God instead took out His wrath on the Temples. He did such a good job in showing the innkeeper the positive aspect of the Churban that the innkeeper broke into joyous dancing and singing with Rav Levi Yitzchak. They made such a noise that other people heard them and came in to ask what they were so happy about. The innkeeper answered: "Don't you know - the Temple was destroyed!" (2)
This story brings out further the idea that despite the undoubtedly tragic nature of the Churbanot, they also had a positive aspect in that they ensured our survival. This teaches us a wider lesson that in all the tragedies that we endure, whether as a nation or as an individual, there are positive aspects. One possible benefit is that a person can often see Divine Providence more clearly in times of pain, thereby strengthening his relationship with God. Another positive benefit of difficult events are that they can help people step back from their hectic lives and see if there is anything that needs to be changed. One example is of a woman with several young children who was constantly worn out looking after her children and running the house at the same time. She felt that it was a sign of weakness to get paid help to unload the burden. It was only when she was struck with a serious sickness that she had to get more help. Thankfully she recovered from her sickness with a heightened understanding of how she could be the best mother to her children. She now realized that before the sickness she was so worn out doing everything in the house that she was impatient and moody with her children. The forced change in her life showed her how much more calm and happy she could be with her children when she was not so worn out doing all the housework. (3) In this way, a seeming tragedy actually became a positive turning point in her relationship with her children.
Rashi teaches us that even difficult circumstances have benefits - if we open our eyes to them, we can use them to grow in our spiritual growth.
- Midrash Tanchuma 5.
- Heard from my Rebbe, Rav Yitzchak Berkovits shlit"a.
- Needless to say the specific question of whether or how much help a mother should have is subjective and varies according to a number of factors.