Tisha B’Av: Giving The Benefit of the Doubt
Tisha B’Av – the infamous day in Jewish history on which both of our Temples were destroyed and many other atrocities befell our people – is linked to the episode in the Torah where the meraglim (spies) set out to see the Land of Israel before the Children of Israel entered it. All but two of the meraglim came back with negative reports, and the Torah states, “The nation wept that night.” That was the first Tisha B’Av.
The Talmud explains that God said, “They cried for no reason, therefore I will turn this into a night of crying for all future generations.” The Talmud also tells us that the second Temple was destroyed because of sinas chinam (baseless hatred). When we think of sinas chinam, we most often think of lashon hara (gossiping), because of the spies’ slanderous report. Many of us focus on improving the way speak as an antidote to the damage that was done, which is certainly an admirable thing, but I believe there’s another lesson to be learned from the spies.
The reading of parshas Devarim (the opening of the book of Deuteronomy) always coincides with Tisha B’Av, and in this portion Moshe (Moses) recounts to the Children of Israel their history wandering through the desert, including the incident with the meraglim. Interestingly enough, when Moshe reminds them of the spies, he doesn’t even mention the negative part of the report. He only repeats the words of the two spies who had positive things to say, “Good is the land that Hashem, our God, gives us!”
But how did the Children of Israel respond? “Because of Hashem’s hatred for us did He takes us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us to the hand of the Amorite to destroy us!” Moshe is astonished! He cannot imagine how a people that was just SAVED by God could already be doubting His intentions. So he reminds the Children of Israel that Hashem has had their back all along and will continue to have their back even if things don’t seem to make sense now.
“Hashem your God, Who goes before you, He shall do battle for you, like everything He did for you in Egypt, before your eyes, and in the wilderness, as you have seen that Hashem, your God carried you, as a man carries his son, on the entire way that you traveled, until you arrived at this place.” But even Moshe’s reminder isn’t enough. They ignored the good, assumed the worst, doubted, wept, and the destruction came again and again and again.
And now, with another Tisha B’Av upon us, let us ask ourselves: When others interact with us in positive and negative ways, do we appreciate the times that they helped us or do we linger on the ways that they hurt us? How about the people who have been decent to us all along. If they suddenly don’t return our call, if we see them whispering, if they walk past us and don’t say “hello,” do we assume that they’ve ignored us, gossiped about us, or slighted us? Or do we give them the benefit of the doubt and believe that there must be *some* logical, non-malicious explanation for why they acted the way they did? Three thousand years later do we continue to cry for no reason?! Let us try to learn from these mistakes, and with our efforts, may we no longer have a reason to cry on Tisha B’Av.