From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)
This Shabbat, we shall read, “These are the accounts of the Mishkan (the Mishkan of Testimony), which were calculated by Moshe’s order by the Levi’im under Itamar, son of Aron the Cohen” (Shemot 38:21). Rashi, in his commentary, quotes the Midrash which asks, why is the Mishkan mentioned twice in this passuk? The Midrash explains that it is indicative that the Bet HaMikdash was destroyed twice due to Am Yisrael’s sins.
The chachamim said in the Talmud (Avodah Zara 4), that when Am Yisrael sins Hashem doesn’t wait until their measure is full of sins, rather He punishes a little at a time. This means that when a person sins, Hashem immediately enables an atonement for his sins through small discomforts. A bit of aggravation here and a little damage to them there or some moderate financial loss, which will immediately mitigate the [Divine] anger. This is all prior to a huge punishment amassing, which will seriously harm the person’s soul or body, chas ve’shalom.
Likewise, the Midrash (Eicha 4:15) states in connection with the passuk in Tehillim (79:1), “A mizmor (psalm) of Asaf: O Hashem! The nations have entered into Your inheritance”. Why does it state “mizmor” of Asaf, since mizmor is an expression of song. It should have surely said, “A lamentation of Asaf”, because the chapter deals entirely with the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash? The Midrash explains that since Hashem vented his anger on wood and stones and not on Am Yisrael, therefore it states a “mizmor” of Asaf.
It is related about a childhood friend of King Shlomoh that would visit his place and engage in conversation. One day, he said to the king, “If his honour is truly a friend of mine, I request of him that he teach me the language of the birds and animals”. King Shlomoh tried to avoid him. But he persisted to request that the king teach him. (For King Shlomoh was well versed in the speech of birds, meaning that he understood the chirping of birds to know what the birds were conveying to one another. For there is a tweet that acts as a deterrent and conversely to this, and similar examples. He was also versed in the angels’ language who are in charge of birds and other creatures, who speak about future events.) Even after King Shlomoh warned him that this wisdom is hazardous, he refused to listen, and he remained stubborn to learn this from the king.
And so King Shlomoh sat with him and taught him the language of the birds and animals, and he happily returned to his home.
In the morning he wanted to fasten the oxen to the plough. He heard one ox say to the other, “Doesn’t this man know that this year the rains delayed, and that he would be better off delaying a month?”
He immediately untied the oxen and returned home. Everyone else sowed and their seeds rotted in the ground. But he sowed a month later and had a blessed cop.
He came to sow wheat, and he heard the birds astonished, “Does this man not know that wheat won’t prosper this year, but that barley will?”
Everyone sowed wheat and it got blighted but he sowed barley and made a lot of money.
And so he went from strength to strength and in his heart he was cross with King Shlomoh, “Why did he want to prevent me this great wisdom that has brought abundant success and great wealth? How good it was that I persevered to learn this from him!”
One day in the back yard, he heard a chicken ask another chicken, “Why are you sad today and why is your crest fallen?” The chicken replied, “Why shouldn’t I be sad when our owner is going to die?!”
The owner heard this and was shocked. He mounted his horse and galloped with all his strength to his good friend King Shlomoh. He burst into the place and roared, “My master the king!” I am going to die, what should we do?”
“You’re talking nonsense!” Responded the king, “A person doesn’t know when his time is up!” But I do know!” Persisted the man, “The chicken said…”.
The king remembered that he had taught him this wisdom and he said to his good friend, “I did warn you, that this wisdom could crush you!”
The man was astonished and asked, “And if I didn’t know this knowledge then would this decree not have been made against me?”
The king explained to him that if you hadn’t known you would live to a ripe old age. For there is no righteous person on the earth who will do [only] good and never sin [Kohelet 7:20], and so a person transgresses a small sin and immediately receives retribution, a bit of pain here and some damage there, essentially a small financial loss and with this he gains atonement. But you have avoided these small punishments, your sins have continued and as such the amount has amassed with the no atonement unless you experience the [ultimate] great punishment…’
Many times, we experience a small amount of damage, an upsetting financial loss, some form of embarrassment or aggravation. We know to accept this in good spirit since through this we merit to atone our sins. It wipes the slate, and it is a great merit [for us that it happens in this way]. Accordingly, Hashem vents His anger on wood and stones, and through this has mercy on us like a father has for his children.