Shabbat Chazon. So Far, and So Near


Utter destruction.

And the kruvim in the Holy of Holies were locked in an embrace, signaling the deepest of connections between God and the Jewish nation.

What Could That Mean?

The sages in the Talmud tell us that when the kruvim, Cherubs, atop the Aron Kodesh, the holy Ark of the Covenant, are facing one another, and embracing, that this signals a time when the Jewish nation is fulfilling the Divine Will. Facing one another is a sign of closeness. Facing away from one another is estrangement. What greater estrangement could there be than a time when the rift between God and His people is so great that their “House” is destroyed.

And yet the Talmud says that when the destroyers ransacked the Temple, they found the kruvim facing one another and locked in an embrace. But how could that be?

There is something deep going on beneath the surface.

Every time a person transgresses, this is an outer manifestation, a symptom, of something that is wrong at a deeper, more fundamental level. A person may slowly become less and less sensitive to kedusha and to Godliness in life; one’s relationship to God may become matter-of-fact and perfunctory, and only afterwards does one begin to actually transgress. This is why a heavenly voice proclaimed to the conqueror, “You have destroyed a house that was already destroyed.” Before the consuming fires of destruction were kindled, the fire in the heart of the nation had already been extinguished.

Only the Sight of Rubble

Though for some time something had gone terribly wrong within the Jewish people, it took the catastrophic sight of actual, physical destruction to drive home the realization that something fundamental had been corrupted and lost. Most often, it’s only when a person actually transgresses that he realizes that he needs to do teshuva, to repair something that is amiss within him, something that didn’t just appear out of nowhere at the moment of transgression.

The destruction of the Temple was the culmination of a long period in which the Jewish nation became callous to God; a period is which our inner connection and relationship atrophied. And thus, the terrible destruction was actually the beginning of the process of restoration. The frightful sight of a Temple, and a people, lying in a heap of rubble, was the beginning of inner stirrings of teshuva. Indeed those stirrings had actually been there all along—within the soul of the nation—but we had become deaf to the echoes of yearning within our souls.

The prophets exhorted us to return and restore our relationship, but their words fell on deaf ears. They tried to awaken us, they tried to get us to see what was going on, not around us, but within us, but the collective slumber was deep; very, very deep. It was as if we had become spiritually unconscious. And so, it took a violent shaking to begin to stir us from our tardema, our comatose-like state of slumber.


Suddenly we were gripped by profound regret.

Suddenly we were shaken to the very core of our being.

Suddenly our utterly broken hearts were shocked into the beginnings of beating again. Suddenly we were overcome with a realization that said—

Nachpisa darkeinu … Let us reflect and [brutally and honestly] examine our ways, and we will return to Hashem.”

It would appear that the embrace of the kruvim at the moment of destruction was an indication that even in the midst of destruction, a corner had been turned: The sincere stirrings of  “…and we will return to Hashem.” were already alive and present in that moment, and were already paving the way to an inner restoration of deep intimacy between God and the nation of Israel.

The Month of Av

Av, as in Abba, father.

Av, as in Aveh, want, will, ratzon. “And Hashem did not aveh-want to listen to Bilam.”

The name of the month, av, is telling us about everything that transpires during this time. Yes, this is a month of wanting and desiring, of longing and love. From the realization and pain of churban—of terrible rift and distance—is sparked a longing; a longing rooted in love and the desire for reconciliation, repair, and closeness.

The kruvim that were embracing in the midst of shattering were testifying to the undying inner spark of longing for intimacy. Perhaps this is the meaning of our tradition that says that Moshiach will be born of Tisha B’av.

During these nine days it can be challenging to feel that closeness, but not on Shabbat. Shabbat Chazon is uniquely endowed with the power to enable us to see, and to envision, the deepest dimensions of who we are. People, and a people, that longs to be close to Hashem. A people that can see a beautiful, exalted future even from within what might appear to be great distance.

And perhaps this is also the beginning of tapping into the first stirings of the month of Elul. “I am to my Beloved, and my Beloved is to me.” That eternal love is rekindled in Av, grows stronger and stronger in Elul, and will eventually—God Willing soon in our days—lead us all the way to geula shleima and the restoration of the Beit Hamikdosh.

Hasheveinu Hashem elecha… Return us to You Hashem, and we will return; renew our days as they once were.”


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