The journeyed from Chatzeros and camped at Rismah. They journeyed from Rismah…

(Bamidbar 33:17-18)


Rashi (Bamidbar 33:1) teaches that the Jews encamped forty-two times over the forty years that they travelled in the desert before entering the Land of Israel. Rashi (Devarim 1:46) further relates that the first fourteen journeys were prior to sending the meraglim and the decree to wander for forty years, and the final eight encampments occurred during the fortieth year. Consequently, the remaining twenty journeys took place during the intervening thirty-eight years.

What was so important about Rismah that Bnei Yisroel were commanded to camp there? Rashi (Bamidbar 33:1,18) informs us that the encampment of Rismah was the location (also known as Kadesh) where the meraglim returned to from Eretz Yisroel and they remained there for nineteen years!

What is the meaning of the name, “Rismah?” Rashi (Bamidbar 33:18) tells us that it hints to the transgression of lashon hara (evil speech) which the spies reported about the Land of Israel at that location. Rismah alludes to the “rasamim” or juniper plant. In contrast to other plants, if burned, the coals remain burning on the inside even after the exterior has cooled. Bereishis Raba (98:19) relates that this is analogous to one who hears lashon hara; even if the content is subsequently proven false, he continues to believe the negative report  (See Rashi, Bamidbar 33:18, Saperstein Edition).

The night the meraglim returned to Rismah and delivered their evil report was Tishah B’Av. This date proved foreboding in Jewish history:  both Temples were destroyed and many other tragedies took place. Why? The gemara (Ta’anis 29a) teaches that the Jewish people’s response to the spies’ report was completely unjustified since God had explicitly promised to give them the Land, “You cried without cause; I will establish for you a reason to cry [on this day] for generations.”

The Maharal explains (Netzach Yisrael, Ch. 8, p. 53 ), “The fact that the Jews cried for nothing and despised the Land of Israel established for them a crying [on this day] for generations. This actually caused them to be exiled from their land. Their crying showed that they had not forged a complete connection to the Land.”

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler writes (Michtav M’Eliyahu, Vol. II, p. 46) that the underlying causative factor for destruction on Tisha B’Av was the lack of faith. The only rectification for the unjustified crying is sincere crying throughout Jewish history:

“‘You cried without cause; I will establish for you a reason to cry [on this day] for generations.’ Crying is an expression of internal pain. What is considered ‘crying without cause’? It only flows from a lack of faith in God. When the Jewish people stood at the border of the Holy Land, they resisted entering by saying, ‘Why did God bring us to this land to succumb to the sword… (Bamidbar 14) ‘Because God’s hate for us did He take us from the land of Egypt to give us over to the Amoraim to destroy us’ (Devarim 1). The cause of this deficiency in trusting in God is an internal lack – in bonding with God. The only way to rectify this is through the establishment of crying throughout the generations.”

Rabbi Avraham Edelstein explains (Ner Le’Elef Booklet on Bamidbar, Shavuos, and Tishah B’Av, pp. 188-189) that  the dynamic of the changed nature of our crying will actually enable us to usher in the Messianic era!

“At that time, the Jewish people cried because they were too close to God and would continue to be so. They felt that they could not continue in the Land of Israel with the intense Divine Providence that they had experienced in the desert. They would rather go back and suffer under the Egyptians. God’s response was that they would get what they wanted – distance from Him. But, He assured them, they would cry for generations and their future cries would be because of that distance. As a result of that distance they would see their Temples destroyed, and they would cry. Because of that distance they would see their land taken over by others, and they would cry in their exile. That crying would already be the right type of crying; it would be the cry of wanting to get closer to God, not further away, and it would lead to where the original crying led away from – return to the land and the ushering in of the Messianic era.”

The two NLE Morasha shiurim below address the Three Weeks and Tisha B’Av:

The Three Weeks and Tishah B’Av I: Exile & Destruction

The Three Weeks and Tishah B’Av II: Why the Temple was Destroyed & How to Rebuild It


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