Devarim: Criticism & Consolation

Well, Israel is quickly heading to heck.


After shutting down the economy and putting 25 percent of the population on unemployment, Israel was able to keep the infection rate and casualty rate down.  While they put together a plan to open up slowly, the plan was scrapped, and everything was opened all at once.  Naturally this, along with a lack of personal responsibility on the individual level, lead to a 7 percent infection rate, and growing numbers of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.  Just to make things worse, the government keeps arguing about and changing their rules and regulations, without rhyme or reason.


Whether or not the decision to close everything down was correct is a big question.  However, it worked because the government had a clear plan and direction.  However, you see what happens when a government of a small nation loses direction.  It also loses confidence of the people, and it affects nearly every area of life.


One of our favorite stories came from a friend of ours in Yerushaliyim who just recovered.  He called the Ministry of Health to find out how to get tested, so he can get out of quarantine.  Thinking that they will send somebody over, like they did with all the other people, he was told "no" and he must find his way to the closest testing center, 45 minutes way.  "Well, how am I to get there?  Take a bus?!?!?"


"Of course not!  You're in quarantine!"


"So, how could I get there?"


"Just take a taxi"




No wonder nobody trusts them.


Rav Avigdor Miller writes that there are many fundamental lessons to be learned from the prophet Yeshaya, who warned the nation about and witnessed the destruction of the first Beis HaMikdash.  For the first many chapters, Yeshaya gave bitter criticism of the Jewish people warning them of their impending destruction.  Needless to say, Yeshaya did not gain the greatest name for himself and is forever connected with the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash.


However, the real Yeshaya, says Rav Miller, comes next Shabbos, when we read the Haftorah, "Consolation, consolation…"  He is also the prophet of consolation and comfort.


This is one of the hallmark characteristics of a proper Jew: the ability to take criticism, internalize it, make a true change, and in the end, is "consoled" with true growth.


This is true both on an individual level and on a communal level.


I have a friend who lives in a smaller community.  The community is basically run by a handful of people, all friends with each other.  One is the principal of this school, one is the principal of another, one is the rabbi of the shul, etc.  He told me that while this community has been around for a while, it has hit its peak, physically and spiritually speaking, and will never grow beyond what they have.  All the "leaders" are happy with what they have going and are unwilling to acknowledge any problems that have arisen.  Their answer is to simply ignore the problem, hoping it will go away, or put a "band-aid" on it.  Why?  Because nobody wants to hear criticism.  Nobody wants to grow.  All is good.  And if you don't think so, it's your issue.


When a person is open to real criticism (not simply insults or criticism without any basis), and internalizes it, he will grow in ways that he could not in any other way, and in the end, will be consoled for the embarrassing feelings he experienced when receiving such criticism in the first place.


With that, I wish you all a wonderful Shabbos and a meaningful Tisha B'Av.