Tish’a beAv – the Mo’eid of Divine Inaction

The chaburah at Zelmele’s Kloiz is now learning Derashos haRan, the third derashah. I wanted to continue a conversation we had there, in light of today being Tish’ah beAv. The following is based on the text available at Sefaria as paragraphs 11-15 of their edition.

The Ran writes that the ideas of making and providing really only applies to things that are there, not absence. So, in the purest sense, we can speak of making light, of of making a black garment by dying it, or of making one white through bleaching. Therefore, each of these things have their own chain of causes.

Absences, though, like darkness, actually come from inaction. The cause of darkness is really the lack of a cause of light. Both are fully attributable to the same entity.

The Ran continued by saying that this lack of cause can be in one of three ways.

Someone turning off the source. And by language extension, we can speak of “making” or “providing” this lack by stopping it. “Reuvein made it dark when he blew out the candle.”

Second, is the one who prevents the cause from happening. And it isn’t much more of an extension to say the absence was thereby “made” – “Shimon made it dark by preventing Leivi from lighting the candle.”

But the third category, simply not acting… Whether you can call it making or not really depends on of whom or Whom you are speaking.

When it comes to people, the Ran writes, it doesn’t make much sense to go there. Yehudah didn’t “make” his house dark by not turning on the light.

However, when it comes to the RBSO, who Causes everything He Wills to Cause, and the concept of effort doesn’t apply… There saying He Made something that exists only as an absence does make more sense. A lack of action has as much reason as an action – whether making something literally, stopping a provider, or preventing the provider.

And so, the Assyrians are to blame for the exile of 10 shevatim (ending Malkhus Yisrael and routing Sheivet Shimon) Babylonians and Romans are indeed to blame for the destructions of the Batei Miqdash… the Ketos Wars, Bar Kokhva and the second Galus, the Sassanid persecutions that forced us to hide Shema elsewhere in the siddur, the Crusaders, Spain, Chmielnicki and his hordes, the Nazis, Arab armies and terrorists, Iran, and everyone r”l in between.

But Divine Inaction is as much His Will as His Action. We cannot simply stop at the Nazis and not confront the question of why Hashem Chose not to stop them.

All this the Ran finds hidden in Hashem’s response to Moshe pointing out his speech impediment. A lack of speech is the default space. Not being granted the usual level of capacity for speech is thus by a Divine Inaction. “מִ֣י שָׂ֣ם פֶּה֮ לָֽאָדָם֒ א֚וֹ מִֽי־יָשׂ֣וּם אִלֵּ֔ם א֣וֹ חֵרֵ֔שׁ א֥וֹ פִקֵּ֖חַ א֣וֹ עִוֵּ֑ר הֲלֹ֥א אָנֹכִ֖י ה’׃ – who Gave the human a mouth, and who has caused a person to be speechless or deaf, seeing or blind? It is not I, Hashem?”

Hashem has a Purpose for Moshe’s speech (the Ran said: so that no one attributes the acceptance of his message to his eloquence), just as He had a Purpose for the exile and slavery under the Egyptians.

Tish’ah beAv is thus a mo’eid, an appointed day, for taking awareness of Divine Inaction, to mourn its effects and to contemplate what we could do to be the people for Whom further inaction would not be His Will.

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1 Response

  1. July 31, 2023 – י״ג באב תשפ״ג

    […] Chaburah 3: We continued the Ran’s discussion of why Moshe had a speech impediment. And how does Hashem’s answer — “who gave the human a mouth…” — address the question? The Ran’s discussion revolves around causing things by commission, and when do we say that something is caused by omission? And does the answer differ if we are speaking of human inaction or Hashem not Acting? (This then led to the speculation in the previous post, “Tish’a beAv – the Mo’eid of Divine Inaction“.) […]

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