Rabbi Yonason Sacks
The three weeks from shiva asar b'Tamuz to Tisha B'Av mark an intense period of universal mourning. During this time we face the difficult challenge of aveilus commemorating the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. For many of us, however, this experience may seem somewhat distant and remote. How do we internalize the loss of something that we never witnessed and experienced. How do we, living in a blessed era or religious freedom and growth, yearn for the building of the Beis Hamikdash?
A profound lesson can be gleaned from the plight of the eved ivri, the Jewish bondsman. The Torah (Shemos 21) allows the court to sell a thief into slavery to raise funds to pay his victims. If after six years of servitude he chooses to remain a slave his ear is bored. Rashi (21:6) cites the Gemara (Kiddushin 22b) which states, "u'ma ra'ah ozen leiratza mikol sha'ar eivarim shebaguf? Amar Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai, ozen shesham'a al Har Sinai 'Lo Signov' v'halach v'ganav teiratze - and what is it about the ear that it should be bored of all the organs of the body? Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai said it was the ear that heard at Mt. Sinai 'You shall not steal', and yet he went and stole, therefore let it be bored."
The Maharal Diskin questions the timing of the boring of the ear. If the purpose of retzia is to teach the eved the lesson of lo signov, why do we pierce his ear now - wouldn't it be more fitting to pierce his ear at the time that he stole? The Maharal Diskin explains that the true punishment for stealing was his being sold as a slave. However, when his years of servitude come to an end and he proclaims, "lo eitzei chofshi- I shall not go free", it becomes clear that what was intended as a punishment was perceived by the eved as an ideal. It now becomes necessary to punish him again by boring his ear.
Golus is a punishment. Our challenge, especially during these three weeks, is to realize that although b'chasdei Hashem we live in a time of abundant beracha, nevertheless "U'Mipnai chatoeinu galinu meiartzeinu - because of our sins we were exiled from our land."