The contradiction between words and actions can create a whirlpool of distortion that sucks everyone in. When claims are stated with absolute conviction, people are drawn to believe them. Their attention rivets on the sliver of truth overlooking the grosser infractions of the accuser himself. When claims and actions contradict, they can't stay in focus at the same time. Attention swings back and forth which induces a quasi-hypnotic state in those looking on.

He expected us to listen in with ears of faith...

In the month of Av, says one of the oldest texts of Kabbalah, Sefer Yetzira, the sense of listening is up for rectification. In the sin of the spies (Num. 15:25-14:10), the princes returned and derided the Land of Israel. We heard their words and took them to heart without discrimination. And why shouldn't we? The scouts were the elite of their tribes and, like a rabbinical court, they voiced the majority view (10 vs. 2). Yet G‑d expected more from us. He expected us to listen in with ears of faith and hearts attuned to truth by the lights we absorbed at Sinai.

And that remains our test today, to not get hypnotized by voices that claim authority but do not embody the truth of Torah. Thus teaches the Netziv1 in his introduction to the Book of Genesis:

The book of Genesis was called Sefer HaYoshar (the "Book of the Upright") because it is about the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) who were called upright...Why did it single out their trait of uprightness? [After all,] they excelled in many [seemingly more spiritual] virtues, like rectitude and piety (tsidkut and chasidut)...The answer is that stressing the supreme importance of upright conduct in the world vindicates G‑d's decision to destroy the Second Temple despite the massive presence of tsadikim (virtuous ones), chasidim (pious ones) and Torah scholars in that generation.

For still, despite their piety and religiosity, they were not upright in their worldly dealings. They harbored hatred in their hearts toward those who followed different opinions than their own and would accuse them of heresy... G‑d would not tolerate tzadikim like these. G‑d wants tzadikim who are honorable in their dealings with the mundane world. Even though the tzadikim of the Second Temple period were motivated by devotion to Torah, their lack of upright conduct in the civil realm destroyed the world...2

G‑d wants tzadikim who are honorable in their dealings with the mundane world.

Let us come to the realization, as individuals and as a nation, that each person is making a contribution to the Jewish mission and let us treat them with the respect that is their due. Let us use the mirror of our projections to expose the hem of our soul and to clean it with a teshuva that is so real, it stops us from making excuses for our wrong-actions. Let the merit of these corrections heal the cracks in our collective soul such that we, as a people, BECOME the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple), the edifice, in this world, that most reveals the glory of G‑d.

[This article reproduces only the latter half of the author's teaching for Tisha B'Av 5769/2009]