Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky
A Song of Joy
"The Song of the Leviim in the Beis HaMikdash" - these words conclude our daily tefilah. This song began in this week's parshah with the inauguration of the Leviim. Many years later the joyous song of the Leviim would become associated with tragedy. "Al Naharos Bavel - By the rivers of Babylon", is the chapter of Tehillim most associated with the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. This chapter focuses of the cessation of the Leviim's song at the time of the churban. The enemy taunted the Leviim - "Shiru lanu mishir Tziyon - Sing us the songs of Zion". Responding with the words that would accompany the Jewish people throughout its long Exile, the Leviim swore "Im eshkachech Yerushalyim - If I forget you Jerusalem". This tragic chapter of Tehillim focuses primarily on the end of the role of the Leviim as singers in the Beis HaMikdash.
Chazal highlight the tragedy of the Leviim as they relate to us the precise moment the enemy entered the Beis HaMikdash. It was as the Leviim were singing that the defilement, and subsequently the destruction, of the Beis HaMikdash occurred. Why does the end of the Leviim's song play such a prominent role in the churban?
In parshas Ki Savo we read about the terrible events of the churban and exile that will occur to the Jewish People. These curses are brought about by not serving Hashem, "BeSimcha uvtuv levav - with joy and a good heart. Service of Hashem that is performed by rote without joy and enthusiasm can chas veshalom bring about churban. Chazal teach us the singing of the Leviim while the Kohanim offered korbanos is a fulfillment of "Simcha vtuv levav - joy and a good
heart". Song is the expression of the great joy that should accompany the service of the Beis Hamikdash in particular, and the service of Hashem in general. If this song is deficient it is indicative that the heart and soul of avodas Hashem is missing. The churban occurred as the Leviim were singing. Apparently their song was no longer a genuine expression of enthusiasm about avodas Hashem. As the Jewish People wept by the rivers of Bavel the realization set in
that the true song of the Beis Hamikdash had ceased years before, eventually bringing down the Beis Hamikdash. What can we do to rectify the situation of the churban we are in now? Looking to the Leviim may give us the answer. Besides their role in the Beis Hamikdash, the Leviim were entrusted with another responsibility. The Leviim were not given land, rather they would be the spiritual leaders primarily by being the Torah scholars and teachers. In this role the Leviim also lead us in song. In parahas VaYelech we are commanded "Kisvu lachem es hashira hazos - write for yourselves this song." Chazal interpret this to be referring to the sefer Torah. Why is the Torah likened to a song? The study of Torah must be with joy and enthusiasm just as one sings. It is the role of the Leviim as the singers of the Jewish people to sing the song of Torah as well.
The Beis HaMikdash is gone and its song silenced. Yet, we can still sing the song of Torah. We are taught by Chazal that from the day of the churban Hashem now dwells in the world of Torah. We must not only learn Torah but sing its song with the enthusiasm and joy that accompanies its study. Through our dedication to this second song of the Leviim may we merit to once again be inspired by the song of the Leviim as they accompany the avodas hakarbanos. May Hashem grant us "V'hashev Kohanim laavodasam Ulvim lshiram ulezimram - Return the Kohanim to their service and the Leviim to their song."