Parashat Devarim is always read on the Shabbat prior to Tisha B’Av. One particular verse in that parashah is chanted with the tune of Eichah (Lamentations), whereby Moshe quite understandably complains: “How (“eichah”) can I solely bear the burden, responsibility, and conflict that you present?” (Devarim 1:12). Moshe’s legitimate claim is that he is unable to judge the nation by himself. Why, then, is this verse chanted in the tune of Eichah? There seems to be no connection between Tisha B’Av and this verse other than the verse’s first word: “Eichah” – “How.”
In order to understand this we must consider our parashah – “And it was on the next day that Moshe sat to judge the nation” (Shemot18:13). The majority of the commentators explain that the day referred to in this verse was the day following the Yom Kippur on which the Jews received the second set of Tablets (after having sinned with the Golden Calf). This tremendous event is something that is impossible to grasp – God revealed Himself to the nation accompanied by great thunder and lightning. Each and every Jew was a part of the utmost spiritual experience. And then, the very next day – only one night after this incredible event – we witness a nation that has simply “forgotten” its encounter with the Divine and now stands “around Moshe from the morning to the evening” (ibid.) awaiting his ruling on their various disputes and in other matters of Halachah.
While we know that Moshe was the only judge, we witness a nation that had just previously reached the pinnacle of its existence, who then less than twenty-four hours later flocks to Moshe to sit before him in judgment! Yitro advises Moshe to appoint further judges to aid him bear his judiciary responsibilities, which Moshe then does. However, we must note that Moshe does not simply appoint a select few to judicial positions – rather he appoints “leaders of tens” (ibid. v. 18), one judge for every ten Jews!
We are all familiar with the dictum that the Templewas destroyed due to Sin’at Chinam (“Baseless hatred”), and it is throughAhavat Chinam (literally “Free Love”) that it will be rebuilt. Our Sages link Moshe’s cry of “How can I solely bear the burden” inParashat Devarim to the opening word of Eichah, for Mosheh was not simply bemoaning his tremendous workload as the sole judge, rather he was terribly pained by the number of disputes and quarrels brought before him. It is with that same word, “eichah” – “how” – that Moshe begins his sentence that is then quite apt employed in opening the Megillah of the destruction of the Temple.
When we learn to cease our quarrelling, and respect and honour our fellow man, no longer rushing to drag our fellow before the courts, we will then be able to unite into one unified nation. It is precisely through this conduct that we will merit the construction of the ThirdTemple.