by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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There is a well-known gemara in Sotah 49b which relates that when the Romans beseiged the city of Jerusalem in the time of the second Beis Hamikdosh, the Jews ran out of numerous supplies. Included amongst these were the sheep required for the twice daily Korban Tomid. This was solved by the Jews lowering a basket of gold coins over the wall of the city, in return for which two sheep were sent back to them in the basket.

Someone on the inside sent the Romans a message, that as long as bnei Yisroel had the merit of the daily Temidim, the enemy would be unable to conquer the city. The next day, instead of two sheep, a pig was put into the basket. The pig was being hoisted up in the basket, and before it reached half way up, it thrust its claws into the wall and the entire 400 by 400 parsoh length and breadth of Eretz Yisroel quaked. After this, the wall was breached, leading to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh itself.

Why didn't the enemy just leave the basket empty? They had already received payment. Why bother replacing the two sheep with anything?

The Medrash Vayikroh Rabboh Ch. 13 says that the four species of non-kosher animals which have only one sign of kashrus, split hooves or chewing its cud, rumenation, but lacks the second sign, correspond to the four exiles which the bnei Yisroel experienced. The pig corresponds to our present day exile, golus Edom. What is the symbolism in this comparison?

The GR"A of Vilna explains that the pig is unique, not only among these four species, but among all the animals in the world, in that it is the only one that has split hooves, but does not chew its cud. The other three species chew their cud, and their common sign of non-kashrus, non-split hooves, is visible externally. Not so the pig, which externally looks kosher, but internally is lacking the sign of chewing its cud.

With this the Vilna Gaon explains the gemara Yoma 9b. Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Elozor both said that those living in the time of the first Beis Hamikdosh committed sins which were well-known. Just as their sins were well-known, so was the time of the completion of their exile known to them. Those living in the time of the second Beis Hamikdosh committed sins which were not obvious, so the time of completion of their exile would likewise remain unknown.

Reb Yochonan said that the fingernail of people living during the first Beis Hamikdosh is better than the stomach of those living in the second. The Vilna Goan explains this enigmatic statement of Reb Yochonan as follows: Those living during the first Beis Hamikdosh, who committed obvious sins, resemble the three species which have obvious external signs of non-kashrus.

Those living during the second Beis Hamikdosh, committed the sin of "sinas chinom," baseless hatred, which like all emotions, is hidden from the eye. Now we understand Reb Yochonan's symbolism of the finger and the stomach. The finger, the non-split hoof, is the overt sign of non-kashrus. The stomach, hidden within the animal which does not chew its cud, symbolizes hidden sins.

On the basis of the GR"A's explanation, we can answer the question we asked above. The Romans did not leave the basket empty, because that would have meant that the bnei Yisroel could not fulfill the mitzvoh of bringing the Tomid sacrifice only because of the lack of access to sheep. Rather, they sent a pig which externally looks kosher. In their attempt to destroy Judaism, they offered a pig, indicating that the pig is also kosher.

The Romans were aware that Judaism could be more greatly damaged by excercising a false, artificial Judaism, than by refraining from fulfilling a mitzvoh through lack of ability to do so. This concept is embodied in the split hooves of the pig. When it was being pulled up the wall in a basket, it thrust its hooves into the wall of Jerusalem, breaching the city's sanctity. Specifically, its hooves symbolize false Judaism which sends a message to the people, "Accept me too as a Korban Tomid because I appear kosher." This falsification of Judaism was so devastating that it shook the sanctity of the length and breadth of the land.

It stands to reason that if our sages tell us that the pig is symbolic of the exile of Edom, it means that the characteristic of the pig is reflected in the nature of the exile's challenges.

Indeed, our exile has undergone in the past, and continues to presently undergo, challenges represented by many "isms" which represent falsified, anti-Torah values, which seem to be packaged in a "kosher" setting.

May we merit to overcome these challenges and see the coming of Moshiach and the building of the Beis Hamikdosh speedily in our days! Amen!


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