Moshe rebukes Yisrael by recounting their aveiros against Hashem during their journey through the desert. Moshe mentions a list of places in what appears to be actual cities. However, in reality, they merely are describing the aveiros (Rashi in the first passuk). For example, “In the Midbar” is misleading because they didn’t anger Hashem in the Midbar (desert) but rather at Arvos Moav. Rashi’s interpretation is that the Torah is not referring to a place but rather hinting to the aveirah in which they complained why did you take us out to die in the Midbar. In Moshe’s rebuke one finds that what looks like locations of a long journey are really not locations at all, but rather descriptions of their transgressions. In everyday real estate, the slogan is that the most important thing is location location location. Their business advertises that they are dealing with REAL estate. We are about to discover that in Torah and Jewish Geography the REAL estate depends solely on mitzvos and aveiros.
After Adam Harishon ate from the Aitz Hadaas, Hashem confronted him with the question איכה , where are you? What was the meaning of this inquiry? There was no question that physically and geographically Adam was in Gan Eden. Or maybe not really! We see that being under the Clouds of Glory does not necessarily mean that you were under its spiritual dimension. Rav Dessler ztl explains that we find a contradiction in Chazal. One states that Amalek grabbed the Yidden that the Clouds spit out, those who were not righteous enough to merit to be under them. Another Chazal says that Amalek entered the clouds and snatched the non-virtuous ones from their midst. Rav Dessler explains that even though they were physically under the clouds nevertheless it was tantamount to dwelling outside the clouds since they already lost their protection. So too, once Adam Harishon ate from the Aitz Hadaas and allowed the evil to now enter into his being, he was already outside Gan Eden even though he physically stood inside. This is the intention of Hashem’s inquiry “where are you”. Take an inner look and see that you really are standing outside the Gan which is indicative that you have committed a cataclysmic transgression.
When Avraham and Lot fled from the city of Sodom as it was being destroyed, they were warned not to look backward. Lot’s wife took the liberty to do the opposite and she was turned into a pillar of salt. Here again, the same explanation is given. They were forbidden to look back lest they might start thinking of the reason why the entire city is being destroyed. It was because of their evil decadence and lust for physical depraved desires. At that very moment, they might begin to imagine those same pleasures that they will be now missing and unattainable. With this thought alone, one will be automatically transferred back to the city of Sodom even though one geographically stood far from the city. Now that Lot’s wife was standing in Sodom with everyone else, she too was punished like them and became a pillar of salt.
Another example is when the Meraglim returned from their journey of spying the land, they spoke Lashon Harah on it and questioned Hashem’s power to conquer it. By doing so, they lost their connection to Eretz Yisrael forever. The reason why this was so, is because we find that in one episode when Dovid Hamelech was fleeing from Shaul who sought to kill him, Dovid entered a cave to hide from his pursuer. When Shaul entered the cave with the hunch that he might find him there, Dovid unknowing to Shaul, cut the corner of Shaul’s clothing in order to prove to Shaul that he spared his life. However, because Dovid abused the honor of clothing, later on in Dovid’s older years, they ceased to function for him and failed to keep him warm.
We learn from this that when one abuses something, it abstains to function for him. So too, when the Meraglim and Yisrael abused the honor of Eretz Yisrael it refrained from benefiting them with its spiritual powers. Once they sinned, even if Yisrael physically entered Eretz Yisrael and dwelled there, they would be geographically deemed nevertheless, outside of it in another location. The reason for this is because they would be lacking all the spiritual qualities that it had to offer. Hence there would be no real purpose to enter.
What an insightful lesson in Jewish Geography! An aveirah can take one from a place in which he is standing and bring him into a status which deems him outside of that place without even taking a step (Adam Harishon, Meraglim). It can take one from outside a place where he is standing and bring him into it without raising a leg (Lot’s wife). So too the rebuke of Moshe demonstrates that aveiros can remove you from what looks like a city, but in reality concerning you, it is totally non-existent.
The Navi Yirmaya begins Megillas Aichah with the word איכה which are the same letters of the word Ayekah with which Hashem addressed Adam Harishon after the chait. The usage of the same letters teaches us that the greatest pain one can experience is when one does not know where he is. To misidentify one’s true self is to bring upon oneself the state of Churban. The generation of the Churban thought they were coming to the Bais Hamikdash all the time. However, the external Mikdash receives its spiritual energy from the inner Bais Hamikdash that one must build in his heart. Only then when he enters the Bayis, is he truly “in” the Mikdash. This is true even if he is standing at a great distance from its location. If one has succeeded to build the Mikdash in his heart, he can suddenly find himself actually standing in it as we found by Yaakov Avinu (see Rashi Bereishis 28,11). But once the inner Bais Hamikdash becomes destroyed, then even if one stands in the Bais Hamikdash structure, he is in truth standing outside of the “Bais Hamikdash”. In relationship to the essential sinner, the Bais Hamikdash is gone. The Churban of its inner structure already has taken place and what you see is not what you get.
כל שלא נבנה בית המקדש בימיו כאילו נחרב בימיו (Yerushalmi Yuma 1,1). How are we to understand all the previous generations of Tzadikim who were not zoche to have been witness to the building of the Bais Hamikdash in their days? According to our explanation, we can say its meaning is that anyone who did not build the Mikdash in their “heart” is tantamount to having it destroyed. It was the lack of possessing the Bais Hamikdash in one’s heart which was the cause of the original destruction in the first place. The tzaddikim of the generations definitely do not fall into this category.