Thursday, August 28, 2014


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead


During the last few summers, Camp Dora Golding has been graced with a few visits by the Nikolsberger Rebbe, Harav Yosef Yechiel Mechel Lebovits. Each time the Rebbe arrives with a small entourage of his Chassidim from Monsey where he is based for the sole purpose of greeting the campers and trying to inspire them.[1]
The first time the Rebbe visited the camp was during the summer of 2008. At the conclusion of his speech to the campers the Rebbe admitted that he was originally skeptical about his own ability to connect with the campers. He mentioned that he was pleasantly surprised by the rapt attention that the campers were paying to his every word. The Rebbe was indeed able to connect with the boys in a most impressive manner. It is as our Sages relate, “Words that emanate from the heart enter the heart.”[2]
The following is an excerpt from the Rebbe’s address to the older three divisions of the camp:
Every day in our recitation of Shema we recite the verse: “ואהבת את ה' אלקיך בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך ובכל מאדך - And you shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your resources.” How can we be obligated to love G-d? Love is an emotion that develops from an inner feeling of connection. If one feels that deep sense of connection he will automatically love that person. But if those feelings are not present there cannot be any love. One cannot love someone or something out of coercion?
The Rebbe related the following legend:
During the 1500s Jerusalem was ruled by Suleiman the Magnificent, the Sultan of the mighty Ottoman Empire. One day while in the Holy City, the Sultan noticed an elderly woman carrying two bags of garbage. He watched as she marched up a hill and promptly dumped the contents of her waste onto a huge landfill. The curious Sultan had her summoned before her. When he asked her where she was from, she explained that she was from Acco, a city somewhat distant from Jerusalem. The Sultan bewilderedly asked her if there was a shortage of garbage dumps in Acco. She explained that it was a custom in her family for hundreds of years to save up their garbage and then to haul it to Jerusalem in order to empty it on that spot. She explained that she was a descendant of the Romans who conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Holy Temple almost 1500 years earlier. Much to their dismay, when the Roman Legions set the structure on fire and destroyed it they could not penetrate the Western Wall. It was a disgrace for the Romans to leave a wall standing so they decreed that all garbage be brought to that spot. In that way the wall would be completely obscured and eventually forgotten.
The Sultan wanted to verify for himself if the old woman’s tale was true. He had his servants cast coins and diamonds into the landfill and he announced that any valuables found among the rubbish could be pocketed. The impoverished inhabitants of the city were only too eager to rummage for valuables and within a short time the entire wall was unearthed and revealed. 
The Rebbe then explained that in the heart of every Jew there is an inner Bais Hamikdash; the place where the spirit of G-d resides within. But our evil inclination, our archenemy, seeks to destroy that inner Temple and to douse the inner flame that burns within our hearts. However, there is a Kosel Hama’aravi - a Western Wall within our hearts, as it were, that cannot be breached by any force of impurity in the world. It is the “pintele Yid”, the impervious holy divine spark.
So what does our Evil Inclination do if he cannot destroy that wall? He buries it! He covers it with mounds of spiritual muck and debris in order to divert one’s attention from the truly important things in life. Sometimes one may even think that his “inner Kosel” has been destroyed, Heaven forbid. But a Jew must know that that wall will never fall! It may be buried, but if one removes the spiritual refuse from his heart he will find that it is still standing in all its glory.
The Rebbe then surprised the campers when he asked the following question: “I want to ask you all something: Who here goes for the Yanks and who goes for the Mets?” The room quickly came to life with brief cheers. The Rebbe continued, “I want you all to know that I also daven for the Yankees every day!” After a raucous applause erupted from the assemblage, the Rebbe continued with a twinkle in his eye, “But not the same Yankees as you root for! You see, I daven for the Yankees, as in the children of our forefather Yankev[3] in his epic battle with Eisav. Yankev and Eisav are always fighting for domination over this world. When we connect with our inner spiritual selves then we - “the Yankys (Yankees)”[4] - have the upper hand in the world. So I am always davening for the “Yankees” to prevail!” 
The Rebbe explained that one does not need to teach a parent to love his/her child because that love is innate and natural. In a similar vein, the love of G-d is naturally embedded in our hearts. It is inextricably bound with our souls which are breathed into us at the moment we are created. The only reason we may not realize or feel that love is because it becomes obscured by our sins. Thus, the more one immerses himself in Torah, mitzvos, and the service of G-d and distances one’s self from things that hinder spirituality, the more he will reconnect with that innate love and that impregnable Kosel that resides within.
The Rebbe concluded by stating that when we recite the verse of Shema which speaks about loving G-d we should not read it as a commandment but rather as a guarantee. If one will live as the rest of the paragraph states, i.e. to live Torah constantly “when you are going on the way, when you are lying down and when you wake up, etc.” then inevitably, “ואהבת את ה' אלקיך בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך ובכל מאדך - You WILL love Hashem, your G-d, with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your resources.”

“When you go out to battle against your enemy…you shall not fear them, for Hashem, your G-d, is with you….It shall be for you when you draw near to the war, the Kohen shall approach and speak to the people. He shall say to them, “שמע ישראל - Hear O Israel, today you are coming near to the battle against your enemies; let your heart not be faint; do not be afraid, do not panic and do not be broken before them. For Hashem, you G-d, is the One who goes with you, to fight for you with your enemies, to save you””.[5]
On the words, “Hear O Israel” Rashi notes that even one who possesses no merits other than the fact that he is particular to recite “שמע ישראל - Hear O Israel”[6] is worthy of Divine salvation in battle. 
In Ta’am V’da’as, Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch explains that when one recites the Shema he proclaims and accepts upon himself, and upon the world, the monarchy and kingship of G-d. It is an assertion of one’s emphatic belief that G-d is the sole power and Divine entity, and that He runs every facet of creation according to His dictates. One who internalizes that belief need not fear entry into battle because he knows that G-d is in control and no harm can befall him unless G-d wills it.
Rabbi Sternbuch continues that there is an even more simplistic understanding of Rashi’s words. If one is meticulous to recite the Shema in its proper time, and with proper intent and punctiliousness, that itself is sufficient merit to warrant protection in battle.
When reciting the Shema one accepts upon himself the yoke of Heaven and all that it entails. It is for this reason that the Talmud commences with a discussion of the laws of the Shema. It is wholly appropriate that the Oral Law begin with a dialogue and elucidation about the proper manner and laws involving the acceptance of G-d’s Kingship. A Jew begins and ends his day by reciting the Shema and reminding himself of his primary responsibilities and allegiance.

The rapidly approaching holiday of Rosh Hashana is dedicated as the day when we re-proclaim the monarchy and re-coronation of G-d. All of the beautiful prayers which describe the august majesty of G-d are not meant to be mere lip service. If G-d, in all of His grandeur and opulence is our King then we must transform ourselves into worthy subjects and trustworthy servants who seek to fulfill the Will of the King to the best of our ability.
With the powerful thought of the Nikolsberger Rebbe in mind, we can add that one who recites Shema and internalizes its message will come to feel that G-d is not merely with him but that G-d is within him!
Could there be any greater protection from the daily grinds and battles of life?

“Hear O Israel, today you are coming to battle your enemies”
“You WILL love Hashem, your G-d”

[1] This past summer the Rebbe joined the camp in celebrating the Chanukas Habayis of the camp’s new beautiful shul
[2] Based on Mishley/Proverbs 27:19; see Metzudos Dovid
[3] in Chassidic dialect Yaakov (Jacob) is often pronounced Yankev
[4] i.e. the plural for “Yankev” – the Yankys are the descendants of Yankev…
[5] Devorim 20:1-4
[6] i.e. the recitation of the Shema

Friday, August 22, 2014


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead


A man lost his way while driving through the country. As he tried to reach for his map[1], he accidentally drove off the road and into a ditch. Although he wasn’t injured his car was stuck in a deep layer of mud. He pulled himself out and walked down the road to seek assistance. Not too far away was an old farmhouse with an old genial farmer standing in front. When the man explained his predicament the farmer jumped to his feet. “Warwick can get you out of the ditch in a jiffy” he announced, pointing to an old mule grazing out in the field. The man looked skeptically at the decrepit old mule, but the farmer was insistent that Warwick could do it.
The two men accompanied the mule back to the ditch. The farmer hitched the reins to the car. Then he snapped the reins and shouted, “Alright! Fred, Jack, and Warwick, pull! Fred, Jack, and Warwick, pull!” Within a couple of minutes the mule pulled the car completely out of the ditch.
The man was amazed. He thanked the farmer profusely and patted Warwick on the head. Before leaving he asked the farmer why he called out those other names. The farmer grinned, “You see, old Warwick is just about blind. As long as he believes he’s part of a team he doesn’t mind pulling!”

“See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse.”[2]
Chizkuni points out that up to this point of his discourse to the nation, Moshe Rabbeinu cajoled the nation about such fundamental commandments as loving and fearing G-d, avoiding idolatry, and preserving the sanctity of the Holy Land. The first three parshios of Chumash Devorim were exhortations to the nation that they maintain their greatness and not forget their sense of responsibility as the Chosen People.
At this point, Moshe paused and put it all into perspective, stating that the prerogative to choose whether to live a Torah life or not is the same as choosing between living a blessed life or a cursed life.
Moshe urged the people to “see”, because good and evil are often befuddled. It often seems that the wicked lead a life of contentment and goodness while the righteous live deprived and wanting. However, the reality is that one who does not grasp the “tree of life” will not be able to find fulfillment and meaning in his life. But one who does not contemplate and seek this truth will be fooled by the external mirage of what appears to be a blessing.[3]

The commentators question the grammar of the opening verse of the parsha. The word “Re’eh – see” is a singular verb, while the word “lifneichem – before you” is in the plural.  Why does the verse change from the singular to the plural within the same verse?
Minchas Asher[4] quotes the gemara[5]: “One should always view himself as if he and the world are half liable and half meritorious; if he merits and performs one good deed praised is he, for he has tilted himself and the entire world to the side of merits. If he transgresses a sin woe is to him, for he has pushed himself and the entire world toward the side of liability.” The verse refers to this Talmudic statement when it states, “See (singular) that I have placed before you (i.e. the entire world) blessing and curse”, for one should always view himself as if the fate of the entire world rests in his hands.
Rabbi Weiss explains that the message of the gemara is that one must always contemplate and be wary of how his actions will be viewed, as well as how they will influence others. When one sins in front of another and the other person learns from his example he will ultimately be held culpable - not only for his own sin - but for the sin of his “disciple” as well.
The Chofetz Chaim noted that in Russia there was a melamed[6] who did not connect well with a student named Leib Bronstein. Leib eventually abandoned Torah completely and adopted the name Leon Trotsky. He became one of the most infamous communists and virulent anti-Semites in Russia. The Chofetz Chaim noted that that teacher would ultimately have to answer, not only for Leon Trotsky’s malice and iniquity, but also for all of the hatred for Torah and destruction of religion which he promoted.
Our sages teach that the reward for good is always far greater than the magnitude of punishment for evil. For example, when the Jewish midwives in Egypt defied the command of Pharaoh and helped the Jewish mothers give birth to boys safely, the verse states that, “G-d was good to the midwives and the nation multiplied.”
Seforno explains that “the good” was that He caused the nation to multiply. Every good deed that those children performed was on some level attributed to the midwives which guaranteed them endless merits.   
              One must always think about how he is fitting in with the larger public and if he is contributing positively or not. He must contemplate how his actions going to be viewed by others and if they will have a positive affect. Essentially, he must answer whether he is being a productive member of society.

Anyone who has ever worked in any sort of organization understands the veracity and fundamentality of this concept. A group is only as strong and productive as the union and unity between its members.
This week our family returned from Camp Dora Golding where we are fortunate to spend our summers, and I serve as a Division Head. The camp boasts over 500 campers and over 300 more staff members, administration, and family members.
Each year, during the final Shabbos of the camping season, the camp director and his wife, Mr. Alex and Chanie Gold, host an ‘appreciation Kiddush’ for the staff.
A few years ago at the Kiddush, the then head counselor - Rabbi Pinchos Idstein - related the following thought: When the Torah records the events of the first six days of creation, each day[7] concludes with the words, “G-d saw that it was good”. After the Torah records the creations of the sixth day however, the verse concludes “G-d saw all that He made and it was very good…”[8] At the end of the sixth day it was not simply “good” but “very good”.
The Vilna Gaon explained that there are certain things that are only ‘good’ when they stand alone. As soon as those things are coupled together with something else they lose their ability to produce. G-d’s Creation however, was created so that each component would work in tandem to produce the perfection of creation. It is specifically when the world works in harmony that true goodness can be achieved. Therefore, it was only when G-d saw “ALL that He created” that He proclaimed that it was “very good.”
Rabbi Idstein emphasized that the success of a camp is based on the harmonious efforts of all its diverse parts. Every person has his own role and responsibility and each one is integral for the success of the camp. We are all inextricably bound!
Parshas Re’eh is read the week when we are Mevarech Chodesh Elul. The awesome days of judgment are imminent and we will soon stand again adorned in our prayer shawls begging for another year of blessing and goodness. Repentance is in the air and the call of the shofar will again seek to rouse us from our slumber. Our sages teach us that one of the greatest merits which one can have is that of unity and being a productive member of Klal Yisroel.
Each of us must “see” the blessing and curse, albeit not in a selfish manner. We must “see” and recognize our individual place and how invaluable every one of us is. If we do so, then G-d will see that we are a people who are “very good” and we will merit a year of blessing and redemption.

            “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse”
            “G-d saw all that He made and it was very good”

[1] Once upon a time, before the world of GPS, people needed things called maps to help them with directions…
[2] Devorim 11:26
[3] This week we saw a living example of the dictum that all that glitters is NOT gold, when a noted American comedian and celebrity who was thought to be wealthy and not lacking anything committed suicide out of feelings of loneliness, despair, and deep depression.
[4] Rabbi Osher Weiss shlita
[5] Kiddushin 40b
[6] a teacher who taught Torah to children
[7] aside from the second day
[8] Bereishis 1:31

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Camp Dora Golding


          The Chazon Ish, Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz zt’l, served G-d with every fiber of his being. His life was completely devoted to Torah study, prayer, and mitzvah observance.
          There was a period during his life when the Chazon Ish was ill and weak and, because of the intensity with which he studied, he was unable to learn anything except studies that did not require intense concentration[1]. During that time, for the sake of his health, he would also not recite blessings before he ate. Normally when the Chazon Ish recited a blessing he concentrated on the words with incredible intensity and therefore during his period of weakness it would have been equally detrimental to his health for him if he would have recited blessings.
The Chazon Ish could not bring himself to recite a blessing without his usual intensity. He was extremely particular to fulfill the law which states that ideally whenever one recites the Divine Name (which is at the core of every blessing) he must do so with fear and trepidation (see Chayei Adam, Klal 5). Since he was unable to recite the blessing without that extreme level of concentration and emotion, for the sake of his health, during that period he was exempt from reciting blessings.

Moshe Rabbeinu exhorted the nation “V’atah Yisroel mah Hashem Elokecha shoel mayimach ki im l’yirah oso - Now O Israel, what does Hashem, your G-d, ask of you? Only to fear Him…”[2]
Medrash Tanchuma writes that during the reign of Dovid Hamelech there was a tragic period when one hundred of his men died in battle every day. Dovid realized that the deaths were a form of retribution. In order to rectify the situation Dovid Hamelech enacted that every individual recite one hundred blessings daily. He based it on a homiletical reading of the aforementioned verse: “Mah Hashem shoel mayimach – What does G-d ask of you”. The word “mah” can be read as “mayah - a hundred”. Thus the verse reads, “Now O Israel, a hundred (i.e. blessings) is what G-d asks of you.”
As soon as Dovid enacted the daily quota of blessings the plague ceased.[3]
What is the significance of reciting one hundred blessings and why did it stop the plague?
Rabbi Shimshon Pinkus zt’l explains that our task in life is to connect ourselves spirituality with G-d. A person must strive to reach a level where his soul pines to perform mitzvos and to follow the Torah with all his heart and soul.
The revelation at Sinai and the transmission of Torah is often compared to a wedding, a covenant of love between G-d and Klal Yisroel. In regards to marriage the key to preserving peace and harmony in the home stems from there being a pleasant and passionate relationship between both spouses. Often one spouse will say to the other, “I don’t want/need anything. Just please speak to me pleasantly.” The main joy in a home is when they are able to speak to each other devotedly, sincerely wishing each other “Good Morning” and saying “Thank You”, even for mundane things.
Rabbi Pinkus explained that the same holds true in regard to our relationship with G-d, as it were. Moshe wondered rhetorically[4]: What does G-d ask of you? What does He want from you? That you should speak to Him pleasantly at all times.
That is the idea behind reciting one hundred blessings, to thank G-d constantly - to appreciate the wondrous gift of sight and to emotionally declare, ‘Thank You for my vision’, to hold a glass of water and before gulping it down to thank G-d for it. The constant recitation of blessings breeds within a person the greatest level of constant connection with G-d.
Rav Pinkus explained that this is why Dovid Hamelech specifically enacted the recitation of blessings as the means to amass merits to stop the plague. It is analogous to a couple who are extremely angry with one another. When people who are so close and know each other so intimately are at odds the contention is particularly divisive and acrimonious. However, if they can somehow move beyond their anger and animosity and have a pleasant conversation their anger will dissipate and they will be able to repair the relationship.
That was the idea behind Dovid’s enactment. Dovid essentially instructed Klal Yisroel to “speak nicely to G-d” by recognizing all the good He does and to thank Him for it. When one keeps repeating, “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You”, inevitably the anger will dissipate and feelings of love will suffuse instead.
It is a constant challenge for one to concentrate and to savor the meaning and emotion that should be awakened when reciting a blessing. Out of the 620 commandments[5] that every Jew is obligated in, few are as disregarded and underappreciated as reciting blessings. The fact that we are so remiss in regards to blessings is itself indicative of their greatness.[6]
One who is meticulous to recite blessings with even partial concentration will merit tremendous spiritual blessing and feelings of closeness and connection with G-d.

Rav Pinkus related the following amusing personal anecdote to bolster his point: “I want to tell all of you that if you are meticulous to recite blessings with kavana (concentration) it will literally change your life. If you train yourself to thank G-d for all the things that we generally take for granted you will become a happier person and it is guaranteed to have a positive effect on every facet of your life. Because we recite blessings so often they become trite and we recite them haphazardly. So for you to train yourself to say blessings with feeling is a ‘kuntz’[7], although for me it’s not such a kuntz. Please allow me to explain why it’s not such a kuntz for me:
“Some time ago, I was invited to address the Yarchei Kalla[8] in the Ponovezher Yeshiva in B’nei B’rak. The topic that I was given was blessings and so I spoke at length about their great merit and importance. When I finished I went to the home of my brother-in-law who lived nearby in B’nei B’rak. It was a scorching hot day and I poured myself a glass of soda. As I was about to drink it I noticed that my brother-in-law was watching me. I figured he was probably thinking, ‘Shimshi, just gave a whole discourse about blessings. Let’s see how he himself recites a blessing!’ So I was careful to say the blessing with a little added fervor.
That Shabbos the Rosh Yeshiva of the community where I am the Rabbi (Ofakim, near Be’er Sheva, in the south of Eretz Yisroel) was away. Being that he usually addressed the community on Shabbos morning the community leaders turned to me and requested that I speak in his stead. I spoke about the topic that was most fresh on my mind, i.e. blessings. I repeated the entire discourse that I had given a few days prior.
After davening was over and I was about to recite Kiddush prior to the Shabbos meal I noticed that my children were gazing at me. I figured they too were wondering how I was going to recite a blessing after delivering such a speech. I developed a complex wherever I went that people were watching me when I said a blessing. I was forced to accustom myself to saying blessings with concentration and fervor.
“So for me it’s no longer a kuntz to say blessings with concentration. But for you it still is. You’ll see that if you do, it will change your life.”
 G-d is surely not at all affected by our blessings. It is we who stand to benefit from living a life of appreciation and awareness of Hashem constantly. Reciting blessings with fervor and concentration is a powerful way to build that connection.

“Now O Israel, what does Hashem, your G-d, ask of you?”
“Now O Israel, a hundred blessings is what G-d asks of you!”

[1] Such as Tanach
[2] Devorim 10:12
[3] See Ba’al Haturim on this verse and on verse 4:4 where other allusions to the obligation of reciting one hundred blessings daily are mentioned.
[4] as the simple translation of the words reveal
[5] 613 Biblical and 7 Rabbinic (numerical value of the word ‘Keser- crown’)
[6] The more holy and precious something is the more our Evil Inclination works to ensure that we do not take advantage of its greatness and do not fulfill it properly.              
[7] lit. trick, i.e. something that requires exertion and effort
[8] an annual mass gathering for Torah study which includes lectures delivered by erudite scholars

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Camp Dora Golding


“Here is one of the most interesting stories that Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick ever told – a story about the battles won and lost by a giant forest:
“On the slope of Long’s Peak in Colorado lies the ruin of a gigantic tree. Naturalists tell us that it stood for some four hundred years. It was a seedling when Columbus landed at El Salvador, and half grown when the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth. During the course of its long life it was truck by lightning fourteen times, and the innumerable avalanches and storms of four centuries thundered past it. It survived them all. In the end, however, an army of beetles attacked the tree and leveled it to the ground. The insects ate their way through the bark and gradually destroyed the inner strength of the tree by their tiny but incessant attacks. A forest giant which age had not withered, nor lightning blasted, nor storms subdued, fell at last before beetles so small that a man could crush them between his forefinger and his thumb.
“Aren’t we all like the battling giant of the forest? Don’t we manage somehow to survive the rare storms and avalanches and lightning blasts of life, only to let our hearts be eaten out by little beetles of worry – little beetles that could be crushed between a finger and a thumb?”[1]

Ramban explains that after Moshe spoke passionately and poignantly about the privilege and obligation to observe the commandments, he demonstrated that dedication and passion by commencing a mitzvah despite the fact that he would be unable to complete it during his lifetime.[2]
“Then Moshe set aside three cities on the bank of the Jordan, toward the rising sun”[3]. Rashi[4] writes that the law was that none of the six cities would become effective as Cities of Refuge until all six were set aside for that purpose. Therefore, at this point before the nation conquered the Land, the three cities in the land itself could obviously not become Cities of Refuge. Still Moshe wanted to engage himself in the performance of the mitzvah to the best of his ability.
The Chofetz Chaim explains that Moshe personified the words of the Sages: “Do not distance yourself from a characteristic which has no end, or from work which has no completion.”[5] The Evil Inclination constantly lures people away from self improvement by rationalizing that it will be an exercise in futility. It convinces us that we will never master our shortcomings or sins anyway. So why set yourself up for failure and disappointment in the first place?
The Chofetz Chaim notes that this is one of the core reasons why people do not accept upon themselves to work on not speaking loshon hora, despite the numerous transgressions involved in slander. This statement of Chazal comes to counter that inner voice. That negative attitude is analogous to an individual who is walking on the beach and notices that every time a wave sweeps across the shore it leaves behind dozens of pearls and diamonds. Would any rational person not gather whatever he could because he will only be able to be there for a limited amount of time?
After the Torah’s brief interlude about the cities of refuge, the verse continues, “This is the Torah (lit. teaching) that Moshe placed before B’nei Yisroel.”[6] The Chofetz Chaim explains that by juxtaposing this verse with Moshe’s enacting the three Cities of Refuge, the Torah is emphasizing Moshe’s conduct as an example for proper Torah observance generally. People generally only like to busy themselves with extravagant and ostentatious endeavors which accord them honor and praise. Moshe demonstrated that even the little things - even those things which one cannot complete - are invaluable, and worth engaging in.         
The gemara[7] records some of the tragic events that transpired during and after the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash. The gemara introduces the topic by stating, “As a result of (the incident involving) Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, Jerusalem was destroyed. As a result of (the incident involving) a rooster and a hen Har haMelech (a heavily populated province in Judea) was destroyed. As a result of (the incident involving) the side of a carriage, Bethar (a large city with an immense Jewish population) was destroyed.” The common denominator connecting all three tragic epochs is that they were caused by seemingly relatively insignificant commodities/events.
In a sense it was the “beetle-like sins” that destroyed the Bais Hamikdash. The holy Bais Hamikdash which was impervious to the natural order and transcended this world with constant miracles in the end was destroyed by the relentless sins of the nation which had lost respect for each other in baseless hatred for each other.

In Tehillim[8], Dovid Hamelech wrote: “The stone which the builders despised became the cornerstone.” The commentators explain that Dovid recited this verse about himself. When the prophet Shmuel announced that one of Yishai’s sons was to be appointed king, no one even thought of summoning Dovid, who was tending the sheep.
Klal Yisroel too is referred to as a stone[9], for Klal Yisroel is the cornerstone for G-d’s design for the world. The world endures based on the virtue of Klal Yisroel’s observance of the Torah and adherence to the mitzvos. But the builders, i.e. the nations of the world, despise the cornerstone, claiming that the Jews are parasites who contribute nothing to the common good. When the dawn of redemption arrives however, the world will recognize that the Jews are indeed the cornerstone of creation.
The Belzer Dayan zt’l offers a novel interpretation of the aforementioned verse: The twelfth of the Rambam’s thirteen principles of faith states: “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may delay still-in-all I wait for him each day that he may come.” After almost two millennia of exile it is only natural for one to be somewhat skeptical about the advent of Moshiach. There have been tremendous scholars who lived and died without meriting to witness the coveted era of Moshiach, including such Torah giants as Rashi, Rambam, Ramban, Rabbi Yosef Karo, Rema, Vilna Gaon, Ba’al Shem Tov, Chasam Sofer, Chofetz Chaim, etc. (to name a mere few). If their righteousness was insufficient to herald the redemption, how can we have the audacity to even entertain the notion that our good deeds and service will be sufficiently meritorious to bring about the Messianic era?
The difference is that in days of yore when buildings were constructed out of stone, when an architect began construction on a building he searched for the biggest stones that he could find. At that beginning smaller stones were cast aside and “despised”. However, as the building neared completion the architect no longer needed big stones. At that point he needed small stones and pebbles to seal up the gaps and complete the top of the structure. Thus, those same stones which before were cast aside and chagrined, are later enthusiastically retrieved, as the vital material necessary to complete the project.
It is true that throughout the long and bitter exile Klal Yisroel required tremendous merits and extreme acts of piety and sanctity. However, when we are at the threshold of the Messianic era all of the boulders of spiritual energy, as it were, are in place.[10] Now all that is still needed are our relatively small good deeds and service. Those pebbles which in generations gone by were insignificant and repulsed now are the cornerstones, i.e. the only remaining components necessary to herald the utopian Messianic era.
It may be true that our actions and good deeds are incomparable to those of our forbearers. Still however, when those actions are done wholeheartedly and to the best of our ability they compose the pebbles which will complete the third eternal Bais Hamikdash.

It was the constant ‘beetle-like sins’ that destroyed the Bais Hamikdash over so many decades and it will be the collective ‘beetle-like mitzvos and good deeds’ that bring it back. That is the greatest consolation for us.
During the Shabbos after Tisha B’av, after recounting all of the terrible tragedies that have befallen our people since the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash so many years ago, we recount the prophets encouraging words, “Be consoled! Be consoled, my people!” The greatest solace we can have is the knowledge that we ourselves have the ability to bring Moshiach… one pebble at a time!      

 “Then Moshe set aside three cities on the bank of the Jordan
“The stone which the builders despised became the cornerstone”

[1] How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie
[2] If one murdered inadvertently he was obligated to flee to one of the ‘Cities of Refuge’. In total there were six such cities, three in the Land proper and three in TransJordan.
[3] Devorim 4:41
[4] Makkos 9
[5] Avos d’reb Nosson 27
[6] Devorim 4:44
[7] Gittin 55b-58b
[8] 118
[9] see Bereishis 49:24
[10] The Chofetz Chaim said over seventy years ago that we are at the “heel of Moshiach”