Tisha B”Av – Mourning or Festival? 5780-By Rabbi Shimon Fridmann

The Lord in my midst has rejected All my heroes; He has proclaimed a Holiday against me to crush my young men. As in a press the Lord has trodden Fair Maiden Judah.” [Lamentations 1:15] Rashi explains that Hashem ensured the sin of the spies falls on Tisha Beav by making the month of Tammuz of that year (in contrast to the usual) a full month. The Talmud [Shevouos 10a] learns that Tisha Beav itself is also called Mo’ed, a festival. Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch paskens that the laws of the Holidays apply; The Viduy is not said on Tisha Beav and neither on the day or the eve by Mincha … It seems very sarcastic to call the worst day of the Jewish calendar, a Festival. Through the ages, miseries have started on that day, including the Holocaust. What is then the Message of the Torah? How can we humanly be in a festive and mourning mood? The Middrash Zuta [Eicha 1] recounts: On the day that enemies entered the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, there was one Jew outside Jerusalem plowing his field. Suddenly, the plowing cow started behaving bizarrely; it threw itself to the ground and started moaning loudly. It was heartbreaking, as it really seemed in pain. The farmer was shocked and all his efforts to help his cow turned vain. Then he heard a Heavenly voice saying: “leave the cow alone, it’s screaming about the destruction of the temple that burned down today.” Upon hearing the sad news, the farmer tore his clothes, and put ashes on his head, threw himself to the ground and sobbed Woe to me! Woe to me! Surprisingly, after a few hours the cow stopped acting, stood up and started dancing. The farmer was flabbergasted by the turn of events and heard the Heavenly voice saying, “Keep on plowing as Mashiach was born.” The man got up, washed his face, and returned happily to his house to prepare strips of silk that people used to ornated baby cribs with. To locate the house where the Mashiach was born, he went to Jerusalem and roamed the streets calling: “Who wants to buy silk strips”? A Neighbor told him a boy was born today in a certain house. The farmer went there and offered his strips to the mother, but she refused to purchase them as her son was born on a “cursed day”, the day of the destruction of the Temple. The man placed some strips in the baby’s crib, kissed the child and left. The name of the baby was Menachem son of Amiel. There is an interesting anecdote recorded regarding a meeting between the prophet Jeremiah and the famous Greek philosopher, Plato. Jeremiah was mourning the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem, and Plato engaged him in conversation. Impressed with Jeremiah’s great wisdom, Plato asked him, “I do not understand how a sage of your stature can weep so bitterly over something that is over and done with. Surely, what is past is finished with, and your concern now ought to be solely with the future, and how you can influence it. What possible use can there be in all of this weeping?” Jeremiah answered, “I cannot give you a proper answer to your logical question, for you will not understand it.” In truth the question is valid, after 2,500 years how can we still weep about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple? How is it possible that time has not eradicated all feelings from this painful event? Have Chazal not explain “Hashem has decreed, about a deceased person, that he should be forgotten from the heart” [Sofrim 21]. If it were not possible to forget, the pain of losing a relative would have remained always as immediate as when the loss first occurred. We would be immobilized, unable to cope with life. It is a blessing that while we always carry a memory of a departed loved one, we dissociate the pain of the loss from the forefront of our consciousness. Why would this blessed forgetfulness not work with the destruction of the temple? In contrary, the verse bid us not to forget, “If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten!” The Slonimer Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Noah Barzovsky, zt”l, noted that central to Tisha Beav is the idea that we are not to make peace, ever, with the fact that the Holy Temple, the Beit Hamikdash, was destroyed. To never allow ourselves the thought that we accept the post-Temple world as the new, normal, permanent reality for us as Jews. The Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed for many reasons, some more well-known than others, but it is meant to be only an intermediate situation until the redemption. Though, the day we stop hoping that the Beith Hamikdash will be rebuilt is the day of the true destruction. This is such a basic thought that it ought to permeate all our concerns in life. During the storming seas of our lives, we listen to the pundits and “wise men” who have this solution to intractable problems or who point to that occurrence to explain the crux of our quandaries, and we forget that the main problem is Exile, our distance from Hashem, His Holy Temple and Jerusalem. No matter how many problems we solve here in America and Israel, and regardless of how much we grow in our spiritual lives as Jews, we cannot be complete as a nation or even as individuals as “we have been exiled from our land, and we cannot fulfill our obligations in your great and holy House…” The Shelah Hakadosh [Parashas Balak] offers a remarkable insight: the destruction of the Temple represents the ultimate punishment. However, as stated in the verse “The end of your punishment, daughter of Zion” (Lamentations 4:22), the punishment is behind us and the next order is the rebuilding of the Eternal Temple. The verse [Zechariah 8:19] testifies: “The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth month, the fast of the seventh month, and the fast of the tenth month shall become occasions for joy and gladness, happy festivals for the House of Judah; but you must love honesty and integrity.” Chazal illustrate the situation with a great example; A poor man mined the largest diamond ever to be found. It is indeed a very large rock with sharp edges that make it difficult to carry, especially for a man alone. Thus, he faces a dilemma as if he asks for help, people will find out, and that is the last thing he wants, as his life will become a misery trying to safeguard his diamond. He gathers his courage and with his newfound strength he placed it on his shoulder. Immediately, the sharp edges started digging into his flesh causing debilitating pain. He was sobbing because of the pain but also because now his future was set and will be able to feed his children. The diamond was rough and required extensive work to remove the sand and stones attached to it. But ultimately, it will become the world’s biggest wonder. Similarly, we mourn our connection to Hashem that was severed with the destruction of the Temple. Thus, every cry and every moaning requesting closeness to Hashem is building, brick by brick, the everlasting Temple that will come down from the Heavens. Our tears and pain about the past events are paving the way for to the future joyful occurrences. Tisha Beav is a Festival but mourning day too!

By Rabbi Fridmann * rabbifridmann@badatzmiami.com * 305.985.3461

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