Dovid Weinberg – A Direct Descendant Of The Rama – Tisha B’Av And Emunah

In this week’s parsha the Torah states in Devarim 1:22, “And all of you approached me and said, ‘Let us send men in front of us and they will search out the land.’”  This is the reference to the incident of the twelve spies whom Moshe Rabbenu sent to scout out Eretz Yisroel.  They ended up returning to Moshe and Klal Yisroel with a negative report showing a lack of faith in Hashem.  

According to Rashi, their lack of faith about Klal Yisroel’s ability to conquer Eretz Yisroel cast Bnei Yisroel into a state of confusion.  Usually the normal protocol was for Moshe to command Klal Yisroel to send out the spies to determine the best strategy and course of action of how and when to wage battle.  The fact that they did not wait for Moshe Rabbenu to give the command to send out spies reveals Klal Yisroel’s anxiety.  The Torah is showing that their hurried and confused behavior was engendered by their very own fears.

Moshe Rabbenu realized that Klal Yisroel’s insecurity about the outcome of the battle would subject them to the principle, “A person is led on the path that he so desires to go.” This negative emotion of fear was an opening for the Yetzer Hara to enter their hearts. Thus, Moshe Rabbenu knew that they would ultimately speak Lashon Hara about Eretz Yisroel. Even worse, is that Moshe realized that the influence of the Yetzer Hara might corrupt Yehoshua, one the twelve spies and Moshe’s closest disciple.  Indeed the pasuk says: “And all you approached me….” This implies that the entire group was suffering from improper fear.  Moshe Rabbenu also knew that once Klal Yisroel were in the gravitational field of the Yetzer Hara, disaster was going to be unavoidable.  The best thing that Moshe could do was Daven that his disciple, Yehoshua, not fall prey to the pessimistic attitude of the rest of Klal Yisroel.  

Emunah is the very fundamental foundation of the Torah. Hashem openly revealed his omnipotence and love for Klal Yisroel when he redeemed us from Mitzrayim.  Therefore, despair is totally inappropriate for the Jewish people.  Even more, if we maintain our Emunah in Hashem, the Yetzer Hara will be unable to gain access to our hearts and deeds.  Therefore, through this knowledge that is based on Ohr Rashaz of the Alter of Kelm, let us strengthen our Emunah in Hashem – totally and absolutely – and based on that merit may we see that on this Tishah B’Av we see the immediate Geulah for all of Klal Yisroel.

Yaacov Nordlicht – The Cry Of Tisha B’Av

As we finish up the summer zman, the stark realization begins to sink in that perhaps the most misunderstood and difficult day of Tisha B’Av (the ninth of Av) is rapidly approaching. Being the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, Jews around the world will sit on the floor in mourning, crying over the Beis HaMikdash which was destroyed on this day many years ago.

We find an alarming point repeatedly stressed in the texts describing the essence of Tisha B’Av. On the one hand, we have an obligation to mourn. The numerous Halachos which pertain specifically to this day were enacted to appropriate a method to properly grieve. It’s a day of utter grief and despair. However, on the other hand, the Medrash tells us that Tisha B’Av is called a “mo’ed”, a holiday. It seems like the opposite of how we commonly perceive Tisha B’av, perhaps even a contradiction! How can Tisha B’Av be a day whose essence is the expression of anguish while at the same time be a mo’ed which is a day of celebration? It must mean that there is an aspect of Tisha B’Av which is likened to a mo’ed, however this requires further explanation, for at least on the outside there seems to be two completely different areas of our Avodah – the Moadim which are set aside for celebrating, and days like Tisha B’Av which is set aside for mourning.

As a preface to understanding the essence of the day, it may be worthwhile to delve into the practical mourning we know we’re supposed to experience on Tisha B’Av. This is one area I always found to be quite difficult. We sit on the floor and we know we’re supposed to feel broken and lost. But at the same time, it’s hard not to feel disingenuous. Are we really so grief-stricken? Even the most sincere looking people may have less than noble intentions. The reason being that it’s hard to feel the pain over losing something we never experienced personally. Sure, we heard about the greatness of the Beis HaMikdash. To a certain extent we’ve even been granted a window by Chazal to observe what Jewish life was like when the Beis HaMikdash stood. However, we never personally experienced it. We have an intellectual knowledge of what life was like. But to know what we lost and to feel what we lost are two completely different things. So how do we mourn sincerely? Having never experienced that type of life, how can we mourn the lack thereof?

The Peleh Yoetz was sensitive to this issue. And in response he gave a point of advice. Instead of trying to picture the Beis HaMikdash burning, one should create a mashal for himself. Perhaps a loved one (for example his mother) sitting on the floor dressed in black rags and weeping loud heartfelt cries. Each individual has to create his own picture for what will work for him, but it should be in the area of one mourning for the loss of another. With this mashal in mind, we can properly cry.

The question I was always bothered by, is why is this itself not the epitome of disingenuity? How is this cry in any way related to the cry of Tisha B’Av? And furthermore, it’s not true! My mother isn’t sitting and weeping on a floor somewhere. She’s sitting at home in America, probably struggling with the same struggles that I myself am dealing with on Tisha B’Av. How then is this cry honest? What does the Peleh Yoetz mean?

The Gemara in Ta’anis (20a) recounts a drasha from R’ Yehuda. We read in the beginning of megillas Eicha that Yerushalayim sits in solitude like a widow. R’ Yehuda would expound that the pasuk doesn’t say that Yerushalayim (and Klal Yisrael) is a widow, rather we’re like a widow. That is, we aren’t like a woman who’s lost her husband completely, rather like a woman whose husband has gone overseas with the intention of returning. We’re like a widow in the sense that we’re presently alone, but not because we lost our partner, but rather because we’re separated from Him.

This Gemara offers a unique insight into the essence of the the cry of Tisha B’Av. It isn’t a cry over what we lost. It’s a cry of longing. It’s a cry of a woman wanting to see her husband. Of a mother separated from her children. This is our cry on Tisha B’Av.

This was the intention of the Peleh Yoetz. The way we get to this cry may not be true. It may be a mashal, a fantasy. But the cry itself is sincere. The cry of longing, of a relationship which wants so badly to achieve its potential, yet can’t. That’s the cry of Tisha B’Av. It’s a cry of recognizing that we should have a deeper and more meaningful relationship with HaShem. That ideally, we should be more connected to him. And we desire this relationship with every fiber of our being. It’s a cry of mourning, for each year we’re reminded that the closeness of this relationship hasn’t come to fruition.

With this understanding, we can explain why Tisha B’Av is called a mo’ed. The Nesivos Shalom used to say a parable. A father has two children. One child grew up, went to medical school and became a successful doctor. He was able to pay back all of his student debts and was able to build himself a nice house with his newfound income. Being the loyal son that he was, every Friday, before Shabbos, he would call his father to see how the week had went and to wish him a gut shabbos. The other son wasn’t as fortunate. After getting into some trouble in high school, he found himself in one difficult situation after another. He grew up, scrimping and saving to pay off his debts, but it never seemed to be enough. He would also call his father every week before Shabbos, but his conversation would be vastly different than that of his brother’s. Instead of calling and saying, “Hi, how are you?… How was your week?… Have a gut Shabbos..”, this brother would call his father and say “Tatte, I’m sorry to ask you again. But I need help. I can’t do it by myself. I feel like I’m drowning… please, Tatte, please help….”

Who does the father feels more love towards? Sure, he’s probably much prouder of the first son. But to which son does he constantly worry about? Which son occupies his thoughts, and gives him a longing to just be with that son, and make everything all right? To Which does he feel closer? To me, it seems obvious that the answer is the second son.

Our relationship with HaShem is oft-times likened to the relationship between a father and a son. On Tisha B’Av, we sit and we cry because we’re so far from HaShem. Because our relationship isn’t what it should be. But that itself is what brings us closer to Him. At the times where we feel like we just can’t do it anymore, like we can’t function by ourselves without Him – those are the times where HaShem feels closest to us. Just like a father, when the son calls out for help, the father is always there.

That’s the reason why the day is considered both a day of mourning, but also a mo’ed. We mourn because the relationship isn’t what it should be. But within our mourning and sadness we come closer to HaShem. Our grief at being apart expresses our unshakable and perpetual desire to be closer.

I think the lesson here goes even a step further. When are the times that HaShem is close to us? When we mourn and cry because we’re so far away from Him. The lesson here isn’t just in a theoretical sense. It’s practical as well. How many of us fail to mourn? How many of us come to a day like Tisha B’Av without being able to cry? HaShem wants to be close to us. But how can it be if we’re not even the son who calls up the father to say “Tatte, I need help.” How can it be if we’re the son who neglects to call the father at all? The lesson here isn’t just that HaShem is closest to us in our times of despair. It’s that we need to look to Him within that sadness and use it to draw closer to Him. It means being the son who calls his father and says, “Please, Tatte, please help me…”

The first step is to know the father.  To not be an estranged son who neglects his father’s desire for a relationship. Only after that can we use the tools at our disposal to draw ever closer to Him and his Heavenly presence.

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – Passaic Torah Institute – Shabbos Chazon And Tisha B’Av – Opportunities For Redemption

Arachim was running one of its powerful seminars in Eretz Yisroel, exposing the attendees to the beauty of Torah and Mitzvos. The crescendo of this seminar was going to be Shabbos.  Friday afternoon, as most of the attendees were getting ready, Rabbi Wallis noticed one of the participants, a noted doctor and professor, wheeling his suitcase in the process of leaving.

Rabbi Wallis walked over to him and said, “May I introduce myself? I am Rabbi Wallis, CEO of Arachim. I noticed you wheeling your suitcase and exiting. Was there something in the seminar that was not to your liking?”  The doctor replied, “Everything was perfect.  I enjoyed myself tremendously and gained a lot.” Rabbi Wallis was puzzled. “So may I ask why are you leaving before Shabbos begins? Shabbos is the highlight and most beautiful part of the seminar.” The doctor responded, “I will tell you the truth. I heard all the lectures; I argued and challenged and was politely refuted. I am now convinced that Torah is true. But…I am a high-level physician in a big hospital and if I come in wearing a kippah and tzitzis and leaving early for Shabbos, the future of my career is over! If I stay for Shabbos, there will be no turning back. I’m not prepared to throw away my future and career.”  Rabbi Wallis watched as the man drove away from what he knew was true, but knowing the doctor now had an inner spark that could be rekindled later.

This is a sad story, but it’s very apropos to our time. Each year, as we enter the period of national mourning–the Three Weeks–for the loss of the Beis Hamikdash, we are confronted with the sad truth that we individually and as a nation are in exile. Klal Yisroel should be living in Eretz Yisroel with Kohanim serving in the Beis Hamikdash. Yet, the prohibition on weddings, music, and haircuts reminds us of our state of imperfection. As the mourning intensifies with the commencement of the nine days, adding limitations on eating meat, doing laundry, and bathing, that which we are lacking becomes harder to ignore.

And finally there’s Tisha B’Av itself.  As we sit on the floor with our shoes off, fasting, and listening to the tune of Megillas Eichah, the stark reality that we are not where we are supposed to be hits us hard.   But what do we do with that truth??  Will we “drive away” from spirituality the next day or will we change something in our lives to correct our errors?  We know our errors and what we need to work on.  The Gemara tells us explicitly the Second Temple was destroyed because of sinas chinam-baseless hatred, or as Rabbi Leuchter translates it, alienation.

There is an alternative way to find the truth, by plugging into the Shabbos before Tisha B’Av. It’s called Shabbos Chazon, since the Haftarah starts with the word Chazon – Vision. This is a unique word used only in the prophecy of Yeshaya.  The Nesivos Shalom explains it’s used because on this Shabbos, all Klal Yisroel received a heightened sense of sight, vision and perspective.

The vision of Yeshaya gives us a keener understanding of our current situation: Even with the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and exile of the Bnei Yisroel, Hashem still loves us! Yeshaya teaches us that we are children of Hashem and just as a father has to admonish and sometimes punish a child harshly, it’s all done with immense love for the child and solely for the betterment of the child. Indeed, this is reflected in the name of the month ” Av”– father.

This level is achieved specifically on the Shabbos prior to Tisha B’Av when the mourning period and limitations are at their highest. And yet, this Shabbos is free from any of the mourning of the nine days!  One may shower regularly for Shabbos (according to many Poskim) and wear freshly-laundered Shabbos clothes. This demonstrates that on Shabbos, we have the same connection with Hashem that we did with the Beis Hamikdash. The heightened state we achieve on Shabbos can elevate us to the redemption.  “If the Jews would keep one Shabbos with adherence to all the laws of the Shabbos, then even if they serve idols they will be forgiven” (Gemara Shabbos 118).

The Nesivos Shalom points out that this Shabbos, we can transform the upcoming week to a week of redemption by recognizing Hashem’s immense love for us.  The Midrash says Moshiach will be born on Tisha B’Av, which can be interpreted to mean that the lesson of Tisha B’av will inspire us to come close to Hashem and merit Moshiach.  Still, if we do not open our eyes to this vision, we will end up once again sitting on the floor Monday night, listening once again to “Eichah” in that haunting melody.  This is hinted to us on Shabbos in Parshas Devarim as Moshe Rabbeinu used the word Eichah in referring to the contentiousness of B’nei Yisroel (Devarim 1:12).

Shabbos is transformative.  The Sages compare the six days of the week to Creation and the next world to Shabbos.  Someone who does not cook food during the week for Shabbos will not have food when Shabbos arrives!  Someone who does not prepare in this world, will not have what to enjoy in the next world.

Let us use this Shabbos to express our love for Hashem by dedicating time to study Torah, the treasure of Hashem.  Let us sanctify Shabbos by our mode of dress and conduct. Let us internalize this feeling of everyone being “children of Hashem,” to care for all our brothers and sisters, regardless of the way they differ from us.  Remember: every parent wants all their children to get along.   Connecting with each other, and our Father in Heaven, will surely lead us from sitting on the floor on Tisha B’Av, to singing and dancing with Hashem in Yerushalayim in the new Beis Hamikdash.  




Dovid Weinberg – Direct Descendant Of The Rama – Shabbos Chazon And Devarim

Chazon is symbolic of a vision – a vision of clarity. Devarim contains the words of Bnei Yisroel that were conjured up without a clear vision. If they had greater clarity and a stronger vision, they would have unlikely engaged in such rebellious words.