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.