Sometimes we get Divine inspiration from an action we performed. The Gemara records the episode of Rav Avahu asking his son Rav Avimi to bring him a drink of water. When Rav Avimi returned with a glass of water, his father had dozed off. Instead of putting the water on the table next to his father, Rav Avimi waited, glass in hand, to present it to his father the moment he awoke. While waiting, an explanation to a puzzling line in Tehillim occurred to him. In Tehillim 79, Dovid Hamelech says “Mizmor L’Asaf”—a song by Asaf—and goes on to describe how the nations came into the Beis Hamikdash and defiled it. Why are the opening words that introduce this calamity presented as a song? It would seem more appropriate to say it’s a kinah—lamentation—as we recite on Tisha B’Av. The answer to this question popped into Rav Avimi’s head as he was waiting. The element of song is there because klal Yisrael really deserved to be wiped out because of their actions! Yet, Hashem in His infinite mercy caused the Beis Hamikdash, the meeting place of klal Yisrael and Hashem, to be destroyed instead of destroying the Jewish people themselves.
Why did this idea occur to Rav Avimi at this apparently random time? Rav Moshe Wolfson explains that since Rav Avimi performed an extra measure to honor his father, Hashem rewarded him by giving him an understanding of the compassion our Father in Heaven has for us.
The month of Av is the month the first Beis Hamikdash was destroyed. The second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed by the Romans, who were descendants of Eisav. Eisav excelled in the mitzvah of kibud av—honoring his father, Yitzchak. This attribute gave Eisav’s descendants the upper hand on klal Yisrael, giving them the power to destroy the Beis Hamikdash (but not the people) in this month. However, Eisav’s kibud av was just on the surface, as Eisav was planning on murdering Yaakov as soon as his father passed away—something Yitzchak would not have wanted.
The Jewish people’s relationship to Hashem is unique. With the other nations, Hashem is their Creator. With us, Hashem is not only our creator but also our Father, and we are His children, as expressed in the pasuk “banim l’Hashem,” and when Hashem chastises us, He does so as a father chastises his children—constructively—with deep love and caring.
For most people the month of Av brings a feeling of sadness. We experience the Nine Days with all its restrictions, especially on Tisha B’Av. Yet Tisha B’Av is called a moed—holiday. What kind of holiday is Tisha B’Av? Rav Wolbe explains that the word moed means “to meet” as in the term “Ohel Moed”—Tent of Meeting—which refers to the Mishkan during our sojourn in the desert. The Torah refers to a Yom Tov as a moed, as it’s a time we meet with Hashem. There are two types of festivals: most are festivals of closeness. But there is also a festival of distance—Tisha B’Av.
Rav Motty Berger, from the Aish Discovery program, would often say a relationship is only as strong as its weakest link. On Tisha B’Av we need to confront ourselves in a very serious manner, to take stock of how distant we feel from Hashem and how much we want to connect to Him. Only from that fragile beginning point is our relationship able to grow.
We are about to sit on the floor on Tisha B’Av and face our loss of the Beis Hamikdash, all the tragedies throughout the millennia, and recent tragedies as well. Let’s find one area in our daily lives in which we can honor our Father, Hashem, in a better way. This step will demonstrate our yearning for a closer relationship. We pray that as a result of our efforts Hashem will show His love for us and recognize how much our suffering pains Him.
A week after Tisha B’Av, which compares to the mourning period of a relative, is Tu B’Av—the 15th of Av, which the Mishnah tells us is one of the happiest holidays in the Jewish calendar. May we end the mourning period of Tisha B’Av to Tu B’Av together with Moshiach, and merit a sweet, close relationship with Hashem.