Happy Tisha B'av

Friday, 12 July, 2013 - 11:18 am

Tisha B’av is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. It is a day that we fast in commemoration of the greatest tragedies in our history, the destruction of our two Holy Temples. It is also a day in history on which many other tragedies occurred. The fifth Chabad Rebbe once expressed our relationship to fasting on Tisha B’av in this manner, “On Yom Kippur (because of its holiness) who is able to eat? On Tisha B’av (because of its sadness) who wants to eat?” In other words, the awareness of the tragedy of Tisha B’av should render a Jew unwilling to even think about food on this day. Indeed we fast and abstain from other pleasures while sitting low and lamenting the tragedies of our exile.

In light of the above, there is something very curious that requires clarification. How could it be that on a day like Tisha B’av we omit the recitation of Tachanun (prayers of penitence), a practice generally reserved for holidays and happy occasions? Furthermore we actually find that Tisha B’av is referred to as a Mo’ed (festival) in scripture. How does this fit with the tragic nature of the day?

In the answer to this question lies one of secrets of Jewish survival. The Talmud relates that at the time of the Temple’s destruction by the Romans, a Jew was plowing his field in another part of Israel. An Arab walked by just as the cow began lowing loudly. The Arab (who was Elijah in disguise) declared, “the Jewish Temple was destroyed.” Soon after the cow started lowing loudly again and the Arab declared, “the redeemer of Israel was born.” This is just one of the many texts in our tradition that expresses the optimism inherent in our nation’s outlook. While deep in the throes of the agony of destruction, the first hope for redemption is flickers.

This is not, as some have suggested, a false hope that is provided as a means of surviving the tough times. From the standpoint of Kabbala the potential for redemption actually grows out of the destruction itself. It is likened to razing an old house so that a better one can be built in its place or turning the soil of a field with a plow so that new crops can be planted.

This is why there is an undercurrent of hope and even joy on Tisha B’av. For it is the potential for a new beginning. We will be exploring this idea further at our Lunch N Learn entitled “Transformation” on July 22 at NY Camera. Of course there is another solution to this problem. The Rambam writes that when Moshiach comes all of the sad days will be converted to happy ones. May these days of mourning and sadness be converted to days of festive rejoicing very soon!

Our condolences are extended to Yiftach Admon and his mother Ziva upon the passing of Mr. Yosef Admon. Yosef was a man of great life experience who was deeply involved in Israel’s struggle for independence. May they be comforted by Hashem among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Mazel Tov to Chaim Shmuel and Shifra Stitzer, formerly of Biloxi and now stationed at Barksdale Air Force base in Shreveport, upon the birth of their daughter Esther Bracha.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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