Spin Doctor or Purveyor of Truth

Friday, 29 July, 2016 - 1:58 pm

This period in the Jewish calendar is called the three weeks – running from Tammuz 17 – Av 9, the two fast days associated with the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. It is a time with Halachicly mandated mourning practices that get more intense as we near the 9th of Av, the anniversary of the destruction.

If we take a peek into Chassidic insight into this time period we will see a strong attempt to put a positive spin on the events that we commemorate as well as the way we observe the laws and customs associated with them. A classic example is the interpretation on the Talmud’s statement that “when the month of Av enters we diminish in joy,” which Chassidism explains to mean that we diminish the “Av effect” through joy. Another example is the practice of finding permissible “excuses” to celebrate thereby mitigating the effect of the mourning. So during the nine days an effort is made to participate in a Siyum – the completion of a volume of the Talmud, which calls for celebration. Indeed, the third Chabad Rebbe wrote an entire work explaining the book of Lamentations – Eicha – from a positive, Redemption oriented perspective.

So it is just spin or Pollyannaish behavior or is there some grounding in reality? To do real justice to the answer of this question would require more space than this forum permits. That being said, there are several extremely powerful early Talmudic sources for this approach. What it comes down to is understanding that there are varying levels of reality. Most of us see only the very superficial level of existence – that which the physical eye perceives. Those that are gifted with the nuanced vision of spiritual realities recognize that often what we see on the outside is flipside of true reality. Indeed if we were able to perceive the underlying truth of a situation we would react entirely differently.

So what the Chassidic masters are doing is they are sharing with us their perception of true reality with the tools that enable us to access that reality at least in a slight manner. They are also giving us the tools to bring the world to a state in which the underlying reality becomes synonymous with the perceived reality – namely the state of Redemption!

Our job is to take the tools and use them to bring that goal to full realization, at which time these three weeks will become the greatest period celebration, in recognition of the fact that the destruction and exile were actually the catalysts and even the first stages of Redemption! May we merit this experience this year Amen!

This is the final weekend of our raffle campaign. The drawing is Monday, August 1. Please help reach the goal of this campaign by purchasing tickets at It is a win, win, win.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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