Tisha b'Av 5781

Holiday #18 (298)


July 17 (sunset) - July 18 (nightfall)

From the Masters of Kabbalah From Ascent QuarterlyFrom the Chassidic RebbesSome Laws and Customs

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From the Chassidic Rebbes

Clouds of Shame and Redemption

Yehoshua Metzinger

In Book of Eichah read on Tisha B'Av, one can see how judgment is transformed into redemption. For example, the verse, "G-d, in his anger, shamed fair Zion" sounds like it is referring to harsh punishment. The word for "shame", yaiv, brings to mind a thick cloud of negative energy. Clouds are also associated with the word "av", since thick clouds of rain are called "avim". Thick clouds also represent kelipah, concealment of G-dliness.

However, clouds also have positive associations, just as the curses in Vayikra and Devarim have the potential to become blessings. Moshe Rabbeinu could not enter the Sanctuary because a cloud settled on top of it. On the day the Torah was given, there was so much smoke and so many clouds that the Jewish People could not approach the mountain further. In one verse, the flight of angels is compared to thick clouds in the sky. "Mi eleh" ("Who are they") is said in connection with the angels. "Mi" or who expresses the aspect of concealment, "eleh" or these, expresses revelation. The connection between the two opposite concepts comes from a higher level than both of them, but the basic idea is that the clouds function as a concealment which will eventually be lifted in the time of revelation.

There is also a connection between the words "yaiv" and "eika" which expresses the potential for redemption through progressive teshuvah. "Eika" is spelled with the Hebrew letters "aleph" and "yud", and "caf" and hei. The yud of Eika corresponds to the number ten, standing for the ten commandments. On this level, the ten commandments are engraved inside out, since the external aspect of the ten commandments are revealed in the physical world, and the internal aspect is revealed in the higher worlds. The yud is also associated with the ten sefirot the way they are rooted in the Infinite Light, Blessed be He. The aleph is above the 10 sefirot and is part of the essence of G-d. Caf expresses the quality of kingship.

How are all of these elements represented by the letters connected? The aleph-yud combination and the cof-hei are connected through yaiv, the thick cloud, and av. Even though yaiv and av are associated with descent and kelipah, the concealment has a significant role to play. Zion had to descend in order to clothe itself in the kelipah as a first step toward teshuvah. It is only through this process that the lower elements can be refined. Av, for instance, represents a sin done intentionally. When the av is elevated through teshuvah, the sins are transformed into merits. Teshuvah also balances the gevurah in the verse, "G-d, in his anger, shamed fair (yaiv) Zion," because the teshuva sweetens the aspect of strict justice and assuages anger.

From the Masters of Kabbalah


Why is Megillat Eicha (Lamentations) - the scroll which is read on Tisha B'Av to commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temple - not written on a separate piece of parchment just like Megillat Esther (the Book of Esther) -- the scroll which is read on Purim?

When Moshiach comes, Tisha B'Av will be transformed from a day of sorrow into a day of rejoicing. As every single day we await Moshiach's arrival, making Lamentations more "permanent" by committing it to parchment is not really necessary and would imply that we had already despaired, G-d forbid. Purim, however, will also be celebrated in the Era of Redemption, and thus the parchment scrolls will also be used then.

(The Levush)


On the eve of Tisha B'Av each year Reb Avraham of Chechanov would have to buy a new copy of Kinos--Lamentations. For every year, as soon as the mournful service was over, he would stow away his copy in the place where old and battered sacred books were lodged until they were buried. And each time he did this he would say: "I am sure that Moshiach will come this year, and then we won't have any further need for books of Lamentations."

(A Treasury of Chasidic Tales)

Some Laws and Customs

Tisha b'Av, the 9th day of the month of Av (nightfall, July 29- 30), is the 24+ hour fast commemorating when the two Temples were both destroyed. Starting after the Shabbat of August 13, to display our mourning we do not wear leather shoes, act intimately, bathe for pleasure, or anoint.  On Sunday, until noontime, we sit on low chairs or pillows, do not put on tefillin or tallit gadol, refrain from learning Torah and certain parts of prayer which cause or show joy. Also we should refrain from pleasant greetings. On Saturday night we read Eicha (Lamentations) which describes the first Temple’s destruction, and on Sunday it is customary to read special sad Kinot—prayers concentrating on the destruction. Interestingly, we do not recite Tachanun—a daily prayer associated with atoning for sins. This is because, with the arrival of the redemption, the 9th of Av will be transformed into a tremendous holiday, and on Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and holidays we do not recite Tachanun.

May this transformation be an immediate reality!

The ASCENT staff

From Ascent Quarterly #42

Yrachmiel Tilles

Q I have several questions based on our jet-age society. Flying from Tokyo to London, for example, the day is thirty-five hours long. 1) To determine the proper time for the daily prayers, do you use the sunset and sunrise of one city or the other, or somewhere in the middle? I've heard many intriguing arguments, but they can't all be correct!
And what if the day is Tisha b'Av? Can a fast be mandatory for 35 hours?

A This is not an official answer, just another opinion for your collection.

1) On the plane, daybreak, sunrise, sunset and nightfall times are established according to the location of the plane. But be careful: these times are all defined from an earth perspective, not a sky one. When you see light from the plane, that doesn't mean there is light yet down on the surface.

2) Anyone who flies from Tokyo to London on 9 Av deserves to fast for 35 hours!


last year's Three Weeks page

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