Tisha bAv 5779

Holiday #16 (259)

Tisha b'Av 5779

August 10-11

From the Masters of Kabbalah From Ascent Quarterly From the Chassidic Rebbes Some Laws and Customs

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From the Chassidic Rebbes


Binyomin Adilman

Deep introspection during Bein HaMetzarim tends to engender anguish and sorrow over the destruction of the Temples. Therefore it is important to draw on inner strength and purify one's heart to support and revive the spirit in order to continue serving G-d with holiness, learning and praying with joy. This is especially important when we sing the praises of G-d - in the Songs of Praise of the daily Morning Prayer, the Blessings of the Shema, and the traditional songs of Shabbat.

All who pursue their G-dly service during Bein HaMetzarim, the "Three Weeks" between the fast days of 17 Tammuz and 9 Av,will succeed. These days are particularly auspicious, like the holidays, to achieve spiritual growth. The twenty one days in Bein HaMetzarim correspond to the twenty one days of holiday rejoicing in the Jewish year: Shabbat (1 day), Rosh Chodesh (1), Pesach (7), Shavuot (1), Rosh Hashanah (2), Yom Kippur (1), Sukkot (7) and Shmini Atzeret (1). (Although sources speak about 21 days in Bein HaMetzarim, since they are also called the three weeks, there are actually 22 days. When we add the day of Tisha B'Av (1) which the Zohar states will in the future become a holiday, then there are 22 days of holiday rejoicing.)

The main thing one should take to heart during this time is to strengthen oneself and not to allow sadness and despair to let one fall into the trap of laziness and neglect in one's divine service. Even on Tisha B'Av, which on the surface is a time of darkness (and it is a mitzvah to shed bitter tears over all that has happened to us on this day), we must still rejoice and gladden the heart of the King since Tisha B'Av is also the birthday of Mashiach, who will usher in the days when the entire world will know the Oneness of G-d. This means that since this day is one of national tragedy (but also this tragedy will in the future be rectified), then implicit in Tisha B'Av is a day of thanks and rejoicing.

With this in mind, the Seer of Lublin expounded on the words of the sages. (Megilla 5b) Rebbe (Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi) wanted to uproot Tisha B'Av when it fell out on Shabbat. "Since it is already postponed for one day", he said (we fast on Sunday, only when Yom Kippur falls out on Shabbat do we fast on Shabbat), "let it be permanently postponed."

Rebbe wanted to completely abolish the sadness and mourning of Tisha B'Av, when it came out Shabbat and thereby bring the final revelation of G-d's presence in the world. Since it is already suspended in favor of the holy Shabbat for a day, let our exile and sadness be suspended forever! But the Sages did not concur with Rebbe, and they refused to join him in rescinding Tisha B'Av. It is impossible, they felt, to force the time of the Redemption.

"Perhaps Rebbe had a different intention", said the Seer of Lublin. "When Rebbe wanted to uproot [in Hebrew, "la'akor"] Tisha B'Av, he wanted to make it the foremost [in Hebrew, "ha'ikar", spelled with the same root letters as "la'akor"] amongst all the holidays of the year.

"On Tisha B'Av, although we are consumed with sadness and pain, we nevertheless, because of that sadness and pain, pray with a little more intention and yearn a little bit more deeply for the restoration of G-d's glory in the world. This process of extracting the essence of the day and acting upon it to bring delight to G-d is the driving force behind the arrival of Mashiach. Once we suspend the mourning for a day, we can eliminate it forever."

The sages though, could not agree with Rebbe. Although they understood Rebbe's idea that Tisha B'Av should become foremost amongst all of our holidays, they could only agree as far as the individual in his personal divine service was concerned. But the end can't be forced. We can only continue to serve G-d faithfully - with fear and joy, aspiring to the day when genuine peace will prevail. May that day come soon, Amen.

From Ascent Quarterly

Out of the Ashes
Yrachmiel Tilles

"The Three Weeks," between the fast day of the 17th of Tamuz and the fast day of 9 Av, mark a period of mourning for the two Holy Temples which were destroyed during this time period. No weddings, haircuts, or purchases of new clothes are among the restrictions in force at this time. It is a Chasidic custom to, in addition to the mourning practices, study during these weeks the laws of the building and maintaining of the Temple, the Third Temple that will replace the two fallen ones in the time of Moshiach, may it be very soon. It helps us to understand better what we are lacking, and gives us focus for the rectification to come.

The mourning and the restrictions intensify when the month of Menachem Av arrives. Eating meat, bathing for pleasure and wearing fresh laundered clothes also become forbidden (customs may vary according to community and locale). "When Av arrives, we decrease in joy," states the well-known Talmudic dictum.

However, Chasidim interpret with an interesting emphasis: "When Av arrives, we decrease - [how?] in joy!" So since consumption of meat and wine is permitted at an obligatory festive meal celebrating the fulfillment of a mitzvah, such as a Bris Mila (circumcision), or a "Siyum" for the completion of a complete Talmudic tractate, the Lubavitcher Rebbe initiated the custom of conducting or participating in a Siyum on as many of the Nine Days as possible (even if one does not avail oneself of the dispensation to eat meat), in order to relieve the sadness of these days, and to change mourning to joy.

The two most famous Kabbalists of Safed, Rabbi Moshe Cordevero ("Ramak") and Rabbi Yitzchak Luria ("Ari") passed away during this period. The yahrzeit rites for the Ramak on the 23 of Tamuz and the Ari on 5 Av are yet another opportunity for "converting darkness to light."

In conclusionj: it is both important and necessary to participate in fast days and the restrictions, and to mourn for the Temples during these three weeks. But for Kabbalists, Chasidim and the mystically inclined, it is also desirable to look for and accentuate the positive elements in this time span. Please consider joining us in the suggestions above.


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 is the 24 1/2 hour fast commemorating when the two Temples were both destroyed. This year it falls on Shabbat, so all the mourning practices are postponed until the 10th (sunset, Saturday, August 10 - nightfall, Sunday, August 11). Then, 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



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