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The fast of Tisha B'Av commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago. We sit low and read Lamentations. Jews from the world over pray at the Western Wall and embrace its stones--our only remnant of the Holy Temple's grandeur.
The words and the cry, "If I forget thee O, Jerusalem!" kept us going through our exile and wanderings. Wherever we settled, we turned back to Jerusalem in prayer. Our synagogues face east, and the "mizrach" decoration in Jewish homes points the way to our ultimate destination.
Even if we can't be there physically, we are there in heart and mind. Now, on Tisha B'Av, let's get as close as possible to these precious stones. Let us try to outline, if only on paper, our hopes and yearnings.
"Behold, my beloved stands behind our wall, looking in the windows, peering through the cracks," wrote King Solomon in the Song of Songs. The Divine presence never left the Western Wall.
The Western Wall is not only for the rich and famous. Every Jew owns a piece of the rock. And no one gets lost between the cracks. The stones reflect our differences: Big and small, whole and broken, smooth and rough, together we form a formidable wall, a fortress of faith that endures forever.
The Western Wall is not just a tourist attraction or an archeological point of interest. Each stone block is like a page, each row a chapter, of our long Jewish history, written in stone. The Rock of Ages that guarantees Jewish survival.
But let's face it, it's incomplete. Let's not get too comfortable with just one wall. If our own home was ruined save for one wall--no dining room, bedroom, or kitchen--would we be satisfied living in a hole in the wall?
We pray daily for the Holy Temple's rebuilding through the righteous Moshiach speedily in our days. To some people, that may sound off the wall. But our belief in Moshiach is a cornerstone of Judaism. "I fully believe in Moshiach's coming. Each day I await him," is the foundation on which all else stands.
We must leave no stone unturned. We must study, do mitzvot, prepare and look forward to the Redemption as we conclude Lamentations. "Return to us, O G-d, and we will return to You. Renew our days as once before!"
Our Sages explain that on Tisha B'Av Moshiach is born. According to the Arizal, it is on the afternoon of Tisha B'Av that Moshiach is "born." This does not refer to his actual birth, because Moshiach will not be an infant when he redeems our people, but rather to a strengthening of his influence. For our Sages refer to a birthday as a day when mazalo govair, "the spiritual source of one's soul shines powerfully." On the day when Moshiach's spiritual source is powerfully revealed, there is a unique potential for the Redemption to come.
This year Tisha B'Av is on Shabbat, and thus we do not mourn. Thus, Shabbat postpones the negative factors associated with Tisha B'Av and enhances and amplifies the date's positive influences. Similarly, the fact that Tisha B'Av falls on Shabbat and that instead of fasting we are obligated to take pleasure in the foods and beverages served, alludes to the Redemption. For every Shabbat is a microcosm of "the era that is all Shabbat and rest for eternity" and the Shabbat meals are a reflection of the feast to be served on that day.
For that reason, when a fast day falls on Shabbat there must be an additional stress on happiness. This is reflected in the third Shabbat meal. Although it is the seuda hamafseket, the meal directly before the Tisha B'Av fast which is usually associated with certain mourning rites, this year, one may serve "a meal comparable to the feasts of King Shlomo."
Indeed, in regard to a Tisha B'Av which falls on Shabbat, our Sages use the expression, "Since it was postponed, let it be nullified." On a simple level, it means that since the fast was not observed on its appropriate date, there is reason to suppose that in that year, one need not fast at all. On a deeper level, however, it reflects the potential for the fast to be nullified completely and totally with the coming of the redemption.
Among the unique aspects of the observance of Tisha B'Av this year is that it has a resemblance to Yom Kippur. In regard to Yom Kippur, it is said, "whoever eats and drinks on the ninth is considered as if he fasted on the ninth and tenth." Eating "succulent meat and aged wine" on the ninth of the month causes G-d to have this considered as a special merit. This concept can also be borrowed in regard to the ninth and tenth of Av this year, for we eat on the ninth of the month in preparation for the fast on the tenth.
The imminence of the Redemption mentioned previously allows for the possibility for a further connection to be drawn between Tisha B'Av and Yom Kippur. At the dedication of the First Holy Temple, on the tenth of Tishrei, on Yom Kippur, the Jews ate and drank in celebration. And this was considered a unique merit for them. Since we are awaiting Moshiach's arrival every day, it is possible that the tenth of Av will be the dedication of the third Holy Temple. For the Holy Temple is already completely built in the spiritual realms and must only descend to the earth. Were this to happen, the parallel between Tisha B'Av and Yom Kippur would be revealed in the most complete and positive sense. May it happen this year!
Adapted from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
by Anne Gottlieb
It was a funny place to cry. But I wasn't really sad, so I guess it was all right--in the same way it's all right to cry on a child's first day of school, or at a wedding, or when a baby's born.
In any case, I sat there at the table surrounded by friends, my dinner plate piled high with falafel and chumus and pita and salad. I sat there with tears in my eyes, listening to the murmur of conversation--the hundreds of voices mingling at the dozens of tables stretching from one end of the room to the other in a grand semi-circle. I could hear people laughing. I could see them nodding, smiling, talking to one another. And I could see that they--that we were having a wonderful time. And so, I cried.
Quietly, of course, and briefly. Before the music began. But that in itself will often make me weep. Not any music though. Just Jewish music--the kind which makes me see lined European faces or dark-eyed Sefardic children. There's a certain plaintive sound to words in Yiddish and a kind of strength to Hebrew that I feel, although I cannot understand the words. And feeling sometimes makes me cry.
And then, there was the dancing. The circles of men and the separate circles of women with our feet keeping time to the music and our cheeks turning red from the effort and our hands in the dizzy ecstasy of movement. Round and round we went to melodies we knew instinctively, to rhythms born in shtetels and in desert sands. And a lump rose in my throat again.
Because I understood. Suddenly. There, in the middle of New City, New York at an unpretentious event called Cafe Chabad I saw something which I had not seen in all the time I've spent learning to become observant. There, in the center of an ill-lit room with a few close friends and a horde of strangers, I realized a truth which I'd not understood in the years of study, in the cycle of holidays, in the morning prayers I've tried to comprehend.
We are a people. We are a diverse and sometimes arrogant, and sometimes obstinate, and occasionally weak or strong, or pious or lost, or sad or joyous lot. But we are a people. And there at Cafe Chabad we showed ourselves in our diversity--black hats, and knitted kippas, and satin yarmulkes donned for the occasion. Women with bare heads, women with shaitels. People from Monsey and Spring Valley and New City and Pomona and Suffern. People who daven every day. People who daven once a year. People willing to teach and people willing to learn. People understanding how much there is to know. People not yet knowing this.
And then I saw the simplicity of it. Here, suddenly, was a place and an occasion at which no one group, no one ideology or institution or individual seemed to be looking up or down upon the other. Here, suddenly, we were eating and talking and laughing and dancing as though we were part of a whole. Because we belong to something and we belong together. Because we need one another. Because we are Jews. And because I am a Jew, I cried.
Reprinted from The Chabad Magazine, New City, NY
At 4 points along Route 17 in Upstate New York billboards announce the imminence of Moshiach and encouarge people to "Be A Part of It."
Bumper stickers with the same design are available from the "International Campaign to Help Bring Moshiach" office and can be ordered by sending $1 per bumper sticker to 1408 President St. Brooklyn, NY 11213.
Bound volumes of the fourth year of L'Chaim are available for $25 plus $3 shipping. Send checks payable to LYO to: L'Chaim Book, 1408 President St., Bklyn, NY 11213. Books from the third year are still available.
Once again this summer Tzivos Hashem is sponsoring the Summer Spectacular, an evening of fun and entertainment for the whole family. This special event, on Sunday, August 23, will include a live concert by Uncle Moishy and the Mitzva Men and Avraham Fried. There will also be a miniature circus and fireworks. The Summer Spectacular starts at 7:00 p.m. at the Monticello Raceway in the Catskills. For more info call Tzivos Hashem at (718) 467-6630.
MYSTICISM BY THE SEA
"All aboard--A journey into Jewish Mysticism" is how the Wednesday evening discussions at the South Street Seaport are billed. From 8:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. at the end of Pier 17 facing the river blankets and refreshments are put out and Rabbi Eli Cohen of Chabad at N.Y.U. leads the journey. The discussion is sponsored by Beir Miriam and continues through Labor Day. For more info call (718) 467-5519.
PRAYER IN PUBLIC SCHOOL
A letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, written in 5724 (1964).
In reply to your inquiry as to whether or not there has been a change in my views on the questions of prayer in the public schools, inasmuch as this issue has again become a topic of the day in connection with congressional efforts to introduce a constitutional amendment to permit certain religious exercises in the public schools.
As I stated then, my views are firmly anchored in the Torah, Torat Chayim [the Torah of life]. Their validity could therefore not have been affected by the passing of time. On the contrary, if there could have been any change at all, it was to reinforce my conviction of the vital need that the children in the public schools should be allowed to begin their day at school with the recitation of a non-denominational prayer, acknowledging the existence of a Creator and Master of the Universe, and our dependence upon Him. In my opinion, this acknowledgment is absolutely necessary in order to impress upon the minds of our young generation that the world in which they live is not a jungle, where brute force, cunning and unbridled passion rule supreme, but that it has a Master, Who is not an abstraction, but a personal G-d; that this Supreme Being takes a "personal interest" in the affairs of each and every individual, and to Him everyone is accountable for one's daily conduct.
Juvenile delinquency, the tragic symptom of the disillusionment, insecurity and confusion of the young generation, has not abated; rather the reverse is the case. Obviously, it is hard to believe that the police and law-enforcing agencies will succeed in deterring delinquency and crime, not to mention completely eliminating them at the root, even if there were enough police officers to keep an eye on every recalcitrant child. Besides, this would not be the right way to remedy the situation. The remedy lies in removing the cause, not in merely treating the symptoms. It will not suffice to tell the juvenile delinquent that crime does not pay, and that he will eventually land in jail. Nor will he be particularly impressed if he is admonished that law-breaking is an offense against society. It is necessary to engrave upon the child's mind the idea that any wrongdoing is an offense against the Divine authority and order.
Children have to be trained from their earliest youth to be constantly aware of "the Eye that seeth and the Ear that heareth." We cannot leave it to the law-enforcing agencies to be the keepers of the ethics and morals of our young generation. The boy or girl who has embarked upon a course of truancy will not be intimidated by the policeman, teacher or parent, whom he or she thinks is fair game to "outsmart." Furthermore, the crux of the problem lies in the success or failure of bringing up the children to an awareness of a Supreme Authority, Who is not only to be feared but also loved. Under the existing conditions in this country, a daily prayer in the public schools is for a vast number of boys and girls the only opportunity of cultivating such an awareness.
On the other hand, as I have emphasized on more than one occasion, only a strictly non-denominational prayer, and no other should be introduced into the public schools. Any denominational prayer or religious exercise in the public schools must be resolutely opposed on various grounds, including also the fact that these would create divisiveness and ill-feeling. Moreover, the essential objective is a religious expression that would cultivate reverence and love for G-d, and this can best be accomplished by prayer, while Bible reading is not so important in this instance.
Why, when Tisha B'Av (the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av) occurs on Shabbat, as in this year, do we push the fast off until Sunday?
A public display of mourning is not permissible on Shabbat. Tisha B'Av is the day on which we commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temples. Fasting and observing the customs of Tisha B'Av on Shabbat, then, would be public mourning which is not permissible.
Tishah B'Av commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple will be transformed into festivals and days of rejoicing.
This past year, shortly before the conclusion of the fast of Tisha B'Av--which was actually observed on the tenth of Av (just as with this year)--the Rebbe unexpectedly delivered a short, inspiring talk about the imminence of the Redemption.
The Rebbe completed his talk with the following words: Had we merited, the complete and ultimate Redemption would have come even before Tisha B'Av. And then the tenth of Menachem Av would have been marked in a completely different manner. For whatever reason, a reason that cannot be understood, G-d decided to hold back the Redemption, and thus the tenth of Av was associated with fasting, "And the tenth will be holy." This will, however, be quickly followed by the singing of the tenth song of the Jewish people, the song of the Redemption. May this be in the immediate future.
After the conclusion of the fast and the evening prayers, as the Rebbe was leaving "770," he began singing a melody his father would sing on Simchat Torah. This generated singing and then dancing by the thousands of chasidim and visitors in the shul.
May we merit that this year, Tisha B'Av be celebrated as a festival and day of rejoicing, with the coming of Moshiach, NOW!
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
The town was buzzing with the great news of the impending visit of the tzadik. Reb Yossele, the son of Reb Mordechai of Neshchitz, couldn't rest from the moment he heard that the tzadik Reb Yaakov Yitzchak, the famous "Seer" or "Chozeh" of Lublin would be passing through his town. He had heard many awesome reports about this holy man and he burned with the desire to meet him and glean some insight from him.
So intent was he to host the great tzadik that he commissioned a local carpenter to build a bed especially for the Chozeh. He undertook this extraordinary preparation because he had heard it said that when the "Seer" travelled and had to sleep in a strange bed, he would sometimes be heard to cry out, "It's prickly! It's prickly!" Wanting to avoid any possible discomfort for the tzadik, he decided to provide a brand-new bed for him, and thus eliminate any possible problem.
Reb Yossele was very exacting in his instructions to the carpenter. First of all, he was careful to choose a workman who was known to be a G-d-fearing man; second, he instructed the carpenter to immerse himself in the mikva before beginning his work, and to very carefully guard himself from impure thoughts while he was working.
For his part, the carpenter was not anxious to accept this complicated assignment. He was particularly unwilling since the work would have to commence during the first week of the month of Av, the intense mourning period for the Holy Temple. However, since his rebbe had made the request of him, he couldn't bring himself to refuse. He undertook the job in a depressed frame of mind, feeling spiritually unworthy of the task ahead. Despite his unwillingness, he worked well and completed his task successfully and in good time.
When the bed was finished, Reb Yossele placed it in a specially prepared room. He covered the bed with fresh, new bedclothes, and put next to it a small table, a lamp and a chair. Satisfied that his preparations would ensure the comfort of the Chozeh, he then closed and locked the door to guarantee that the bed would be untouched by anyone except the tzadik himself.
A few days later, when the Chozeh arrived in the town, Reb Yossele went out to meet him. His joy was complete when the tzadik accepted the invitation to be his guest. Reb Yossele happily escorted his honored guest into the newly appointed room. He proudly showed the Chozeh the bed, explaining that a G-d-fearing carpenter constructed it especially for the tzadik's use. Tired from his long journey, the tzadik lay down to rest.
After only a few moments had passed Reb Yossele heard the Chozeh exclaiming, "Prickly, help, it's prickly!"
Reb Yossele was astonished. What could these cries mean? He quickly went to the tzadik's room and not knowing what else to do, offered him the use of his own bed, hoping it would prove more comfortable. The Chozeh gladly accepted Reb Yossele's offer, and all was quiet. Reb Yossele, however, suffered a sleepless night wondering if the tzadik's rest would be disturbed by some spiritual unworthiness in his house. When morning came the Chozeh awoke refreshed and happy. He remarked to Reb Yossele, "Thank you so much, I had an excellent rest. Your hospitality has revived me!"
Reb Yossele was gratified by the tzadik's words, but still, he couldn't understand the Chozeh's initial reaction to the new bed, and he questioned him about it.
"Don't worry about it at all. The bed is perfect and kosher in every respect," the tzadik assured him. "The reason I couldn't sleep in it was because it had a certain smell of sadness about it since it was built during the Nine Days preceding Tisha B'Av. The carpenter, being a pious man, was mourning the destruction of the Holy Temple while he was building it, and the spiritual residue of his grief adhered to the bed."
These are the words (Deut. 1:1)
The Midrash relates that G-d says of the Jewish people: "My children are like the honeybee--all that they toil to produce belongs to their keeper. The same way, all the mitzvot and good deeds performed by My children are done for the sake of their Father in Heaven." We learn a spiritual lesson from the bee as well. A honeybee does not think of itself when it produces its honey; it does so only because of the wishes of its Creator. The same should apply to us as well. "I have only been created to serve my Master," the Talmud states.
How can I by myself alone bear your trouble, and your burden, and your strife? (Deut. 1:12)
Rashi comments: "And your burden"--this teaches that the Children of Israel were apikorsim (skeptics and heretics). Rabbi Nachman of Breslov used to say: The heaviest burden a man can endure is that of skepticism. The heart of the true believer is much lighter than that of the heretic, who is always weighed down by the yoke of his doubts.
This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Chazon, from the Hebrew word which means vision or prophecy. On this day, every Jew is shown a vision of the third Holy Temple from afar. The situation is likened to the following: A father had a very expensive garment sewn for his son, who was too foolish to take proper care of his clothes. After the son tore the garment the first time, the father went out and had another sewn to replace it. The second time the boy acted irresponsibly and tore his clothes the father, much wiser by now, had another garment sewn, but decided not to give it to the son immediately. From time to time he would allow the boy to catch a glimpse of the outfit, telling him that if he behaved properly he would then be worthy of his father's gift. In such a way did the father train his son to improve his behavior and stay on the right path.
Shabbat during the "Three Weeks"
The three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B'Av are a time of sadness and mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temples. On Shabbat, however, we are forbidden to mourn. Even if Tisha B'Av falls on Shabbat the fast is postponed until the next day, and the day is spent as a day of joy. These Sabbaths are like the "cure which is sent before the illness," the illness being the destruction which was to follow. These Sabbaths also reveal to us the inner meaning of the exile, which is only a preparation for the final redemption, described as "a day which is entirely Shabbat." When Moshiach comes and everything is revealed, the Jewish people will even thank G-d for their years in exile.
Some people are apprehensive about the Redemption. What will come of businesses, property possessions, and friendships? The Redemption doesn't imply the annulment of the natural order, nor the loss of the good things that came into being (in the spirit of Torah) during the Exile. Indeed, these very things will be elevated to a state of Redemption, to the level of their true perfection. This is hinted at in the fact that the Hebrew word for exile (gola) plus alef form geula--redemption. The positive aspects of the exile will not be annulled; rather, the alef within them will be revealed--an allusion to Alufo shel Olam, the Master of the World.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)