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Only Jews can mourn and rejoice at the same time!
We find ourselves now in the midst of the Three Weeks, when we lament the Holy Temple's destruction and our subsequent exile.
And it's not just any time during the "Three Weeks" - but the more intense time of mourning, the "Nine Days" leading up to Tisha B'Av.
But as we approach Tisha B'Av, the date of the actual destruction of the Holy Temple, we suddenly are commanded to celebrate!
The Shabbat before Tisha B'Av is known as "Shabbat Chazon" (literally "vision"), the day on which every Jew is afforded a spiritual glimpse of the Third and Eternal Holy Temple.
This "vision" cannot be seen by our physical eyes, but it is perceived by the Jewish soul.
The haftarah that we read on Shabbat Chazon warns of all the dire consequences to befall the Jewish people, but even as we listen, we simultaneously feel hope for and anticipation of the Messianic era.
This year, the message of Shabbat Chazon is even more powerful because Tisha B'Av falls on Shabbat. And on Shabbat it is forbidden to mourn and fast, so the mourning and fasting are pushed off to Sunday. All this means that instead of crying for the destruction, this year on Shabbat Tisha B'Av we will joyfully look forward to the Redemption!
Indeed, it is this combination of despair and joy, mourning and faith, that defines the true Jewish experience. Only Jews can live with this seeming dichotomy.
The Torah provides us with a complete framework of laws that enable us to feel these two conflicting emotions. On the one hand, we engage in many practices "as a remembrance of the destruction." On the other hand, we are expected to await Moshiach's coming joyfully every day. In fact, our Sages tell us that Moshiach "will be born on Tisha B'Av" - an allusion to the principle that Redemption springs precisely from the seeds of destruction.
Are Jews strange? Maybe, maybe not. But we're certainly unique. Everyone else can be an optimist or a pessimist, but we are both, and at the same time!
G-d wants us to feel the pain of the exile. We must never make peace with it, surrendering to our present condition. But G-d forbid that we should despair! Our joy is genuine in anticipation of the imminent Redemption. The Rebbe has told us that Moshiach is so close that we can sense his very presence. So let's start rejoicing now, "ahead of the crowd." And when Moshiach comes, we'll no longer suffer from this "split personality."
- (Back to text) In general fasting is forbidden on Shabbat except when Yom Kippur coincides with Shabbat.
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.
Close Your Business on Shabbat
by Ami Pykovski
As a young man, I ran a clothing business in Los Angeles. At the time I was early in my journey to Judaism and my business was open on Shabbat. On a typical Saturday, I would make $5,000 and this was a major portion of the weekly sales. I wanted very much to close on Shabbat, but I calculated that if I did that, I would lose $20,000 a month. After a lot of thought, I decided to close on Saturday. However, although it would be closed on Saturday, I planned on working until late Friday night.
I wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe about my decision to close the business on Shabbat without saying anything about Friday night. The Rebbe's answer was: "Start from before sunset and great is your merit to spread Judaism with joy." The Rebbe enclosed 18 dollar bills and wrote that I should give them to charity locally.
Now it was clear, the business would be closed the entire Shabbat. In order to do so, I had to break a contract with the landlord of the space I rented for my store. It was a huge area that was spread out over an entire block and the cost of canceling the contract was enormous. I tried convincing friends to buy the contract off of me, but nobody wanted to. When I saw that I had no option, I decided to inform the landlord that I was canceling the contract.
When I went to his office, I was told that he wasn't there. I went back to the store and a businessman whom I did not know walked in and said he wanted to buy the property from the landlord. The landlord had told him that he couldn't sell it since I had a 10 year contract. He could only sell it if I agreed to cancel the contract.
I was unsure how much money to ask from him for breaking the contract, when he offered an amount that was much higher than I would have dared to ask for. We signed an agreement and I evacuated the premises. With the money I got, I bought a building and set up a clothing factory that I never would have dreamed I could build. In the normal course of things, I would have had to work for decades in order to achieve such a thing; suddenly, the Rebbe had shortened the way for me. It was all in the merit of deciding to keep Shabbat.
Another example where I saw unimaginable success after I decided to keep Shabbat: I had an offer to open a chain of stores called Indian Head in Los Angeles, but I decided not to get involved in retail so I wouldn't have to work on Shabbat. Instead, I decided to invest in the manufacturing of clothing and to offer it to Macy's. When I went to the buyer, she thought I would show her dozens of styles, as was to be expected from companies that do business with Macy's. I came with just one style. She was very impressed that I had come with just one style. She said that because I had the guts to come to them, she was eager to work with me and she placed an order worth $25,000.
That was the first time that I worked with a company on such a large scale and I was very excited. But when the clothing came from the dyeing process, I was devastated. They had mixed up the colors and every pair of pants came out in a different color. When I saw this, I began to cry. I was sure I had lost all my money, which was a large amount in those days, as well as the opportunity to work with Macy's.
After vacillating for a while, I decided to send them the merchandise anyway and I left the office for two weeks, afraid of the angry phone calls I would get. Upon my return, I found dozens of messages from the company on my answering machine. The phone rang just then and the company rep was on the line. "I've been looking for you for two weeks,' she said. 'Your pants were incredibly successful. They are totally sold out!"
In my youth, I was a promising soccer player in Israel. Over the years, I used my connections with friends in the world of soccer to spread Judaism.
On one of my visits to Israel, I met with my former soccer trainer, David Shweitzer, with whom I was very close. He asked me jokingly who would look at him when he went to heaven after 120 years. I told him, "When you get up there, tell them you are Pykovski's friend and they'll take care of you." The next day, I got a phone call from a friend who said that David had died. I was shocked. I thought - now I have to keep my promise to him from the day before he died. I decided to write a Torah in his merit.
When the Torah was completed, we brought it to the Chabad yeshiva in Ramat Aviv, but finishing it was also special. We wrote the last letters on the soccer field where David Shweitzer had served as a trainer. The Chief Rabbi at the time, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, attended the event. He said that he had attended hundreds of such events in his life, but he had never experienced a moving one such as this, with the soccer players on the field together with people writing letters in the Torah.
On one of my business trips to the Far East, I spent Shabbat at Chabad in Bangkok, Thailand with the Rebbe's emissary Rabbi Nechemia Wilhelm. At the Shabbat meal there were a few dozen young people. I announced that I would give tefilin as a gift to whoever would commit to putting them on regularly.
A young Israeli sat next to me who wore the red robes of the local idol worshipers and who looked like a Thai monk. He raised his hand and said he committed to putting on tefilin. I was shocked, but I kept my word and sent him tefilin.
Two years later I was visiting Israel and I spent a day studying in the Chabad yeshiva in Ramat Aviv. A young man approached me and asked me whether I recognized him. I said he must be mistaken since we had never met before, but he insisted that we knew one another. He brought me his tefilin and said that he was the fellow from Thailand to whom I had given tefilin and now he was studying in yeshiva.
Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
Rabbi Yehoshua and Yehudis Fuchs moved recently to Budapest, Hungary. Rabbi Fuchs will be working in Adult Education as well as serving as a shochet and Mrs. Fuchs will be teaching in the local Chabad school. Rabbi Shmulik and Tzippy Freidman recently moved to S. Francisco, California, where they will be strengthening activities in downtown S. Francisco/SOMA. Rabbi Yosef and Rivkah Abramov will be moving soon to Agoura Hills, California, to serve as the new Youth Directors of Chabad of the Conejo. Rabbi Mendel and Shterna Sara Shemtov are moving to Elgin, Illinois, where they will open a new Chabad Center in that city.
I received your letter in which you write of the passing of your mother (may you and all the children and your father be designated to good, long life), and your thoughts and feelings in connection to this.
The truth is that "none amongst us knows anything at all" concerning the ways of Hashem (G-d), who created man, directs him, and observes him with a most specific providence. But certainly, certainly, He is the very essence of good, and, as the expression goes, "It is in the nature of the good to do good." If, at times, what Hashem does is not at all understood by the human mind - little wonder: What significance has a limited, measured, finite creature in relation to the infinite and endless, and especially in relation to The Absolutely Infinite and Endless?
Nevertheless, G-d chose to reveal a fraction of His wisdom to man, to flesh and blood. This He did with His holy Torah, called "The Torah of Light" and "the Torah of Life" - that is to say it illuminates man's path in life in such a manner that even his limited faculties may comprehend its light. Thus, also in the case of the above-mentioned occurrence, and the similar, one can find an understanding - at least a partial one - in accordance with what is explained in our (written and oral) Torah.
Actually, this understanding is to be found in two rulings of Torah Law which address our actual conduct in these circumstances. At first glance, they seem to stand in contradiction one to the other, though they appear in the same section of the Code of Jewish Law. The section begins: "One must not mourn excessively (beyond what our Sages have instructed us); one who does so in extreme..." Yet, at the section's end it is brought down that "one who does not mourn as the Sages have guided us is a callous and cruel person." Now, if in such a case it is natural to mourn, what is so terrible about one who mourns more? Why the harsh rebuke mentioned in the Code of Jewish Law? And if to mourn excessively is so terrible, why is it cruel to mourn less?
The explanation lies in the concluding words of the Code: "One should fear and worry, search one's deeds and repent."
It is self-understood that the soul is eternal. Obviously, an illness of the flesh or blood cannot terminate or diminish the life of the soul - it can only damage the flesh and the blood themselves and the bond between them and the soul. That is to say, it can bring to the cessation of this bond - death, G-d forbid - and with the severing of what binds the soul to the flesh the soul ascends and frees herself of the shackles of the body, of its limitations and restric-tions. Through the good deeds she has performed during the period she was upon earth and within the body, she is elevated to a higher, much higher, level than her status prior to her descent into the body. As our Sages expressed it: The descent of the soul is a descent for the sake of an ascent, an ascent above and beyond her prior state.
From this it is understood that anyone close to this soul, anyone to whom she was dear, must appreciate that the soul has ascended, higher, even, than the level she was at previously; it is only that in our lives, in our world, it is a loss. And just as the closer one is to the soul, all the more precious to them is the soul's elevation, so it is with the second aspect - the intensity of the pain. For they, all the more so, feel the loss of her departure from the body and from life in this world.
Also, it is a loss in the sense that-it seems-the soul could have ascended even higher by remain-ing in this world, as our Sages taught in the Mishna: "One moment of repentance and good deeds in this world is preferable to the entire World to Come."
Thus, since the occurrence contains these two conflicting facets - on the one hand, the freeing of the soul from the body's shackles and her ascent to a higher world, the world of truth; on the other, the above-mentioned loss - the result is the two Jewish legal rulings. The "Torah of Truth" mandates that one mourn - for the time period set by our Sages. At the same time, it is forbidden to mourn excessively (that is, beyond the set mourning period, and also in regard to the intensity of the mourning within these days).
As said, the primary cause for mourning such an occurrence is the loss on the part of the living. This is the object of mourning: The living need to understand why it is that they deserved the loss. This is why, "One should fear and worry, search one's deeds and repent."
Through this another thing is attained - the bond between the living and the soul who has ascended endures. For the soul is enduring and eternal, and sees and observes what is taking place with those connected with her and close to her. Every good deed they do causes her pleasure, specifically, the accomplishments of those she has educated and raised with the education that brings the said good deeds; that is to say, she has a part in those deeds resulting from the education she provided her children and friends.
Since all of the above constitute directives of our Torah, the wisdom and will of G-d, the fulfillment of these directives is part and parcel of our service of G-d, of which is said, "Serve G-d with joy." A directive of Torah also serves as the source of strength which provides the abilities to carry it out. Consequently, since the Torah addresses these instructions to each and every individual, it is within the capacity of each individual to carry it out - and more so, to carry it out in a manner of "Serve G-d with joy."
The prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) lived at the time of the destruction of the First Temple in the year 3338. He was born into a family of kohanim (priests), and was the son of the Prophet and High Priest, Hilkiah. He foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple and exhorted the Jews to return to G-d. After the destruction he authored the Book of Lamentations, which is read on Tisha B'Av. He supported the Jewish people in their misery, strengthening them and encouraging them to continue when it seemed impossible to go on.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Although it is unusual for Tisha B'Av to coincide with Shabbat, it does periodically occur in this manner. In 5751 (1991) when Tisha B'Av also fell out on Shabbat, the Rebbe spoke about the significance of this schedule.
Tisha B'Av, normally a day of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple, was therefore a day of happiness and rejoicing, as we do not mourn on Shabbat.
There is another reason to rejoice on Tisha B'Av. And this, too, the Rebbe spoke about at great length on that Tisha B'Av and the days immediately following it.
Tisha B'Av is known by our Sages as the birthday of Moshiach.
In simple terms this means that at the moment of the destruction of the Holy Temple, the potential for the Final Redemption, through Moshiach, was born.
The Rebbe clarified the exact meaning of this: "Our Sages explain that this cannot refer to Moshiach's actual birth, because Moshiach will not be an infant when he redeems our people. But rather, it refers 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... Each year, for the past two thousand years, on Tisha B'Av, Moshiach receives new power and new strength, and from year to year, this influence grows more powerfully."
Thus, Tisha B'Av is a unique time, when the potential for the Redemption is at its peak. Through this insight into Tisha B'Av we are introduced to a basic concept in Chasidic philosophy which teaches that the greatest ascent comes after the greatest descent.
Let us use the time properly and bring about the greatest ascent, the revelation of Moshiach and the Final Redemption, NOW.
Moses began to explain the law (Deut. 1:5)
Moses explained the law in all seventy languages. Why did he have to go to all this trouble? Because G-d knew that one day the Jews would be scattered about the face of the earth and would be mingled among the other nations. By explaining the Torah in all languages, G-d insured that in every land and among each people there would be a spark of Torah.
Behold, I have set the land before you... to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give it to them (Deut. 1:8)
This verse does not say the land will be given "to you," but "to them" - Abraham, Issac and Jacob - an allusion to the resurrection of the dead.
Hear the causes between your brethren and judge honestly between each person (Deut. 1:16)
"Hear" - he who hears and feels the great love of the Creator for each Jew, and how precious each Jew is above - he will behave in a manner of "between your brethren" - getting along well with people and appreciating each Jew. Another explanation: If you truly want to hear and feel this love of fellow Jews, you should relate to people in a manner of "between your brethren" - you must be sociable and civil with your fellow Jews.
(Baal Shem Tov)
May He make you so many more than you are, a thousand times (Deut. 1:11)
The ultimate fulfillment of this blessing will take place in the Messianic era, as prophesied by Isaiah: "The smallest one shall become a thousand, and the youngest one a strong nation." At that time, the Jewish people, now numerically insignificant, will multiply and become a thousand times as great.
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses all came before G-d when they were told about the destruction of the First Holy Temple. Abraham spoke first: "Why have I been singled out from among all the people, that I have come to this shame and humiliation? Why have You exiled my children and delivered them into the hands of evil people? You have laid waste to the place where I brought my son as a sacrifice."
G-d replied: "They sinned, transgressing the entire Torah, and the message of the entire alef-bet."
Abraham then said: "Who testified against the Jews, that they have transgressed?"
"Let the Torah come and testify," said G-d.
The Torah came forward, but Abraham said to her: "My beloved daughter, are you not ashamed before my children? Remember the day that you were given; how G-d carried you to all of the nations, and none wanted to accept you, until my children came to Mt. Sinai and heard you. And today you want to offer testimony against them, during their troubles?"
The Torah was too ashamed to testify.
G-d said, "Let the alef-bet come forward."
The letters came forward, wishing to testify. The alef was first. But Abraham told her, "Remember the day when G-d gave the Torah and began with the letter alef - Anochi - I. None of the other nations wished to accept you except the Jews. And now you want to witness against them?"
The alef slunk back in shame. But the bet came forward. Abraham said to her, "My daughter, remember the Torah which begins with the letter bet - Bereishit - In the beginning. No one but the Jews would accept her and you wish to bring testimony against them?"
When the other letters saw this, they all remained silent.
Then Abraham said to G-d, "In my hundredth year, You gave me a son.
When he was 37, You commanded me to bring him as a sacrifice and I bound him! Won't You remember this and have pity?"
Then Isaac spoke to G-d, "When my father brought me as an offering upon Your command, I willingly let myself be bound. I stretched out my neck to be slaughtered. Will You have pity on my children for my sake?"
Jacob, too, spoke to G-d, saying "For twenty years I worked for Laban so together with my children and my wives I could leave him. And when I left Laban, I was met by my brother Esau who wished to kill my entire family. I risked my very life for them and bore much suffering because of them. Will You not have pity on them?"
Finally, Moses approached G-d. "Was I not a faithful shepherd over Israel for 40 years, leading them in the desert? And when the time came for them to enter the Holy Land, You commanded that I die in the desert and not lead them there. Yet, I did not complain. Do You expect me to quietly watch them go into exile?"
Moses called to Jeremiah the prophet, who stood together with him and the Patriarchs. "Come with me. I will take Israel out of exile."
When, by the rivers of Babylon, the people saw Moses they rejoiced. "Look, Moses has risen from the grave to redeem us from our captors!"
Just then, a heavenly voice declared: "It is decreed. It can be no other way."
Moses wept as he spoke to the people and said, "My beloved children, I cannot take you out for it has been decreed by the Master and only He can redeem you."
Then Rachel, our mother, came before G-d. "Your servant, Jacob, loved me dearly and worked for my father for seven years on my behalf. But my father wanted to trick him and give him my sister Leah, instead. I heard of this and told Jacob. I gave him a sign so he would know who they were giving him.
"But I took pity on my sister. I did not wish her to be humiliated. I taught her the signs and even spoke for her so that Jacob wouldn't recognize her voice; I was not jealous. Master of the World! I am but flesh and blood and I was not jealous of my sister. You, G-d, are merciful, full of kindness and compassion. Why are You jealous that Israel served idols? And because of this, You exiled my children and the enemy has killed whom they wanted."
Immediately G-d took pity on her and said, "Rachel, for your sake I will return your children to the land of Israel."
Based on the Midrash
Shabbat Chazon precedes Tisha B'Av in order that the vision of a glorious future can combat and neutralize the destructive forces concentrated on this fateful day. A true visionary has the ability to see a good future through even a troubled present. This idea is embodied in the Sages' statement that the Moshiach is born on Tisha B'Av. He is conceived in the collective super-consciousness of the Jewish People and his birth is the manifestation of the deep belief in the ultimate redemption of the world. This universal vision, imprinted within the very day of destruction, forms the essential core of the soul of Moshiach.