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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Tisha B’Av 91

By TorahLab

Immediately following the Destruction of Jerusalem the great philosopher Plato came to visit the ruins of the Temple. While inspecting the ruins he noticed a man crying bitterly. He walked over to the man and asked him who he was. “I’m Jeremiah, prophet of the Jews”. Plato couldn’t believe what he heard. “Jeremiah, you’re wisdom is known throughout the world, I must ask you two questions, Firstly, how could you cry over stones and mortar? Secondly, why do you cry over something which already happened?” Jeremiah looked at the man squarely in the eye and said, “Plato, wisest of men, are there any philosophical puzzles you haven’t yet answered?” Plato asked his most difficult questions to Jeremiah and the prophet answered them immediately. Jeremiah then said to the astonished Plato “ All this wisdom has come from these bricks and mortar. As for your second question, I’m afraid there is no way for you to comprehend this."(Rama, toras olah, quoted in lev eliyahu vol. 1 pg 293)

“Let Zion and her cities lament like a widow girded with sackcloth, mourning for the husband of her youth” (Kinoth).

Let us imagine a young woman who lived in perfect harmony with her husband.  Their life was comfortable and they were blessed with children.  Suddenly the husband passed away. This was of course a tragedy.  The young woman was left with her children and a broken heart.  But she looked at her children and realized that she must be in control.  She must not hurt her children with her weeping and agony.  She was determined to show strength to her loved ones.  As she did so however, she grew more pained.  She longed to cry, she yearned to release the pressure of her suffering, but she dared not.  Her children came first.

A year of sleepless nights passed, and the anniversary of her husband’s death approached.  She decided that on this day only, she would allow herself to cry.  She gathered her children together and commended them for their strength. She explained to them that this was the anniversary of the great tragedy that befell them and they could allow themselves to cry. They sat and wept bitterly all day long and bemoaned their sorrow.  They felt better, she felt relieved.

Tisha B’Av is an anniversary of tragedy for the Jewish people.  Despite all the pain we feel and the sorrow we endure we don’t cry.  We must not cry, for we must survive. We must display strength and courage.  If we were to cry, we would cry all the time.  We could mourn day and night all the holocausts, pogroms, persecutions and attacks that have befallen us throughout history.  We must restrain our tears.

One day a year, however, we may cry.  On the Ninth of Av we are permitted to release our emotions and bemoan our sorrows.

I once heard from a great man how when he was a child his father brought him to the great Mir Yeshiva for the Yom Kippur davening. The Mir Yeshiva had just arrived in New York from Shang Hai. As a child he was overwhelmed with all the students surrounding him who were crying with tears during their davening. He was very moved by this and wanted to cry also, but he couldn’t. He tried to cry but no tear was shed. He felt like a squeezed out lemon without a drop of juice left. When they reached Niela, the concluding prayer and they came to the prayer “gather our precious tears in a flask to be” he became so frustrated that he couldn’t cry that he started to cry, over the fact that he couldn’t cry.

The Gemara says at the end of Taanis; “Kol hamisavel al Yerushalayim zocheh vroeh byeshuasa” What exactly will they see?  The Ritva at the end of Taanis tells us that there are actually two periods of techiyas hamaysim. This opinion is also held by R’ Saadia Gaon Emuna vdeos chapter 6. One is at the end of the world, after the coming of the Messiah but an earlier one is when it will be time to build the beis hamikdosh. At that time all those that died in galus will be woken up to take part in the rebuilding of the Bayis. Those that didn’t shed a tear, who didn’t wait will not be woken. They still may be woken at the end of time.

The Rambam tells us that when it comes to the Geula we must believe in its coming and await its arrival. What is the difference between these two things? I once heard the following pshat. The Chazon Ish writes that there are two concepts Emunah and Bitachon. Belief and faith. Says the Chazon Ish that these two are the same thing but Emunah is the theory and bitachon is the practice. A man can be a great philosopher about G-d but not put it into practice, it’s all theory. The same is true here, Hammamin is the philosophy of the Geula, Hamechakeh is the Lemmaseh. To cry is not to analyze or to contemplate, to philosophize or to interpret. To cry is to feel. To shed a tear is a lemmaseh.

When one hears of the troubles of another person we don’t know we tend to intellectually analyze the situation. If it is someone closer we will feel bad for-that person. If it’s someone we love, if we feel their pain, if it’s lemmaseh then we cry. Chazal say tipach atzmosov shel mechasvei keitz.  There are probably thousands of interpretations for this. I’d like to offer one simple interpretation. Tipach atzmosav refers to the fact that a person will not rise for tchiyas hamaisim. Perhaps according to the ritva in taanis we could say that this refers to the first techiyas hamaisim. Mechashvei means one who thinks and calculates. He’s not hoping, not waiting, not crying, he’s thinking. For thinking one does not rise to witness and help with the building of the bais hamikdosh. The Gemra (ibid) asks then what should we do? Says the Gemara “Chakei lo.” Wait - let it be lemmaseh.

One has to feel the lack of Beis Hamikdosh and of Geula in a very real way. It has to be something that troubles us. Reb Chaim Shmelevitz insisted that anyone who has not lost at least one complete night of sleep over the churban is not an ehrlicher yid.This is what the Rambam means when he says “Mechake”.

The Gemara says that when the Beis Hamikdosh was destroyed Hashem closed all the gates of Heaven. There is a gate of machshava, hisbodedus, maasim, many techniques for reaching Hashem. Hashem says this is all fine but where is the dimah, where are your tears? Is it lemmaseh? Shaarei dimah lo ninalu!

Perhaps it is important to understand the nature of this catastrophe in order for it to be lemmaseh. Why is it so significant that we lost “bricks and wood” as Plato put it? I think the key to this is not so much in the building itself but more in what the building represents. When we speak about a building we speak about a structure. The lack of a structure historically has left us not only without a Beis Hamikdosh but Mphuzor Umephorad bein haamim. A non Jew once commented to me on how Jews are so much smarter then non- Jews. I asked him how he arrived at this conclusion. He said that the older Jews that he meets can speak 3, 4 or even 5 languages, a feat seldom found amongst non - Jews. I told him that from there you do not see our wisdom you see our Tzoros. We are thrown from one country to another always needing to adopt foreign cultures and customs. When we get used to being there we are sent to another place. People speak with such pride over the fact that wherever you go in the world you find Jews. I don’t know what were so proud of, this is mefuzor and meforad bein haamim! The beis Hamikdosh, and Yerushalayim were the hub and the axis of klal Yisroel. They gave us form and held us together. There was Ahava and Achdus in the world and everyones priority was kvod Hashem. No one minded if someone else made the Kvod Hashem. Were in buisness together! The spokes branched out in many directions but they all stemmed from the hub. The Maharal explains that the Gadlus of the Beis Hamikdosh was that we were all together in it, everyone agreed that “kvod hashem adif”. An old Jew in Yerushalayim once told me that it used to be that everyone understood their Chiyuv to Klal Yisroel and they had to receive mussar at times for not fulfilling their chiyuv to themselves. Today we tell people that they should do a bit for kvod hashem also. Why does it bother us at all if someone else is successful in Avodas Hashem. Is he taking away our success? The answer is that were not in business together, were in buisness for ourselves, the reason is because were missing Yerushalayim and the Beis Hamikdosh, were missing the hub. The reason we lost the hub is because we pulled away. The issue is not Achdus so much as the more underlying issue. My Rebbe once commented that when we have to make a difficult decision and there seems to be so many sides and factors there should really be one question foremost in my mind, Is it a Kidush Hashem or a Chillul Hashem? Putting Kvod Hashem above all of our personal needs is the true secret of achdus. Putting our own kovod first is the reason the Churban happened. 

Hazorim Bdimah If we sew with tears, brina yiktzoru, we’ll be zocheh to brina yiktzoru, we’ll al be zocheh to be roeh bbinyana ubisimchasa. Amen.

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