From Ascent Quarterly
OUT OF THE ASHES by 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. For nine (this year 10days) eating meat (except on Shabbat),
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 conclusion: 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 Chassidic Rebbes
TISHA BAV ON SHABBAT by Binyomin Adilman
Deep introspection during Bein HaMetzarim, the Three Weeks between the
fast days of 17 Tammuz and 9 Av, 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 the Masters of Kabbalah
"I shall turn their mourning into joy" (Psalms 104:31).
When Mashiach comes and the Holy Temple is rebuilt, there will be no
more mourning on Tisha b'Av. But why should this day be
designated a joyful festival?
On Tisha b'Av, the Holy Temple was destroyed on account of Israel's
evil deeds, which aroused Divine anger. Nevertheless, though the external
and visible aspect of this anger was outright punishment, its inner aspect-its
ultimate motivation-was G-d's intense love of His people. It was precisely
this love that caused Him such extreme distress when His children became
soiled by sin (for if there were no such love, their conduct would be
of no consequence to Him).
Once judgment will have been done and the Divine fury will have run
its course, what will remain will be the underlying, innermost Divine
attribute-G-d's love for His people. And, as this love surfaces, in the
future Tisha b'Av will become a festival.
In the Scroll of Eichah ("Lamentations"), written by
the prophet Jeramiah after the First Destruction and read publicly on
Tisha b'Av night, we find the verse (3:15), "He has sated me with
bitter food." It is taught that Tisha b'Av and Pesach (when we partake
of the bitter maror) share a common theme (indeed, since the calendar
was standardized more than 1500 years ago, the first day of Pesach always
falls on the same day of the week as Tisha b'Av). The above insight affords
us a deeper common denominator between the two dates: on Pesach, the external
aspect of G-d's love for His people was revealed; on Tisha b'Av, the innermost
aspect of this love will be revealed.
[Based on From Exile to Redemption II, pp. 94-95]
> Some Laws and Customs
Tisha b'Av, the 9th day (postponed from Shabbat till
Sun. 10th) of the month of Av, is the 24+ hour fast commemorating
when the two Temples were both destroyed. Starting after the Shabbat of
August 7, to display our mourning we do not eat, drink, wear leather shoes,
act intimately, bathe for pleasure, or anoint. Until noontime on
Sunday, 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 Shabbos, Rosh
Chodesh, and holidays we do not recite Tachanun.
May this transformation be an immediate reality!
The ASCENT staff
last year's Tisha b'Av
for more Kabbalah
insights on The Nine Days Plus Tiasha b'Av