From Ascent Quarterly
Out of the Ashes
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 Chassidic Rebbes
Shame and Redemption
Book of Eichah read on Tisha B'Av, one can see how judgment is transformed into
redemption. For example, the verse, "G-d, in his anger, shamed fair Zion"
sounds like it is referring to harsh punishment. The word for "shame",
yaiv, brings to mind a thick cloud of negative energy. Clouds are also
associated with the word "av", since thick clouds of rain are
called "avim". Thick clouds also represent kelipah, concealment
However, clouds also have positive associations, just as
the curses in Vayikra and Devarim have the potential to become blessings. Moshe
Rabbeinu could not enter the Sanctuary because a cloud settled on top of it. On
the day the Torah was given, there was so much smoke and so many clouds that the
Jewish People could not approach the mountain further. In one verse, the flight
of angels is compared to thick clouds in the sky. "Mi eleh" ("Who
are they") is said in connection with the angels. "Mi" or
who expresses the aspect of concealment, "eleh" or these, expresses
revelation. The connection between the two opposite concepts comes from a higher
level than both of them, but the basic idea is that the clouds function as a concealment
which will eventually be lifted in the time of revelation.
There is also
a connection between the words "yaiv" and "eika" which
expresses the potential for redemption through progressive teshuvah. "Eika"
is spelled with the Hebrew letters "aleph" and "yud", and
"caf" and hei. The yud of Eika corresponds to the number ten,
standing for the ten commandments. On this level, the ten commandments are engraved
inside out, since the external aspect of the ten commandments are revealed in
the physical world, and the internal aspect is revealed in the higher worlds.
The yud is also associated with the ten sefirot the way they are rooted in the
Infinite Light, Blessed be He. The aleph is above the 10 sefirot and is
part of the essence of G-d. Caf expresses the quality of kingship.
are all of these elements represented by the letters connected? The aleph-yud
combination and the cof-hei are connected through yaiv, the thick cloud,
and av. Even though yaiv and av are associated with descent and kelipah, the concealment
has a significant role to play. Zion had to descend in order to clothe itself
in the kelipah as a first step toward teshuvah. It is only through this process
that the lower elements can be refined. Av, for instance, represents a sin done
intentionally. When the av is elevated through teshuvah, the sins are transformed
into merits. Teshuvah also balances the gevurah in the verse, "G-d, in his
anger, shamed fair (yaiv) Zion," because the teshuva sweetens the aspect
of strict justice and assuages anger.
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?
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 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
fast of the 17th of Tammuz (June 27) starts before dawn and ends after dark.
No eating or drinking. Special services at shul morning and afternoon. The money
saved by not eating should go to charity; the time, to Torah-study and mitzvot-performance.
The twenty one days
between the seventeenth of Tamuz and the ninth of Av are called Bein Hametzarim—“The-Days-Between-The-Fences”
(see Lamentations 1:3). On these days many afflictions and calamities befell Israel
through the generations. The first and second Temples were both destroyed this
period. Rejoicing has to be diminished. Marriages are not held till after Tisha
b’Av. We refrain from music and dancing and from pleasure-trips, as well as from
hair-cutting. It is likewise customary to refrain from wearing a new garment or
eating a fruit for the first time after a year, because these would require the
recital of the blessing of joy, shehecheyanu.
b'Av, the 9th day of the month of Av (sunset, July 17 - nightfall,July
18), is the 24+ hour fast commemorating when the two Temples were both destroyed.
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 Saterday 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
May this transformation be an immediate reality!
The ASCENT staff
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