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27 Tammuz 5765 - August 3, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
The Light of Redemption that Gleams in the Darkness of Exile

by HaRav Aryeh Leib Hacohen Shapiro

Beyond our Experience

The reason that we are so remote from experiencing any sense of loss over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh is because we have never seen it standing and or witnessed its glory. That makes it hard for us to appreciate its absence. We might be suffering in the present difficult economic and security circumstances but there really is no connection at all between any of our present distress and a yearning for redemption and the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdosh.

Our situation can be compared to that of a young, starving child in the Warsaw Ghetto, who used to yearn all day for his father's return from his labor detail, hoping that he would bring home a few potato peels to still his pangs of hunger.

When the father returned in the evenings empty-handed, his son's plight would break his heart. He would comfort him by telling him, "Soon we will be redeemed. Moshiach will come and the Beis Hamikdosh will be rebuilt. Then, everything will be better and there will be no more hunger."

Some fifty years later the son described how, as a young child, he had envisioned Moshiach as being, "a tall, strong and mighty fellow, with a sackful of potatoes on his shoulder."

We might well direct the wry smile that this story brings to our lips at ourselves. We too, yearn merely for some improvement in our lives.


This is how the Rambam describes true yearning for Redemption: "The sages and prophets did not desire the [arrival of the] times of Moshiach so that they could rule over the world, nor in order to subdue the nations, nor so that the nations would extol them, nor in order to drink and make merry — only so that they might be free to occupy themselves with Torah and wisdom, without any persecutors or disturbances, so as to [thereby] merit the World to Come" (Hilchos Melochim 11:4).

How can we reawaken within ourselves an awareness of the Churban and a yearning for our redemption? The argument that, "We never witnessed its grandeur, so how can we feel its loss?" seems wholly justified. This article will attempt to provide a response to these questions.

Tzion Shall be Plowed

In Hilchos Taaniyos (5:3), the Rambam writes, "There are days when all Yisroel fasts because of the misfortunes which happened on them, in order to arouse people and open up paths of repentance . . . and on Tisha B'Av. Five things happened then: It was decreed that Yisroel would not enter the Land; The First and Second Botei Mikdosh were destroyed; And a great city by the name of Beitar was captured which had been inhabited by thousands and tens of thousands of Jews . . . it was a tragedy of the same magnitude as the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh . . . And on that day, that is liable for retribution, the wicked Tinius Rufus . . . plowed up the Sanctuary and surrounding area, to fulfill the posuk, "Tzion shall be plowed like a field."

The reasons for mourning the first four of these misfortunes are self-evident, but it is harder to understand the tragedy of the fifth. Once the Beis Hamikdosh had been razed, of what significance is the fact that its ruins were plowed over? Also, why in this case does the Rambam add the phrase, "to fulfill the posuk . . . ", which he does not do for the other misfortunes, though they all have sources in the books of the Nevi'im? The Rambam's introductory words too, "and on that day, that is liable for retribution . . . " suggest that the plowing of Har Habayis was essentially different from the other four calamities.

The Fast-Festival

The novi Zecharioh (8:19) said, "So says Hashem, the fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth month, the fast of the seventh month and the fast of the tenth month shall be [occasions] for gladness and joy for Beis Yehuda . . . " Apparently, this does not merely mean that the general rejoicing over our redemption will continue on these days too, but rather that these specific days, which had been observed as days of mourning over the Churban, will be transformed into days of special joy. This also requires explanation. (See Pri Tzaddik, maamorei Tu B'Av.)

In Toras Moshe (parshas Devorim) the Chasam Sofer comments, "I always wondered why Tachanun is not said on a Tisha B'Av which was postponed, since the day that the fast is observed is not the day of the moed. Though the fast is put off until after Shabbos, the day that is called a moed, owing to which Tachanun is not said, remains [Shabbos] the ninth [of Av]. I gave the answer that the moed is in fact determined by the day of the fast. This is why the posuk refers to "the fast of the fifth month . . . etc." rather than, "the ninth of Av." It is not the date that matters here, as with Pesach on the fifteenth of Nisan; it is the day of fasting. When the Beis Hamikdosh is rebuilt and Tisha B'Av falls on a Shabbos, the day of rejoicing will also be the following day, which is the day when the fast would have been."

This too, must be understood, as must also the ruling itself that Tachanun is not said on Tisha B'Av because it is called a moed (Eichoh 1:15, Shulchan Oruch O. Ch. siman 559:4). Why mark its being termed a moed when the day is steeped in mourning?

Two other related questions are the gemora's language (Taanis 30), "Whoever mourns for Yerushalayim, merits seeing its joy," in the present tense, rather than "will merit seeing" in the future as would be expected (see Droshos Chasam Sofer III pg.84) and the phrasing of the brochos in Bircas Hamozone and in the Amidah: "bonei, who builds, Yerushalayim," and of the posuk (Tehillim 147:2), "Hashem builds Yerushalayim" — all in the present tense.

Similarly, the terming of the seven haftoros read after Tisha B'Av as the "Seven of Comfort." What comfort are they while the Beis Hamikdosh still remains unbuilt?

The entire exchange between Rabbi Akiva and his colleagues (see accompanying box) requires explanation. The posuk (Eichoh 5:17) says, "Over this our hearts grew sick . . . over Har Tzion that is desolate; foxes walked through it."

What place was there for laughter? Moreover, how did Rabbi Akiva comfort them? They cried over what they were seeing at present, even though they too, knew that the Beis Hamikdosh would be rebuilt one day. If Rabbi Akiva himself laughed for the future, why did he respond by asking them why they were crying, when it was obvious why?

We shall now see that one basic idea runs through all these sources.

The Hope that Lies Within the Mourning

The Chasam Sofer (Droshos ibid.) deals with some of these questions with the following thought. He first mentions the problem of the present tense in, "Whoever mourns Yerushalayim merits seeing its comfort," and he also asks how the term moed is at all applicable to Tisha B'Av. Then he continues, "Let us reflect though, how it has happened that for almost two thousand years, since we lost everything good, in our sins, the memory of the Beis Hamikdosh has not been lost and we still cry over it. This is unparalleled among other nations, who forget about their past glory and do not cry over it for such a long time as we . . . do.

" . . . [However,] the fact that we do not accept comfort, as for something that still lives, is itself a great solace. Heaven decrees that [only] the dead are forgotten. That is why once-mighty nations, who have no hope of retrieving their former glory, forget their pasts entirely. We bnei Yisroel though, hope and look forward to the day when Hashem descends with a wall of fire around Him, when we will be revived and be sated with good . . . This mourning is thus a great comfort to us. This is why Tisha B'Av is an import moed; it affords us certainty of returning to our former standing and [to the glory of] our early years. This is why Chazal were careful to say, "whoever mourns Yerushalayim merits seeing its comfort," for we are [actually] comforted [in the present] by our continued mourning after such a long time" (The same thought appears in Yeshuos Yaakov O. Ch. 168:2).

This also explains why, when Tisha B'Av is postponed until after Shabbos, the day of the fast is treated as Tisha B'Av in every respect, as the Chasam Sofer himself points out in the passage from Toras Moshe quoted earlier.

This idea will also explain the manner in which the Rambam presents the fifth calamity of Tisha B'Av, the plowing of Har Habayis. This act represented the obliteration of the Churban, for as long as the ruins of the Bayis remained the sight of them aroused pain and evoked mourning. Once the site was plowed up like any other field, there were no longer any reminders, and the expected consequence would have been (as Chazal tell us is decreed), "the dead are forgotten . . . " chas vesholom!

This is why the Rambam stresses that this took place, "to fulfill the posuk, `Tzion shall be plowed like a field.' " This was a deeper and more profound degree of Churban than what had taken place hitherto. As long as some remnant is still there to evoke pain over the loss, the destruction is not complete. But when all pain ceases, the loss is complete and final, chas vesholom.

This is why the days of mourning themselves will become Yomim Tovim. Because they are days of mourning, the things that we lost still live on in our hearts. They will be the agents of rebirth. This is why we read the seven haftoros of comfort each year. The very fact that we are currently still mourning, is cause for comfort.

Bearing this in mind, we can explain the exchange between Rabbi Akiva and his colleagues:

"They said to him, `Why are you laughing?'

"He said to them, `Why are you crying?'

"They told him, ` . . . now foxes are roaming there — shall we not cry?!'

"He told them `That is why I'm laughing . . . ' "

Rabbi Akiva was not merely answering one question with another. His answer was, "The reason for your crying, is itself the reason that I am laughing. Your tears over the Churban are the cause of my laughter."

Rabbi Akiva's linkage of the prophecies of Urioh and Zecharioh is now clearly understood. We saw in the Rambam that the meaning of Urioh's prophecy, "Tzion shall be plowed like a field," is that all memory of the Churban would be wiped out so that there would be no pain and no mourning over it (as actually happened immediately afterward). Rabbi Akiva was telling his colleagues, "If you are crying, it's a sign that Urioh's prophecy has already seen its fulfillment. Now that people are mourning the Churban once again, the memory of the Beis Hamikdosh has not been forgotten and it is certain that Zecharioh's prophecy will also be fulfilled. If the Churban lives within us, redemption is assured."

The Consequence of Forgetting

This gives us a deeper appreciation of the following comments which Rav Yaakov Emden zt'l writes (in his siddur, Beis Yaakov, Dinei Tisha B'Av): "Were it not for our being guilty of this sin, of failing to mourn Yerushalaim properly [we would already have been redeemed, for] it [alone] is sufficient [cause] for our exile being [drawn out] for so long.

"In my opinion, this is the strongest and the most powerful and obvious reason for all the extraordinary, dreadful and shocking persecutions to which we have been subjected during our exile, in every place where we are scattered. Our pursuers have been at our necks. We have not been allowed to have contact with the nations, because of our lowliness and our suffering and wretchedness. [The reason is] because this mourning has left our hearts. Dwelling quietly in a land that is not ours, we have forgotten Yerushalayim; it's memory does not occur to us. Therefore, `we have been forgotten, like the vanished memory of one deceased.' With every generation, further misery is added to our sadness and pain.

"All who love the truth will agree to my words, as [our own] experience shows, particularly on the bitter day of Tisha B'Av. Just who properly mourns and groans over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh and the desolation of our land, from the depths of his heart? How many tears are shed? Needless to say, during the rest of the year nobody remembers it, nobody dwells on it and nobody speaks a word about it. No thought of it even enters our minds, as though it was a random event. We thereby repeat the sins of our ancestors, learning from the ways of the gentiles, which was the origin of all the evil [that befell us]."

This frightening passage tells us clearly that our failure to mourn the Churban lengthens the exile. We are dealt `measure for measure.' Our mourning is the indication that the memory of the Beis Hamikdosh still lives, that it has not been `forgotten like one deceased' and consequently, that it will again be rebuilt. Our failure to mourn is tantamount to declaring that the Churban is dead and we are thus treated accordingly, `like a forgotten corpse.'

Although being divorced from an awareness of the Churban and the loss of the Beis Hamikdosh is part of what was decreed in the time of our forefathers that we would suffer on Tisha B'Av, it is a part whose remedy lies in our hands. This constitutes the essence of our obligations during the period of Bein Hametzorim and on Tisha B'Av.

Context Within the Yearly Cycle

The Maharsha (on Bechoros 8), establishes a connection between the period of Bein Hametzorim and the Yomim Noraim which follow it, an awareness of which can help us in fulfilling our obligations at this time. The Maharsha writes, "Just as the twenty-one days from Rosh Hashonoh until Hoshanna Rabboh bestow cleansing from sin and [afford] atonement . . . the twenty-one days of retribution from Shivo Ossor BeTammuz until Tisha B'Av also yield cleansing from sin, because misfortune and suffering atone, as Chazal say, `Exile is [a form of] atonement.' "

It is said that Rav Yisroel Salanter zt'l commented that, "Tisha B'Av has potential for spiritual elevation to no less a degree than Yom Kippur," (cited in Sifsei Chaim, vol. III). There is also a well-known acrostic, in which the letters of the name Tammuz (tov, mem, vov, zayin) stand for, `Zeman Teshuvoh Memashmeish Uvo,' meaning, `The time for repentance is approaching.'

An alternative explanation to the Maharsha's can be offered to explain this link between the period of mourning, followed by one of repentance.

Basing himself upon the Ramchal zt'l, HaRav Chaim Freidlander zt'l, (in Sifsei Chaim vol. I), explains that the reason why mankind's judgment takes place on Rosh Hashonoh is that each new year is a completely new unit in the march of time towards the ultimate revelation of Hashem's unity. Each individual's task for that year, which is his contribution towards the world's attainment of that goal, is assigned to him on Rosh Hashonoh. On that day, which represents the nucleus of the new year, he is therefore judged on his deeds of the previous year. The purpose of the judgment is not solely to evaluate his past but in addition, to determine the type of role that befits him in the ensuing year, depending upon his spiritual level.

This is why all the day's prayers and supplications center upon the world's ultimate purpose: "And therefore, put Your fear . . . reveal the glory of Your Kingdom . . . " In this way, we express our yearning and our longing to see Hashem's rule revealed to all mankind. The basic necessities of life, e.g. good health, a livelihood etc., which are the physical means of realizing this ambition, are granted to those who truly yearn for it.

On the basis of this understanding, it appears that the fundamental content of the Bein Hametzorim period is to be a preparation for our spiritual service on Rosh Hashonoh. How can a person express yearning for Hashem's revelation in his prayers on Rosh Hashonoh and request a role in bringing it about, if the period of mourning and pain over the dreadful situation of Hashem's concealment and the exile of His Shechinoh utterly fails to move him?

There is no greater contradiction than feigning to want a part in remedying the situation on the one hand, while remaining undisturbed by it on the other. This is the meaning of the reminder that the days of teshuvoh are approaching, to which the name Tammuz alludes. This is also why Rav Yisroel Salanter equated Tisha B'Av's potential for spiritual growth to that of Yom Kippur. The roots of the good year and the forgiveness from sin which everyone desires during the Yomim Noraim are firmly planted in Bein Hametzorim.

A Personal Note

My father's yahrtzeit falls at the beginning of Bein Hametzorim and I would like to mention a personal observation, which should bring an elevation to his soul. [Halochoh determines] numerous stages in the process of mourning, lo oleinu: the time of death, aninus, the levaya, the first three days, the seven days of mourning, the first thirty days and the first eleven months. Each of these stages has its own distinct laws and its own manner of conduct.

It is hard not to notice Chazal's profound grasp of the mourner's mind and emotions. If one is careful to fulfill all the halochos and customs, each in its designated time, not seeking out the lenient opinions in this or that area (which can always be found), then one does not forget one's loss. I think that all who have passed through this experience, R'l, will agree to this.

Though the comparison of personal bereavement to Bein Hametzorim is not a perfect one, it can nevertheless be justifiably drawn. Meticulous observance of all the halochos of this period makes a significant contribution towards enabling us to fulfill our duty as Yidden. Paying attention to the scores of regular prayers that we offer for the restoration of the Beis Hamikdosh and the future redemption, and spending time studying one of the commentaries to the Kinnos and discovering which time period each of them speaks about, will help stir our emotions over the Churban.

May we thus be among those who "mourn for Yerushalayim" who "merit seeing its joy" in the present!

Akiva, You Have Comforted Us (Makkos 24)

Rabbon Gamliel, Rabbi Elozor ben Azarya, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Akiva . . . were going up to Yerushalayim. When they arrived at Har Hatzofim, they rent their garments. When they came to Har Habayis, they saw a fox going out of the Kodshei Hakodoshim and they began to weep, while Rabbi Akiva began to laugh.

They said to him, "Why are you laughing?"

He said to them, "Why are you crying?"

They told him, "The Torah says [about this place], `and the stranger who draws close shall die,' and now foxes are roaming there — shall we not cry?"

He told them "That is why I'm laughing. The posuk says, `and I will bring the faithful witnesses to testify, Urioh the Cohen and Zecharioh ben Yeverechyohu . . . ' (Yeshayohu 8:2). What is the connection between Urioh and Zecharioh? Urioh lived in the time of the First Beis Hamikdosh and Zecharioh in the time of the Second. The posuk means to make Zecharioh's prophecy contingent on Urioh's. Urioh said, `Therefore, because of you, Tzion shall be plowed like a field' (Michah 3:12) and Zecharioh said, `Old men and old women will yet sit in the streets of Yerushalayim' (Zecharioh 8:4). Until Urioh's prophecy had been fulfilled, I was afraid that Zecharioh's would not be. Now that Urioh's has been fulfilled, it is certain that Zecharioh's will also be."

They said to him thus: "Akiva, you have comforted us. Akiva, you have comforted us."

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