Wednesday, August 17, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

The Yalkut Shimoni states that when Yeshayahu Hanovi spoke the immortal words of this week’s haftorah, nachamu nachamu ami, the Jewish people wanted to kill him. But when he followed with yomar Hashem, they calmed down.

The explanation may be that they could not accept that after the utter desolation and destruction of the churban bayis, someone, even a novi, could offer words of consolation. Such words seemed a mockery, almost as if Yeshayahu were rubbing salt in their wounds. But when they heard yomar Hashem—Hashem is saying this— they were able to accept it.

No human being could relieve the unspeakable suffering they were going through. Hakadosh Baruch Hu alone could do that.

Perhaps the minhag to say kidush levana for Chodesh Av on Motzoei Tisha B’Av—cited by the Rama in Orach Chaim Siman 551, 8—can be seen in a similar light, as a message from which we can take consolation.

Tisha B’Av commemorates all the tribulations that befell our people through the centuries. Recounting all the misery we have suffered can bring a Jew to melancholy and despair. To counteract that response, as soon as the fast is over we venture outside and remind ourselves that Am Yisroel is compared to the levanah. Just as the moon shrinks and disappears from view, only to regain its full size and completeness, so too Am Yisroel. Though its suffering causes it to diminish and wither, it revives and waxes strong and whole once again.

Our mourning accelerates during the Three Weeks and the Nine days, finally peaking on Tisha B’Av, but when the period of mourning is over we are not to linger in our sorrow and turn melancholy.

The Gemorah in Bava Basra 60b recounts that at the time of the churban there were perushim who stopped eating meat and drinking wine. Rabi Yehoshua discussed their custom with them and convinced them to stop their practice because the halacha set limitations to the mitzva of aveilus.

The Gemorah in Moed Koton, 27b, expounds on the posuk in Yirmiyahu, 22, which says al tivku lemais, v’al tanoodoo lo. The Gemorah says that one should not cry over a death for more than three days. Mourning has a prescribed limit and the Gemorah discusses severe consequences which can result from excessive mourning.

The same holds true for the aveilus of this mourning period we have just been through. Once the period of time Chazal designated for this extreme form of aveilus for the churbanos has passed, we are to learn the lesson of the levonah and the immortal nachamu namchamu of Yeshayahu Hanovi.

On Shabbos Chazon wherever religious Jews gathered, the small talk was about the Gaza disengagement. People couldn’t understand how it came to happen that a Jewish state could treat its citizens in such a callous manner. People can’t fathom what happened to Sharon, how the father of the settlements turned on the very people who put their lives on the line to follow him into harm’s way.


Kol rodfeha hisiguha bein hametzorim… The words seemed to jump off the page.

Whether or not people support the disengagement, they couldn’t help but take note of the uncanny “coincidence” that the edict of expulsion was timed to go into effect on Tisha B’Av night.

The sense of the Yad Hashem orchestrating events was unmistakable, even as Gaza promises to become a base of terror operations while Bush, Sharon and Rice celebrate the surrender as a step towards peace.

From now on, when Tisha B’Av tragedies are listed, some people will add to it the pain of the evicted Gaza settlers. Their list will note that in the year 2005, Jews were chased from their homes, which were then bulldozed. It will document that fate of the 38 beautiful shuls that were destroyed. It will say that yeshivos were blown up.

The politics will gradually be forgotten but people will look at that list and wonder how it came to pass that in a Jewish country, Tisha B’Av was chosen as a date for Jews to be expelled. They will wonder what the leaders of Israel were thinking when they delivered such a gift to a band of terrorists who promised to establish a terror state on Motzoei Tisha B’Av.

On Tisha B’Av as Jews sat on the floor reading the Kinnos, the words have a different resonance. The heartbreaking poetry of the mekoninim speak to us directly.

There is so much sadness in our community; so many people are sick, so many are just barely holding on. Every week brings news of yet another accident, of yet another korban. Young parents plucked away. Young children gone, just like that, in the blink of an eye.

Since our Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed, we have known incessant tragedy. Yes, there was a comfortable break here and there. Through the ages there have been some stations that were more hospitable than the others.

Tisha B’Av is the repository of 1900 years of Jewish pain and suffering. It is the day on which we mourn for all that once was and now is no longer, for the hopes and dreams that turned to ashes, for all that our people have lost in the Diaspora.

When we sit on the floor saying Kinnos, the list of tragedies for which we mourn seems endless. The Churban of the first Bais Hamikdosh, the second Bais Hamikdosh… the Harugei Beitar… the calamities that befell the Jewish communities of Europe one thousand years later during the First Crusade. We remember the Jews who were ripped apart during the Inquisition, the Gezeiros of Tach Tat, the expulsion from Spain in 1492.

We remember the 24 cartloads of handwritten seforim that were set afire in the streets of Paris in 1242…and the subsequent expulsions from France, England, Germany and other regions.

We sit there and think of the Jews who were shipped all across the world during the ages. Just as they finally got comfortable in one country they were expelled. Forlorn refugees packing their peklach, trudging forward to find shelter in yet another strange, unwelcoming land.

We mourn on Tisha B’Av for the millions of Jews who were killed and maimed physically and mentally over the previous harrowing century. And we do this all on Tisha B’Av because our entire history of persecution emanates from this sorry day, the day of the churban.

Along with that tragedy-laden history, we can not help but think of all the sadness that surrounds us and those we love today.

We take out our kinnos, so nicely typeset and enriched with fine translations and commentaries, and we read along with our friends and neighbors in shul. We read slowly, taking in each word as we fall further and further behind the group, gaining a new perspective of Jewish life and suffering. Kinah after kinah records so much sorrow… It’s unfathomable that one people can bear so much.

And then we finish the kinos and chant Eli Tzion. We get up off the floor, straighten out the chairs and return to our homes. We go home, read about the churban a little more and wait for the fast to end.

And then the next day, voila, it’s as if it never happened.


Nechomah is in the air. Shabbos Nachamu is coming. Everyone is happy and cheerful. Camps are in full swing again. Kids all over the Jewish world are hopping into the swimming pool. The music is blaring. Tisha B’Av and all it represents fades into a distant memory.

On Shabbos Nachamu, we read the haftorah from which the day derives its name and receive a dose of consolation.

Nachamu, be comforted, the torture will soon end. Nachamu, the golus is almost over. Nachamu, be consoled over the calamities of the past. Nachamu, a bright new day is dawning.

What is the consolation? What is there about this Shabbos that rings out with happiness throughout the Jewish world?

How does it work? How can it be that one day we are so sad and the next day, so happy?

Remember how it felt to be in school, approaching the end of the year? Even if you don’t like school, you love the last week. Because you know it’s the last week. You hate taking tests, and though the final is the toughest test of the year, you smile through it. Because you know this is the last one. After this test you are free. Its summer, it’s time for fun and enjoyment. You skip out of school with a song on your lips…

A person is sick and must endure grueling treatments in a desperate attempt to lick the disease and stay alive. The patient dreads the day of the treatment and wishes with all his heart he could be spared it. But when the doctor tells him this is the last treatment—this is the last time you will suffer—after this you will go home and recover, your hair will grow back, you’ll get your life back; the patient happily submits to the painful procedure.

People who have lived through the holocaust, and those who have suffered any kind of painful experience in their past, try so hard to erase it and the scars it leaves on the psyche. They fight to suppress the bitter memories. They yearn for the day that they know that this is the last day they will be haunted. If only they could rid themselves permanently of the haunting experience, they’d happily endure one last assault from the bad memories.

Shabbos Nachamu proclaims that this year we observed the final Tisha B’Av. It says, “Seek comfort, for that awful day will never again be repeated.” The day of Tisha B’Av will no longer symbolize sadness, depression and depravity. Next year Tisha B’Av will be a holiday.

All those who down the ages have suffered for being Jewish, all those who were burned at the stake; whose blood flowed at Beitar; all those sent into exile by the Romans, by the English, the French, the Spanish….will finally see justice.

All those who were tortured and killed, who were physically and mentally battered by the Germans; all those young people who were murdered in their prime; all the old people who died as good, ehrliche Jews; all of them together will gather in Yerushalayim.

Shabbos Nachamu says that next year on Tisha B’Av we will all be in Yerushalayim; we will all be singing and dancing. We will all be healed and suffering will come to an end. There will be no more kinnos, no need for those uncomfortable little benches; no more sadness; no more pain. The enemies who wreaked such havoc and caused such anguish will meet their downfall and be obliterated.

Not only will swords be beaten into plowshares; but tears will be twisted into smiles; pained features will come alive with happiness; the sad will be festive and mournful will be joyous.

It will be the last Tisha B’Av in golus. The last time kinnos were said. The last time the whole community sat in semi-darkness on the floor, shoeless, chair-less and clueless.

Nachamu Nachamu Ami. Amen.


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