Wednesday, July 26, 2006


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

If you have ever been to Tzefas, what no doubt stands out in your memory is its idyllic tranquility. You walk the same streets as did the Arizal and the Beis Yosef and so many other holy people over the centuries. A shiver goes down your spine as you think about it. You enter a shul in which the Arizal himself davened - how can you not be overcome with emotion? You see the cutest cheder children darting about as you walk through the old city. The beauty and serenity is overwhelming.

And now you hear the news reports that those cheder yingelach along with their families are locked in bomb shelters. The Arizal shul is empty, as are the Alshich shul and the Abuhove shul; the Tzorkover Beis Medrash has been bombed, the local yeshiva evacuated and the huge Breslov Beis Medrash, usually packed to the rafters, is sparsely populated. The Tzefas Yidden with their unique chein are gone - they have fled like refugees to parts south. The ancient cemetery with its kivrei tzaddikim, which exerts its pull on Jews from all over world, is desolate.

Not so the more modern cemetery nearby. Tragically, Jews have been there all too recently - to bury their loved ones killed in katyusha attacks.

Perhaps you have never been to Chaifa. It is Israel’s third largest city and hosts a large concentration of religious Jews along with chadorim, yeshivos, bais yaakovs, [even a Lev L’Achim office], and the full infrastructure of a regular community. Yet this past Shabbos, a minyan had to be scraped together in the main shul and when it was finally assembled, the mispallelim realized that there was no baal kriyah. They darted all about the neighborhood and could not find someone to lain the parshiyos of Matos and Masei. Most of the populace had fled.

As we enter the Nine Days, we find Klal Yisroel engulfed yet again in an eis tzorah. It is a chizuk in emunah to see once more the fulfillment of the words of the novi, “Kol rodfeha hisigu’ah bein hametzorim.”

Intelligent people all over grapple with questions. When will the current war end? Will the Western powers cower in fear and submit to the Islamic blood lust and thirst for domination? Will they force Israel to back down and snatch defeat from the claws of victory? They want to know if the West will capitulate to calls for an immediate ceasefire before Israel has the opportunity to drive the Iranian proxy far from their border. How long will it take till people realize that this war is not being waged over territory, as Israel’s previous wars, but over the radical Islamic ideology which seeks to subjugate the Western world?

Some are asking why the head of the United Nations gives succor to a Hezbollah terrorist group that the 22-member Arab League criticized for causing the current disaster. They all understand that the Islamic fascists have to be crushed or they will pose a threat to the wellbeing of the entire world, yet inexplicably, the worldwide media appears to support them.

People wonder how the political map will look when the war ends. Will it bring more power to Iran and Syria or will it weaken the axis of evil that so destabilizes and menaces the volatile Middle East?

It was obvious to this newspaper and to many people that Israel’s exit from Gaza would only bring its sworn enemies closer to Israel’s borders and make it easier for them to wreak further havoc. It was obvious that the withdrawal would embolden the terrorists and their many supporters by proving that terror works and that by keeping it up, they may be able to drive Israel into the sea. Why couldn’t Israel’s leaders see something so self-evident?

It was apparent when Ehud Barak ordered Israel out of Lebanon that Hezbollah and their ilk would take it as a huge victory for terror over the vaunted Israeli army. Since that period, Hezbollah has lined up at least 10,000 rockets on Israel’s northern border, yet no one stopped them, even though the UN resolution explicitly called for their disarmament. We don’t need to ask why. We know why. The world could not be bothered. And those in office in Israel were only interested in pawning the problem off onto the next government.

The world media complains that more Lebanese civilians are being killed than Israeli citizens. But since when is justice determined by which side loses more? Since when is a people under repeated attack and fighting for its life condemned for fighting back too hard? Since when is a democratic country that heeds international rules and respects the human rights of its own citizens as well as those of its enemy ordered to give up the fight because the enemy hides behind innocent men, women and children?

Only if you are discussing a conventional war are these questions relevant. But Am Yisroel, by its very nature, is non-conventional. Am Yisroel exists by different rules and operates on a different plane. Halacha hi beyoduah Eisav sonei l’Yaakov; it is a law built into the universe that Eisav and Yishmoel hate Yaakov. It has nothing to do with logic.

There is no other way to satisfactorily explain why the nations of the world hate us so; no way to justify the double standard and hypocrisy that characterize their policies toward Israel.

The truth is that when we see Chazal’s dictum borne out not only today but throughout every epoch in history, it ought to strengthen our belief in the words of the Torah and Chazal.

Likewise, when we note that it was on Shiva Assar B’Tammuz that the katyushas began raining down on northern Israel, was that not an explicit reminder from Above that nothing happens randomly - that Hashem is in charge? When we see the fulfillment of the prophecies and the words of Chazal forecasting the pain that will engulf Am Yisroel in the Three Week period of bein hametzorim, we should also note the “escape route” they prescribed.

The Chofetz Chaim in his sefer Ahavas Chesed, chelek beis, perek yud daled, writes “how good it would be if this idea [of gemillas chesed] would spread among our nation of holy people. If everyone would strengthen themselves to perform this mitzvah, the world would become full of chesed. All the hardships and problems besieging us would consequently disappear from this world.”

While the words of the Chofetz Chaim need no validation, especially from me, perhaps we can expound upon them and explain how they are most relevant to the situation we find ourselves in today.

Rav Chaim Vital, the disciple of the Arizal, writes [Sefer Eitz Hadaas Tov, Tehillim 124] that there will be five exiles for the Jewish people. The fifth will be the most difficult and will be called Golus Yishmoel. During this exile, they will torment the Jewish people with terrible afflictions, unprecedented in the previous exiles.

The son of Avrohom Avinu was given the name Yishmoel, which is an amalgamation of the two Hebrew words, yishma Keil, “G-d will hear.” In that fearful period, the Jews will be unable to escape his awful clutches and will have no recourse but to cry out to Hashem and have faith that He will save us.

Rav Chaim Vital quotes the Pirkei D’Reb Eliezer who writes that b’acharis hayomim, during the “end of days,” the Jews will cry out to Hashem from the affliction brought on by the offspring of Yishmoel, and He will answer them.

Where does Yishmoel get his power from? How can it be that this offspring of Avrohom Avinu has the ability to so gravely harm the Jewish people?

Perhaps it derives from what seforim say was Yishmoel’s co-opting of Avrohom’s midah of chesed. Yishmael took the klipah, so to speak, of chesed. In other words, Yishmoel has the illegitimate chesed, which empowers his offspring.

It follows, therefore, that the way to battle him is by strengthening our own midas hachesed. The more we fill the world with legitimate chesed, the more we strengthen the power of Am Yisroel - derived from Avrohom Avinu - which in turn depletes the chesed and strength of Yishmoel.

Thus we gain deeper insight into the advice of Chazal, “Harotzeh l’hinotzeil m’chevlei Moshiach, yaasok b’Torah u’gemillus chassodim.” The “escape route” saving us from the birth pangs of Moshiach is the study of Torah and performing acts of chesed.

The last golus will be Golus Yishmoel, whose power will unfold b’acharis hayomim. By performing chesed, we will weaken the power of Yishmoel to fight us, and thus be spared from the terrible suffering destined for that time.

Seforim teach that Moshiach Ben Dovid represents and is empowered by midas hachesed. It may very well be that the chesed we are urged to perform in these days helps prepare the world for the revelation of Moshiach Ben Dovid.

May it come to pass speedily in our days that the period of din - the pain and tragedy of Tammuz and Av - will be overturned by the many acts of gemillas chassodim which we will all undertake. May these days be marked by true chesed, rescue and redemption with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Almah D’Shikrah

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

We live in a world of lies and illusions. What’s right and wrong doesn’t count; those considerations take a back seat to realpolitik. The truth is so often twisted and mangled, it is no longer recognizable.

Everywhere we turn, it seems as if the forces of sheker are gaining. Nowhere is this more evident than in the current crisis in the Middle East, where Israel is finally hitting back at two lethal terrorist organizations, Hamas and Hezbollah.

The news from Eretz Yisroel fills our hearts with worry. We see Israel pounding its enemies to the north in Lebanon and to the south in Gaza; we hear about the attacks on Israeli towns and cities and wonder fearfully where all this will lead.

We can’t help but remember how the enemies of the Jewish people had claimed that if Israel were interested in peace, all it had to do was clear out of the Arab territory it was occupying.

In Lebanon they did just that and vacated the security buffer zone they had set up on Israel’s northern border. The move was certified by the United Nations which passed a resolution calling on the government of Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah and take over the border area. It goes without saying, that resolution was ignored.

Last year, every inch of Gaza was turned over to the Palestinian Authority. Democratic elections were held; the Palestinian’s supposed dream for Gaza was fulfilled. Thousands of Jews were mercilessly thrown out of their homes in the pursuit of a policy which guaranteed that such radical moves would bring relief from the constant terror.

The misguidedness of that policy is today self-evident. The idyllic Jewish towns in Gaza were taken over by terrorists and used as bases for launching terror into Israel. Elections swept Hamas into power. And more recently, daily barrages of Kassam rockets rained down on nearby towns. Finally, the terrorists went too far, kidnapping an Israeli soldier in a terror operation. The Israeli government decided enough was enough and began hitting back. The operation is ongoing.

On the Lebanese front as well, Israel sat quietly by as Iran and Syria helped Hezbollah build up an arsenal of more than 10,000 rockets aimed at Israel. When soldiers were killed and captured last week, the government decided to fight back. Since then, hundreds of katyusha rockets were sent into Israel striking not only border towns, but cities deep into Israel. Jews were killed in Tzefas and Haifa, as rockets hit as far as Tiverya and Afulah.

What is the world’s response? Even after witnessing countless atrocities at the hands of Islamic terror, the world condemns Israel for fighting back. France, Russia, Italy, Norway, the Vatican and many other self-righteous voices have called upon the beleaguered country to halt its actions.

President Bush stands out among all major heads of state for championing Israel’s right to defend herself, even as his own secretary of state called for restraint.

It is astonishing to see how willfully blind people can be; how they can twist around the facts so that black is white and white is black.

But we don’t have to travel that far to see the koach of sheker.

Taking a look at secular Jewish newspapers across this country, you’d think that religious Jews are almost non-existent. The hallmarks of the religious community - all the acts of chesed, kindness, charity, as well as the educational accomplishments - are largely ignored. The tremendous growth is never noted. The construction and maintenance of a growing number of schools and educational centers receives scant attention.

The heroes of the community who fund so much good, the people who work so hard for the benefit of others, are rarely, if ever, given their rightful due. The growth of the day school movement and its impact on Yiddishkeit is not something you can expect to read about in the secular Jewish media. Nor is the dedication of armies of mechanchim, mechanchos and teachers.

The spread of kollelim and their dynamic success in strengthening Jewish identity and drawing Jews back to their heritage in so many towns and cities of this country is not considered newsworthy by secular Jewish publications.

It seems as if the only time the secular Jewish media finds it fit to mention our world is when they think they have caught us on something. No, we are aren’t perfect; no one is. But why is it that the only time certain papers mention Lakewood is when they have the opportunity to do some scandal-mongering?

Just last week, the Forward, a Jewish tabloid with a strident anti-religious agenda, ran a long, rabid article on Lakewood. While it is beyond the scope of this column to respond point by point, the article is an obvious hatchet job.

Unsubstantiated allegations of the NAACP are published as fact in this sample of journalism at its worst. A travesty of justice in which a local rebbi is facing charges for apprehending a young man in his backyard and restraining him until the police arrived is reported for the Jewish world as a bias crime. The article’s spin twists the rebbi’s act of self-defense into an assault. Ultra-Orthodox Jews have no business protecting their own property, is the newspaper’s implied stance.

The article contains other unfavorable revelations, heavily nuanced to imply that the growth of the Orthodox community and its prestige in Lakewood - whose very name is synonymous with the remarkable post-Holocaust renaissance of Torah - is a cause not for joy, but for concern.

The lack of balance in the report is astounding - and reflects badly on both the writer and the editors of the paper. Not one word is mentioned about all the good that goes on in the town. Not one word about the people who forego many of life’s pleasures and luxuries to dedicate themselves to the study, dissemination and observance of G-d’s word.

Not surprisingly, the editors didn’t find it necessary to take note of the graduates of Lakewood who serve with distinction in pulpits, congregations, yeshivos and schools around the world.

Nor is mention made about graduates from the Lakewood yeshiva and kollel who have gone out to become respected titans in their chosen professions and livelihoods, giving back in spades to the community and serving as models of integrity and success.

Examples of the ascendancy of sheker are too prevalent and obvious to thinking people to require cataloguing here.

There is another pernicious form of sheker which is more difficult to detect and to which we must also remain vigilant. Like a person so taken in by the sight of split hooves that he is oblivious to the pig’s snout peeking out between them, sometimes we are so impressed by people’s outward accomplishments that we fail to pay heed to their dishonorable foundation.

All too often, these purveyors of sheker use a narrow, selective emes to assuage their own conscience and to camouflage their true nature. Our great leaders have always been revered because they were driven by an uncompromising desire for pure truth. When we observe contemporary groups and individuals who for the sake of a declared devotion to a worthy goal are all too willing to compromise in other areas, we must recognize the danger of falling prey to their deceptions.

We must constantly remind ourselves that the truth should be our guide in whatever we do. We must be true to ourselves personally and as a community so that we can face that which confronts us. When we are truthful in our own lives we can accomplish so much more. The same follows when, as a community, we seek to deal with serious issues. It is only when we are honest with ourselves, about our capabilities and about the issues, that we can deal with them and successfully resolve them.

In these days of Bein Hametzorim we should also be concentrating on performing even more acts of charity and kindness than we usually do. Our actions should expose the lie that we don’t care about the less fortunate and turn a deaf ear to silent pleas for aid and support.

Let us also do more to help spread Torah, to raise the level of respect for Torah and those who cling to it. We should do what we can to enhance the message of Torah, which is a Toras Chesed and an Eitz Chaim Lamachazikim Boh.

Let us do more to promote worthy people and their causes. We should show that the truth appeals to us, that we are not guided by the ever-changing trends of the day, but rather by what is true and good. Let us give strength to the emes and not become victims of the sheker; let’s do what we can to weaken sheker and its henchmen.

In this period, when we mourn all the churbanos and destruction our people have endured during this time of year, we pine over the loss of the botei mikdosh and the loss of the light of truth and holiness which they provided the world.

We pray for Moshiach tzidkeinu to redeem us and to rescue us from the falsity that undermines so much around us.

Talmidei HaGaon taught that since Moshiach will return the emes to its rightful place and cause worldwide Kiddush Hashem, the sitra achra seeks to do everything in his power to cause an ascendancy in sheker and chillul Hashem in the period of ikvisah dimeshicha, leading up to the redemption.

Thus, in the period of as’chalta d’geulah, we have to beat back the forces of evil by doing our utmost to enhance the emes and cause kiddush Hashem.

When we see an increase in the power of the lie, when we see more and more chillul Hashem, perhaps we can view it as an indication that the time is ripening for Moshiach. We should recognize that it is incumbent upon us not to fall prey to the forces which seek to entrap and undermine us. If not now, when?

At times like this when responsible people and historians are opining that World War III may have begun, we should heed the advice of Chazal: Mah ya’aseh v’yinotzel meichevlei Moshiach, ya’asok b’Torah v’gemillus chassodim. To be spared the suffering that will accompany Moshiach’s arrival, one should busy himself with Torah and acts of kindness.

May we merit to see these days of mourning and sadness be transformed into days of happiness and celebration speedily in our day.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Pinchos Is Eliyohu

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

What is one to make of the never-ending stream of sorrowful news in our communities? It seems as if every day we hear of a fresh tragedy. One sudden death follows another. More and more names are added to the list of the seriously ill who need our prayers. So many young people have been ripped away from us recently. The pain is so raw. How are we to respond to all of this?

The news coming out of Eretz Yisroel deepens our sense of foreboding. The newly elected prime minister repeatedly demonstrates that he is out of his depth, wholly unequipped to deal with the current crisis. He says, “I have given orders to do everything possible to bring Gilad Shalit home safe and sound, and when I say ‘everything,’ I mean everything.”

If bombastic pronouncements could accomplish anything, the captured Israeli soldier would be home by now and Israel would be at peace with its Palestinian neighbors.
Yet Olmert, in the same breath as he declares his policy of “doing everything” to win Shalit’s safe return, holds the army back from entering Gaza in full force and really accomplishing anything.

He promises to have Hamas leaders weeping and wailing, to let no one off scot free. “Israel will not free prisoners, period,” the government declares. But almost immediately, word starts leaking out that although Israel will not negotiate with Shalit’s captors, if he is released they would be receptive to releasing Palestinian prisoners as a good will gesture.

Meanwhile, Hamas makes a mockery of Israel’s declarations and firepower as it continues to rain down Kassams on Sderot and Ashkelon. The land that Israeli leftists and much of the world fantasize about as the future peaceful Palestinian state alongside Israel is controlled by a vicious terror group. No one seems to have any trouble with that state of affairs.

Esther Wachsman, mother of Nachshon Wachsman Hy”d, wrote recently that what is transpiring now in Israel is reminiscent of George Orwell’s famous “1984,” a novel depicting how absolute power corrupts people and leads to a state where people robotically follow their leaders, denying truth and justice.

The current state of Israeli affairs also reflects Chelm or perhaps Sedom, she wrote, where the mental world of the masses is governed by self-destructive, absurd behavior.

The truth of her statements needs no elaboration.

Meanwhile, on the world news front, North Korea last week fired yet more missiles as Iran continued threatening to wipe Israel off the map and vowed to develop nuclear weapons. In addition, on the anniversary of the London bus bombings, US officials arrested Muslims for plotting to blow up New York City tunnels.

Those of us who follow the news read such stories and wonder how it will all end. Where are we headed and is there anything we can we do to derail the constant carnage?

Perhaps we can glean inspiration and direction from this week’s parsha.

At the conclusion of Parshas Balak last week, we learned that following the episode with Balak and Bilaam, the Bnei Yisroel began to sin with the daughters of Moav. A nesi bais av committed his sinful act with a daughter of the leader of Midyan before Moshe and all of the Bnei Yisroel.

The entire nation stood around weeping, at a complete loss. Hashem was about to send a plague as punishment for the crime when Pinchos arose from the crowd.

He was the sole individual who was not confounded by the unprecedented outrage - the only one who remembered the halacha and knew what had to be done. Even as cynics mocked him and he himself was unsure of the outcome his act would produce, Pinchos ignored the scoffers and sprang forward, plunging a spear into the bodies of Zimri and his partner.

He thus stopped the already devastating plague and brought a swift end to yet another inglorious chapter in our people’s history.

Parshas Pinchos opens with Hashem telling Moshe Rabbeinu that “Pinchos the son of Elozor the son of Aharon the Kohein turned back G-d’s wrath from the people of Israel with his act of kana’us, and He did not destroy the Bnei Yisroel in His anger. Therefore, say [the following]: Hashem is bestowing upon Pinchos his covenant of peace. He and his children who follow him shall be privileged with the covenant of kehunah forever.”

By following the dictates he had been taught by Moshe Rabbeinu and intervening in a machlokes, Pinchos merited the blessing of eternal peace. The man of peace is not necessarily the one who sits back passively and does nothing. The one who sits on the sidelines weeping as evil rears its ugly head and seems to triumph is not promoting peace; he is encouraging evil.

Pinchos is deemed worthy to bear the torch of kehunah and carry on the tradition of Aharon Hakohein, to be an oheiv shalom verodef shalom, because he put his own ambitions aside and rose to the challenge. Pinchos was given the eternal blessing of peace because he made peace possible in Yisroel by exterminating evil.

Pinchos halted the plague which had already killed 24,000 Jews because he had the moral courage and clarity to act when others were confounded and immobilized.
He didn’t let popular opinion deter him from slaying those who brazenly defied the Torah authority. He knew that an oheiv shalom verodef shalom sometimes has to act courageously, even if his actions invite misunderstanding and recrimination.

Pinchos knew that the cause of peace is advanced through fidelity to halacha. Shalom is achieved by pursuing shleimus, even if that involves sacrificing sacred cows and jeopardizing a career.

Shalom is rooted in shleimus; when everything is proper, when everything is complete, and whole, then it is possible to also have shalom. If you are lacking in shleimus, if the state is not absolutely intact, then you cannot have shalom. Torah is the absolute truth, with it the world was created, and it serves as the ultimate yardstick in defining our behavior. If we stay true to it, then we will consequently be blessed with peace.

Pinchos passed this test and he was therefore singled out as being worthy of following in the footsteps of Aharon Hakohein, who exemplified the pursuit of shalom through the service of G-d.

With all of the countless misfortunes besieging our people as yechidim and as a klal, it does seem as if we are living through a period of mageifah.

Perhaps what we need are more people like Pinchos in order to stop the plague in its tracks. We need people whose loyalty to Torah compels them to arise from the mourners who sit weeping and demonstrate by action what needs to be done.

There are no prophets among us and no one can say why specific tragedies befall us. But we all are aware of evils being perpetrated which nobody fights. We all know that most things are not b’shleimus in our world. We are all aware of people who suffer and urgently need someone to rush to their aid. Apathy and often fear prevent us from carrying out these missions of mercy and justice.

Despotic rulers such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Ill Jung and people such as Zimri, count on the passivity and fear of the masses. Despots are experts in playing the game of brinkmanship and taking advantage of people’s reluctance to rise up against injustice, even in self-defense.

In our daily lives we also confront people who abuse their position or our own good natures, to serve their own selfish, destructive ends. We must have the fortitude to stand up to them in the tradition of Pinchos. We must speak up when confronted with injustice, while being careful to remain within the Torah-prescribed parameters.

We have to seek to achieve perfection in our personal lives and slay the demons which lurk inside our camp and in each one of us.

An eis tzorah is a clarion call to us to do teshuva and help return the world to a condition of shleimus. Tragedy calls out to people of inner greatness to conquer the urge to remain passive and take action, instead, to return our world and our people to shleimus through Torah. The only way to merit peace and tranquility is by following the path of shalom and shleimus as defined in the Torah.

Pinchos lives on as Eliyohu Mevaser Tov, who will announce to us the arrival of Moshiach when enough of us follow in his path. That path was forged for him by his rebbi, Moshe Rabbeinu. In every generation, there are individuals who carry a nitzutz, a spark, of the neshoma of Moshe Rabbeinu, who continue to light up that path. Let us seek them out, learn Torah at their feet, so that we may all merit to hear the call that the geulah sheleimah has arrived.

Every act we take to bring perfection to the world will bring us that much closer to the day when Eliyohu will announce that the golus has finally ended. May it come to pass speedily in our days.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


by Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Time flies by so fast that before we realize it, summer has crept up on us. Most schools across the country have ended and people have set up camp in the mountains, looking forward to a period of calm and carefree living.

Summer is a time to unwind and take life at a slower pace; to focus on rest and recreation. After all, the sun is shining and we’ve been waiting for this break in our schedule for months. We want a vacation not only from work but from weighty issues and troubling situations. We don’t want to be confused with sadness, tragedy and dilemmas of all sorts that sap our energy and blight our day.

But we can’t escape it. Before we know it, Rosh Chodesh Tammuz arrives, ushering in the Jewish period of intense sadness. When we realize that Tammuz is here, we automatically think of the Three Weeks. We think of the Nine Days. And we wish they weren’t there. We wish those weeks commemorating sadness and tragedy wouldn’t have to fall out now.

Why do they have to intrude on our pleasure, ruining everyone’s vacation plans? Why do the Nine Days always have to come out during the month I’m in camp, kids wonder? Why do these weeks of utter sadness have to fall out every single year when the sun is shining brightly? Why couldn’t they make the Three Weeks in February when it is cold and snowy and not as popular a time for wedding making?

It’s Tammuz and the sun is shining. Green grass and beautiful foliage against a blue sky. No clouds on the horizon. A perfect summer day.

You wonder how this picture can be real. How can the sun shine so brightly during these sorrow-laden days? How can the grass be green? How can it be that there are no clouds up in the sky?

The days of Tammuz and Av should be dark and grey. The rain should be gushing. There should be a foot of snow on the ground with everything grounding to a halt. That would be more in sync with all the pain out there in the world. That would correspond to the grief over so many lives that have been snuffed out. There is so much tragedy; so much sadness. How can the sun shine?

Tammuz and Av call out to us and remind us that we have been thrown out of our land and thrust into a world that if not outright hostile, is far from welcoming.

We live in nice neighborhoods, thinking we belong here. We have proprietary feelings about “my town,” “my city,” “my street.” We are so deeply rooted in our homes and our environment, we can’t imagine belonging anywhere else. We are so content in our surroundings, we imagine this is the way the world was meant to be. Permanently.

But then the Three Weeks come and remind us that we are in golus and it is all transitory.

And through it all, the sun shines.

When tragedy occurs, people feel as if the world is ending. It comes crashing down, devastating them. The natural reaction is to think it’s all over. The tragedy the person is facing is just so overwhelming, it’s as if the world is spinning off its axis. Nothing will ever be the same.

But then the sun shines.

A person looks out the window, walks outside and the sun is shining. The sun seems to send a message: “Don’t give up. It’s not all over. There is a master design; a reason for everything. We are all here to carry out His divine plan. Don’t give up. Be positive. Chase away darkness. Chase away the clouds. Find reasons to go on living.”

At times like this; with news like this; when confronted with sadness, with doom and gloom, force yourself to look at the sun and listen to its message: Vezorach Hashemesh Uva Hashemesh.

Tammuz comes during the summer to teach us to never give up. Tammuz comes when the weather is blissful to remind us that once again the sun will shine over Yerushalayim. Tammuz comes, as we seek a change of scenery, to remind us that we should not be b’atzvus about our situation. Whatever is going on, we have to remember that the sun will shine, the flowers will bloom and life will go on.

The churban habayis and other tragedies which befell our people continue to cast a shadow upon our lives. At times of intense happiness, we remind ourselves of the loss; no simcha can ever be complete until Tammuz and Av are turned into months of happiness.

The same is true of our cherished summer months, when we seek a respite from our worries and burdens. As important as that temporary escape is, it should not become our life’s mission, erasing our awareness of the tzaar that besets so many of our brothers and sisters.

One day soon, Tammuz and Av will be months that trigger happy anticipation. One day soon, they will be the harbinger of true simcha, unmarred by sadness and grief, a happiness that will be lasting and complete.