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Parshas Devarim/Tish'a B'Av - It's Always a Good Time!!!                                   7 Av 5782 

08/04/2022 12:35:11 PM


This is the time of year we prepare our Shul’s annual calendar, combining the secular and Jewish dates as well as all civil and religious holidays. I enjoy preparing and editing the calendar (with a few others) for the coming year, benefitting from getting a clear overview of how and when the Jewish holidays fall out. The Jewish component of the calendar is more interesting and more challenging than the secular because in a certain sense it remains fixed. The secular or Gregorian calendar is based upon the sun (solar calendar), while the Jewish (and to an extent the Muslim) calendar follows the moon (lunar calendar). In short, since we follow the moon, all significant dates such as holidays, fast days and minor festivals occur a little before or a little after they did during the current year, almost never falling on the same day of the week two years in a row.

With that being the case, the holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and the major festivals of Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos sometimes fall out mid-week while on other years over the weekends. The same can be said of all the dates in the calendar, including Tish’a B’Av. In Talmudic times, the establishment and setting of the new moon and subsequent holidays and events were determined by two witnesses testifying in Jerusalem about seeing the new moon. In the fourth century, Hillel II (Hillel HaZakein) established a fixed calendar based on mathematical and astronomical calculations. This calendar, still in use, standardized the length of months and the addition of months over the course of a 19-year cycle, mathematically assuring that the lunar calendar realigns with the solar years. Adar II is added in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle. Therefore, we have two acronyms, one for Tishrei and the other for Nissan: Lo AD”U Rosh לא אדו ראש  - indicating that Rosh Hashana will never begin on a Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday - and לא בדו פסח  Lo BD”U indicating that Pesach never begins on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday.

During the year I often hear comments regarding the way certain holidays and national observances fall out. Sometimes these comments refer to the time of the year “oh it is so early this year” or “it falls out so late this year.” Those comments typically relate to how these holidays either coincide with the secular schedule or not. To me, a more significant and important observation are the comments of when Yom Tov falls out in the middle of the week, forcing people to take off more days from work, while a legitimate concern, but simultaneously implying  ”Oy! More Yom Tov and then a few days later is Shabbos?” almost complaining about more days of restrictions, too much eating, too much Shul, etc. A second scenario, which I feel is very offensive, concerns how the date of Tish’a B’Av falls out, either midweek or on the weekend, depending upon when the nine days occurs on the calendar. For some reason people can handle the no-meat custom if the Ninth of Av falls midweek, breaking up the nine days with a Shabbos in between in contrast to the way it fell out this year having a full week of no meat! People really complained, expressing how difficult it is to eat no meat for an entire week. Well, maybe that’s a good thing, helping us to become more aware of and more consciously experience the loss of the Beis HaMikdash. In today’s day and age there are very few things that we either do or do not do to remind us of even minor suffering, allowing us to at some core level  to feel the destruction of both of the Temples in Jerusalem.

This concept of doing without to help us to meaningfully grapple with the deep despair connected to the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples also applies to the restrictions on listening to or playing music, going swimming and some other activities that need a heter - some Rabbinic allowance to not observe these customary restrictions during the nine days. There is no question when it comes to someone’s health and well-being that Rabbinical dispensation can be awarded, but it behooves us all to think if and when we really need the heter or not. Can we get by for just one week without something that we typically have and enjoy during the rest of the year?

I think part of this issue is the length of the galus/exile itself. The further we get from the holiness of the Beis HaMikdash and the spiritual connection to Hashem, the more difficult it becomes to relate about the loss. Our spiritual and religious relationship with Hashem was strongest when we had the Temple. It is difficult to mourn for something that we have not seen or experienced in our lifetime nor the lifetime of so many generations since the destruction. We understand that a relationship is not based upon physical means and things, nevertheless lacking such physical memory or have  a physical memory or something to visualize, to internalize, this horrific destruction becomes much more difficult to truly appreciate. Reb Tzadok HaKoheinin Tzidkas HaTzadik 221 writes that “forgetfulness” is the beginning of evil. When God occupies our mind, our head is full of goodness, but when we forget about Hashem,  other thoughts seep in. Hashem represents everything that is spiritual;  this world represents everything that is physical. As the exile extends, we grow psychologically further away from Hashem. This notion is answered by the fact that Hashem always continues to seek out a closeness to us. The difficulty we have with it is the association, the connection between the physical presence of holiness in terms of having or not having a Beis HaMikdash. Now that we do not have the Temple we feel cut off from Hashem and subconsciously grow further away. That being said, it is challenging to feel the loss over time, and therefore the restrictions that the Rabbis consciously placed upon us to try to feel this loss doesn’t always resonate with everyone. Without a more physical connection we tend to put less emphasis on those restrictive reminders and feel unnecessarily burdened by them.

It is of utmost importance to stop and think of the purpose of the restrictions, not as a means to punish and make our lives uncomfortable, but to provide us with the subtle, physical reminders of what we have lost in that physical sense of God’s sanctuary, the ability to see, feel, experience the physical and spiritual presence of our Temple. The physical deprivation we try to experience during the three weeks, the nine days and on Tish’a B’Av itself is collectively summed up to remembering the spiritual connection through our physical separation.

With Hashem’s help we will internalize the loss by, yes, experiencing some physical and mental discomfort. This is the meaning of what the Gemara in Taanis 30b states, “And the Sages say: Whoever performs labor on the Ninth of Av and does not mourn for Jerusalem will not see her future joy, as it is stated: “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad with her, all who love her; rejoice for joy with her, all who mourn for her.” (Isaiah 66:10). From here it is stated: Whoever mourns for Jerusalem will merit and see her future joy, and whoever does not mourn for Jerusalem will not see her future joy”. Let us all take a little pain and benefit from the great gain!  


Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Fri, December 8 2023 25 Kislev 5784