"Hear, O Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One."
This past Sunday, the ninth of Av, Jews the world over mourned the loss of the Holy Temple. The day is marked by Jews of all stripes, those more observant, and those less observant, as every Jew recognizes the great and enduring rent rendered in the fabric of our relationship with G-d as a nation and as individuals, as a result from the destruction of the Holy Temple at the hands of the Roman legions 1938 years ago. Righteous Gentiles, too, are counted among the mourners of the Holy Temple's destruction and desolation. In truth, all nations should mourn bitterly the loss of the house of G-d on Mount Moriah, as all the world stands diminished as a result.
Yet, from this darkest of days on our calendar shines forth the first tender ray of hope and redemption for Israel and mankind. Tradition maintains that on this very day the messiah will be born. There is no rebuke without consolation. This is the sublime message of the month of Av, otherwise known as Menachem Av - the consoling father. There are certain aspects of the Tish'a b'Av observance that are reminiscent of our observance of the Sabbaths and holidays, that seem to be quietly comforting us: the sadness will not be forever - even this day, the ninth of Av, will one day become for us a day of great festivity.
In fact, just one week following the ninth is a day described 2000 years ago in the Mishna as "the happiest day of the year for Israel." This is Tu b'Av, literally, the 15th of Av. Tu b'Av is celebrated by the house of Israel as a day of brotherly love, a propitious opportunity for matrimonial matchmaking, and a day of closeness to G-d. How wonderful is G-d who with one hand rebukes while with the other draws us close:
"For you are a holy people unto HaShem your G-d: HaShem your G-d has chosen you to be His own treasure, out of all peoples that are upon the face of the earth." (Deuteronomy 7:6)
The fast of the 9th of Av is followed each year by the Shabbat Torah reading of Ve’etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11) The reading opens with Moses relating how he has beseeched G-d repeatedly, asking Him to overturn His decree and to allow Moses to enter the land. In fact, Midrash tells us that Moses formulated 515 separate entreaties, (the numerical value of "ve’etchanan" - "and I beseeched"), but G-d would not be swayed, finally telling Moses to desist: "speak no more unto Me of this matter." (ibid 3:26) Moses' disappointment must have been awesome in magnitude. Yet soon after in his narrative to his people he pronounces what is essentially the single six-word (Hebrew) phrase which most profoundly and succinctly describes the recognition of G-d's totality and of our own inseparable relationship to Him: "Hear, O Israel - the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One." (ibid 6:4)
Little wonder that the Torah reading of Ve'etchanan is part and parcel with the Menachem Av experience of rebuke and consolation. From the depths of his own experience of loss and regret, Moses was able to cling to the one G-d as never before, providing for his people and for the world a statement of unshakable faith and transcendence, from calamity and reproof to consolation and redemption. The message of the comforting father of Menachem Av.
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven reflect on Tish'a 'Av, look forward to Tu b'Av, investigate the weekly Torah reading of Ve'etchanan and describe the turnaround in the air as Menachem Av moves from destruction to renewal, and the first glimpses of Rosh Hashana appear on the horizon.
Click to hear: