The Month of Adar: Making Room for G-d
"Turn us to You, O HaShem, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old."
Renew Our Days as of Old
We have entered the month of Av, the harshest and most difficult month of the Hebrew calendar. This season of retribution reaches its crescendo on the ninth day, Tish'a b'Av. On this day the spies returned from the land of Israel and gave over their evil report of the land and its inhabitants. On this day the first Holy Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and on this day the second Holy Temple was destroyed by the Roman general Titus. Many disasters have befallen the Jewish people on this same day throughout their long history.
Yet this month of Av is also known as Menachem Av, "the comforting father." Where is the comfort in this painful month? We are taught that the process of redemption actually begins on Tish'a b'Av, the ninth of Av, the very day of the Holy Temple's demise. Tradition also has it that the third Temple will be built on the fifteenth of Av, Tu b'Av. But are these merely "fairy tales" designed to help us cope during these difficult days? Or is there more to it?
The month of Menachem Av can be seen as a mirror reflecting the entire Jewish experience. Not just the ups and downs of a four thousand year history, but the very essence of our relationship with the Comforting Father. We are, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, "rebellious children," but we are children, nonetheless, of the G-d of creation. We have strayed and having strayed, are deserving of G-d's rebuke. But even in His anger we are reminded by G-d that we are His children, and He, our father, the eternal source of our comfort. Just as G-d is able to suffer the spurning of His children and yet maintain His hand outstretched to receive us, He has blessed us with the gift of Av, a month so suffused with G-d's goodness that it not only has endured thousands of years of pain, but its very tear-streaked days hold out for us the way to a joyful future of returning to our Comforting Father.
On this upcoming Shabbat, the Shabbat preceding Tish'a b'Av, we read the prophetic reading of Isaiah, (1:1-27), the last of the three readings of "affliction" leading up to Tish'a b'Av. The Shabbat is commonly referred to as Shabbat Chazon, the "Sabbath of vision," after the opening words of the book of Isaiah, "The vision of Isaiah the son of Amotz." The righteous sage, Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichov pondered the meaning of Shabbat Chazon, the "Sabbath of vision." His profound teaching draws upon the very nature of the month of Av. Why, he asks, is this particular prophetic reading referred to as a "vision?" What "vision" does it hold out for us? Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichov answers that this very Shabbat, the Shabbat preceding the blackest day of Jewish history, provides a glimpse for every believing heart, of the Holy Temple rebuilt, a vision of the future that awaits our determined desire to bring it about. Even in the darkness, from behind the veil of tears, G-d our Comforting Father is anticipating our return: "Turn us to You, O HaShem, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old." (Lamentations 5:21)
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK, and join Yitzchak Reuven and Rabbi Richman as they discuss the concluding chapters of the book of Numbers, the month of Av and the "Sabbath of Vision."
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