What is hiding under the serious face of the Month of Av and the Ninth of Av and how does it turn into a month of comfort? A journey in the wake of the ninth letter of the alef-bet and the treasure that is hidden in it
Though in the scroll of Lamentations, that we read on Tisha b’Av, the day of the destruction of both the first and second Temples, we find: ein la menachem, “she has no consoler,” the name of the month, which reflects its deepest essence, states that, in truth, there is a consoler, though in time of exile, he remains concealed.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev taught that on Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat that precedes the Ninth of Av, every one of us is shown a vision of the Temple. Even if simple Jews like us cannot actually perceive this sight, our souls certainly do experience it. But, what is that vision?
After the period of bein ha’metzarim, the three weeks of “retributions” in which we mourn the destruction of the Temples, there ensue seven weeks of “consolations” until Rosh HaShanah, of the New Year. The Shabbat after Tisha B’av–the first of the “consolations”–is called Shabbat Nachmu, the “Shabbat of Consolation,” as per the opening verse of the Haftara: “‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your G-d” (Isaiah 40:1).
One of the greatest challenges facing our generation is how to use modern forms of media in a positive manner in order to illustrate the Torah’s message and to bring it to the masses. Successfully meeting this challenge represents the rectification of our spiritual left eye and is instrumental in preparing humanity for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple.
In the wake of this famous Mishnah at the end of Tractate Ta’anit, there are many who call Tu B’Av, the “Love Festival.” Yet, it would be more appropriate to call it the “Matchmaking Festival,” or perhaps “Choose-Day,” because the girls approach the young men so that they pick the wife of their choice. Obviously, love lurks somewhere in the background; not promiscuous, unrestrained “free-love,” but a pure love that develops between a young man and his single and unique heart’s choice. So, let’s go out on a journey of choice.
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On the yahrtzeit (day of passing) of a tzaddik, (“righteous person”), we can experience the light of all the teachings of his lifetime. An all inclusive tzaddik is above the destruction of the holy Temple. Although he participates with the Jewish People in mourning its destruction, the Temple in the tzaddik‘s heart is alive, and he inspires all the Jewish People with the hope that the Temple will be rebuilt. When we learn what the Arizal, whose yahrtzeit is on the 5th of the Hebrew month of Av,taught about the Temple, we can experience his own experience of the Temple standing.
We know that Jerusalem is a special city, and the Midrash teach us that the name “Jerusalem” (יְרוּשָׁלַיִם) is composed of two words: “fear” (יִרְאָה) and “perfection” (שָׁלֵם). Initially it was called “perfection” (שָׁלֵם) by Malki Tzedek. According to the Midrash, Malki Tzedek was Shem the son of Noah, who was a righteous man but was not a Jew. He already recognized the uniqueness of the holy city of Jerusalem, and when he dwelt there, he called it “perfect.” He recognized that Jerusalem is the most perfect place.
In the past, the Jewish people had the privilege of hosting God’s Presence in the Temple in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, we lost that privilege and twice the Temple was destroyed, both times on Tisha B’av—the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av—a day considered the low point of the Hebrew calendar. The Shabbat that follows the ninth of Av is known as the Shabbat of Comfort (שַׁבָּת נַחֲמוּ), when God consoles us with the words, “Be comforted, be comforted, My people.” And, the fifteenth of Av, just six days later, is one of the two most joyous days of the year. How can we be expected to make such a quick rebound from the lowest point of the year to one of its most joyful days in such a short span of time? To understand the paradox of mourning and joy, we need a Chassidic story…
Tishah B’av has passed, and we have now entered the seven weeks of consolation, seven weeks in which God is viewed as comforting us for our losses, both on the personal and the collective levels. People have different reactions and different ways to relate with calamity. Following the Torah’s inner dimension, we can identify four such ways, which in turn correspond to the four letters of God’s essential Name, Havayah (yud, hei, vav, and hei).
The Seer of Lublin passed away, at the age of 70, on the 9th of Av 5575 (1815), a day of national mourning, but also, according to the sages, the birthday of the Mashiach. Long before his passing he hinted to his followers that he would pass away on the 9th of Av.
This lecture was given on the 5th day of the month of Av, the day of passing of the holy Arizal, the greatest of the Tzfat Mystics in the 16th century. In the lecture, Rabbi Ginsburgh gives a thorough explanation of the origins of the concept of the 50 Gates of the sefirah of understanding.
The Destruction of the Temple and Human Psyche – Torat Hanefesh – School of Jewish Psychology – Annual Convention (11 Av 5773)
Notable Dates in Av
1 Av – Yahrzeit of Aaron the High Priest
5 Av – Yahrzeit of the Arizal, Rabbi Isaac Luria
9 Av – Fast of the 9th of Av – Destruction of the Temples
9 Av – Yahrzeit of the Seer of Lublin
11 Av – Yarhzeit of Rebbe Hilel of Paritch
15 Av – Tu B'av
20 Av – Yahrzeit of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe's father
28 Av – Birthday of the Magid of Mezritch