Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues
Shabbos Chazon - Tisha b'Av
What's The Point In Crying?Based on a lecture by Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus 5764.
And the entire congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night (Bemidbar 14:1).
Rabbah said in the name of R. Yochanan: That night was the night of the ninth of Av. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to them: You have wept without cause, therefore I will set [this day] aside for a weeping throughout the generations to come (Taanis 29a).
Chazal relate to us that even though Tisha B'Av is a day of mourning, nevertheless we do not say tachanun during davening because it is called a Yom Tov (Shulchan Aruch 559:4) as we see in the possuk (Eicha 1:15) קרא עלי מועד which homiletically translates as "He called me a Yom Tov." Furthermore Chazal state (Pesikta Rabbasi 28) that anyone who mourns over Yerushalayim will in the future rejoice with her. They said in the name of Abaye that this joy refers to Tisha B'Av, which Chazal declared a day of mourning in this world, but in the future Hakadosh Baruch Hu will turn it into a Yom Tov. What is the connection of Tisha B'Av to a Yom Tov? This is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar when we weep over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. Yom Tov implies a day of joy. What kind of joy is there on Tisha B'Av?
The word Yom Tov literally means a "good day." The first day of Creation when Hakadosh Baruch Hu created light was called good: "And God saw the light, that it was good." The implication is that Tisha B'Av is a day of enlightenment. This needs some explanation.
Chazal have taught us that Olam Hazeh is like night, it is filled with darkness. That means that the world as a whole is in darkness. Many of us have an appreciation for the darkness of the world. Sometimes you meet a person who is a fanatic about baseball. He is absolutely convinced that the baseball is the greatest simcha a person can enjoy. Being a professional baseball champion is the zenith of success. A person who has never hit a home run is living in a world of darkness. The most beautiful and delicious purpose of Creation is to hit a homerun.
Many of us believe that a person was created to enjoy music or appreciate fine art.
Yidden understand that all this is "darkness." We know that the purpose of Creation is something deeper and greater and more meaningful. And yet a person can live 70 or 80 years walking on G-d's world and never have an inkling what it is all about. We are walking around in a cloud of darkness.
We, Klal Yisroel, have the gift of the Torah and Mitzvos which light up the world (to a certain extent). But we must realize that we also are living in varying degrees of darkness. The Yomim Tovim come to light up the darkness. Tisha b"Av is one of those Yomim Tovim which light up our world. What is this special message of Tisha B'Av?
We know that Klal Yisroel are traveling through time, going from generation to generation. We all have the realization that today is not the same as it once used to be. This is one of the most fundamental differences between Judaism and secular school of thought.
The secular world views the human march through time as advancement in knowledge. Previous generations are viewed as more backward and unknowledgeable in comparison to contemporary civilization. They were more primitive, ignorant, less educated, etc. The People of Israel are very special because we view our past with a nostalgia and yearning. We realize that we don't compare to previous generations. Ours is not the generation of the Chofetz Chaim; and the Chofetz Chaim's generation was not that of Rashi; Rashi was not the generation of Abaye and Rava; Abaye and Rava were not the generation of Rebbi Akiva, etc. all the way back to the time of the Beis Hamikdash. We view the past as a glorious history. However, the past is gone and there is no way we can bring it back. The march of history continues pushing our glorious past further and further into the distance. What use is there in our being nostalgic about what can never be retrieved?
There is an ancient legend that after the Churban, the Greek philosopher Plato met Yirmiyahu who was sitting in the ruins of the Beis Hamikdash and crying. Plato asked Yirmiyahu two questions. First, why was the great wise man of the Jews crying over a building made of stone and wood? Only the material had been destroyed, but the spirit lives on. What are you crying about? Secondly, why was he crying over the past? What happened cannot be changed. If a bottle of milk drops and breaks you shouldn't grieve over the pieces. What's done is done, and you should just go on with life.
Yirmiyahu told Plato "You are the wisest man among the nations; certainly you must have many philosophical difficulties that you do not have any answer. Tell me your questions and let's see if I can answer them." Plato then asked many hard questions and Yirmiyahu answered all of them with brilliant insight. At this point Plato did not know if he speaking with a human being or a Malach. Yirmiyahu then explained to Plato that all his wisdom came from the "bricks and stones" called the Beis HaMikdash and therefore he cries. Regarding his second question of why he cries over something that already happened, Yirmiyahu replied that this question he won't answer because Plato, a goy, could not understand.
Rav Pincus said, Yirmiyahu didn't reveal to us the answer to the second question. But perhaps we can render a guess. Yirmiyahu said, "Oh that my head were water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!" (8:23). This is not just a poetic expression. The great prophet Yirmiyahu's deep desire was that his head, filled with such an enormous amount of wisdom, should instead be filled with water so that he could cry day and night. What is to be accomplished by such an outpouring of tears?
When a person yearns for something, by definition he is connected to it. Yearning for our past, connects us to our past. The yearning for the Beis Hamikdash is a thin thread linking us to it. If the Jewish People will stop yearning for the Beis Hamikdash, chas v'sholom, if they will stop yearning like we have for thousands of years, then we will be torn apart from our past.
There is a very strange section in the Chumash at the end of Parshas Vayishlach. The Torah digresses and lists 8 kings of the descendants of Esav: "And these are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the people of Israel" (Bereishis 33:31). The Torah then lists these kings by name stating they reigned and then they died, they reigned and died. Until we get to the eighth king Hadar where it states: "… and Hadar reigned in his place; and the name of his city was Pau; and his wife's name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Meizahav." Hadar, the eighth king is not mentioned as dying. And also the possuk goes out of its way to mention his wife.
We have a tradition dating back to Har Sinai that this particular parsha is hinting at the history of the world. There were 7 kings in relation to the 7 days of Creation, which represent the cycle of the world. These kings reigned and died. The generations changed; there were different eras in the course of world history. During the last era there will be a King Hadar. Hadar means beauty. This refers to the Melech Hamoshiach. At the end of the generations the Moshiach will arise, and the possuk does not say "and he died." And here suddenly the name of his wife is mentioned, as a sign of perfection, as Chazal point out that when there is sholom between a man and his wife, the Shechina dwells between them. This parsha is a very faint hint to the Melech Hamoshiach.
The Kabbalists throughout the generations posed a question. If we look in Divrei Hayomim (I 1:43-50) we find a repetition of these kings (with a slight variance that the last king is called Hadad). However, there it states that "And Hadad died." So the question is posed, being that we have the tradition that the eighth king refers to the Moshiach, how can the possuk in Divrei Hayomim state he died?
This is a question that was asked by the great Mekubalim of all generations. The Kabbalist Rav Yisroel Saruk, a talmid of the Arizal, answered, "Moshe heard the heart beating; Ezra didn't hear the heart beating."
We can explain this with a moshol. There was once a king who had a one and only very precious son. The king's dream was that his son should grow up and take over the reign of the kingdom.
But in the course of time the son fell ill. His illness became more and more severe, until one day the doctors came before the king and told him, "My lord king, your son has died." There was one doctor in the palace whose senses were very fine and delicate. He leaned over the boy and listened carefully. He then turned to the king, and said, "My great king, the child is not dead. I hear a faint heartbeat."
The discord between the possukim is not a mistake. Ezra had a prophecy. A day will come when even the Melech Hamoshiach will die. There will come a time when the people of Israel will be in such a situation that even a prophet will say about them "and they died." There will come a day when Klal Yisroel will have lost their connection to the Moshiach and will have lost all hope, lost all awareness.
Moshe Rabbeinu, however, had deeper insight into that generation. He could detect a very faint pulse. And as long as the heart is beating the patient is not dead. As long as the heart is beating there is still hope that the child can be revived and brought back to health.
Tisha B'Av is that heart beat. When a Jew takes off his shoes and sits on the floor and he yearns for the previous Hadar, the beauty and glory that once was Klal Yisroel, then there is still a heartbeat. That yearning creates a connection to the previous beautiful past. As long as that yearning is still beating in the Yiddishe hearts, there is still hope that Moshe Rabbeinu will bring us back to that past glory. But the moment that yearning has disappeared, and the heart has ceased to beat then the Hadar, the beauty is dead.
The story is told of Napoleon walking through the streets of Paris one Tisha B'Av. As his passed a synagogue he heard the sounds of terrible mourning and sobbing. "What's this all about?" Napoleon asked. He sent one of his soldiers to investigate what had happened. The aide came back and reported to the king. "I really don't understand this. The Jews are in their Synagogue, sitting on the floor crying over the loss of their Temple." "When did this happen?" Napoleon asked. The aide replied, "About 1700 years ago." Napoleon said, "Certainly a people which still mourns the loss of their Temple so long ago, will merit seeing it rebuilt!"
What is so important about crying? If you go to a wedding, and see someone in the middle of the dance floor dancing with the Choson, you cannot be certain this is his father or father-in-law. Usually the mechutanim look tense and are somewhere else paying the caterer or the photographer. So if you see someone in the middle dancing excitedly, grabbing a hold of the Choson, it isn't proof this is his brother. He could be just a friend of the Choson, and not a relative at all. At a wedding everyone is joyous and it is no indication of one's closeness to the Bride or Groom.
But if you go to a funeral and you see someone there sobbing profusely, you can be certain that this is a very close relative. Only someone close can weep like that. Someone else may feel sad, but he won't shed such a flow of tears.
At a joyous occasion like a wedding it is very hard to discern from outward expressions who is close and who is not. But at a time of despair you can see clearly who is close and who is far. This was the answer Yirmiyahu could not give to Plato. Plato could not appreciate the closeness a Jew has to the Beis Hamikdash. He could not appreciate the value of crying over the past. He could not understand that crying over the lost glory of Klal Yisroel is not like crying over spilt milk. Crying over the Beis Hamikdash is our connection, and it is a sign that we still have a Jewish heart beating within us. Crying over the Beis Hamikdash is a sign that it is still alive and can be brought back to life to restore its past glory.
May we be zocheh to see the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash speedily and in our days!
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop ? Lakewood).
If you would like to correspond with Rabbi Parkoff please contact him:
Yeshiva Shaare Chaim
Shema Yisrael Torah Network