Friday night and Saturday are Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, which is a day of mourning (more details below). Because we do not mourn on Shabbat, we observe the mourning customs of Tisha B’Av on Saturday night and Sunday. I offer this d’var Torah in memory of my father, Norman Block, Nachum ben Nachman HaLevi, whose jahrzeit is Sunday night, the 11th of Av. He was the brother-in-law, father, grandfather and great-grandfather of Scouts, and he lived the Scout Oath and Law every day. I again present a favorite d’var Torah based on the work of my friend and teacher, Rabbi Joseph Radinsky, because of his uplifting message.
Saturday night and Sunday we will observe the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av), the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. On this day, the Children of Israel received the report of the Meraglim (spies) who had scouted out the Land of Canaan and said they would not be able to conquer it, even though God had promised it to them. The people believed the Meraglim, and would not go to Canaan. On Tisha B’Av we suffered the destruction of both the First Temple (586 BCE) and Second Temple (70 CE), the city of Betar fell during the Bar Kochba rebellion (135 CE), the Jews were expelled from Spain (1492) and World War I began (1914) leading to the events that caused World War II and the Holocaust.
Customs of Tisha B’Av include fasting by those of bar/bat mitzvah age and reading the Book of Lamentations while seated on the floor or low chairs. The three weeks before Tisha B’Av are also a period when many people remember the sad events by taking on mourning customs, such as not getting a haircut or shaving and, during the last nine days of this period, not eating meat or drinking wine.
Rabbi Joseph Radinsky, late rabbi of United Orthodox Synagogues in Houston, wrote that while we observe many mourning customs on the 9th of Av – such as fasting – it is also treated as a festival. Rabbi Radinsky looked to the phrase in the Talmud, “All who mourn for Jerusalem will be worthy to see her rebuilt” (Ta’anit 30b) and the tradition that the Messiah will be born on the 9th of Av as signs that there is hope.
He pointed out that when we suffer, there is hope things will be better. Those who are ill have hope that they will recover. If we have done wrong and hurt people, we hope that by doing good things we will bring them joy. Those who have no hope suffer for no purpose; those who have hope may learn something from their troubles and be able to use that knowledge to better themselves or help others.
History has taught us that hope is real. The terrible suffering of so many people during World War II, including the killing of 6 million Jews and the destruction of Jewish life in Europe, was followed by the creation of the State of Israel where the Jewish people flourish.
Even the sad time of the three weeks and Tisha B’Av is followed by a time of gladness. The 15th of Av (Tu B’Av) is a day when many good things happened to the Jewish people. In Temple times, marriages were arranged on that day.
So when something goes wrong for you and you feel badly about it, try to see how you can use the experience to learn something for yourself or as a means to help someone else. Perhaps your experience will make you more understanding and sympathetic next time you see someone else has done the wrong thing.
Have a meaningful Tisha B’Av.