From Mourning to Joy – Tisha b’Av to Tu b’Av
From Mourning to Joy – Tisha b’Av to Tu b’Av
Part of an Ongoing Series entitled Hidden Sparks Beneath the Surface
Elisheva Tavor aka Betty Tabor Givin
Recap We have just come through Tisha B’Av, the Ninth of Av, the saddest day on the Hebrew calendar, a day that seems to be one set aside for calamities….including the incident of the 10 spies and their bad report, the burning of not only the first Temple but also the second…plus many more tragedies through the centuries. (See my last article for a complete list).
On Tisha B’Av many of us commemorated these tragic events by mourning and fasting. We removed our shoes, sat on the floor in a dimly lit room and chanted the heartfelt wrenching words of the Book of Lamentations penned by the weeping prophet Jeremiah. Through our tears we cried out aloud in solidarity, eichah? “How did this happen?”
I would like to bring forth the idea that we not only ask “how” did this happen, but “why” did this happen? A quick review of history will give us the answer.
“The teachers of the Torah did not know me; the shepherds of the people rebelled against me and the prophets prophesied in the name of Baal.” (Jer. 2:8)
Quite clearly and tragically it was because they lost their awe of HaShem! This led to bad choices and flagrant disobedience. Instead of following Him they chose to go their own way, even to the extent of going after other gods! Calamitous consequences followed.
“Your evil shall castigate you, your waywardness shall chastise you and you shall realize and you shall see that evil and bitter is your forsaking of HaShem your God and that there is no awe of Me upon you. “(Jer2:19)
Bringing it Forward We all have no doubt had experiences with the consequences of our actions and know that although we may do t’shuvah and attempt to rectify our wrongdoing, there are still consequences to pay…not because HaShem delights in punishing us, but because He loves us and like a loving parent, knows that in order to grow, we need the correction. This has been the case since the beginning of time.
Going all the way back to the account of Adam and Eve in Gan Eden… after having disobeyed HaShem and eaten the forbidden fruit, what did they do? Instead of taking responsibility, doing t’shuvah, and going to HaShem with what they had done, they hid themselves and tried to cover it up. HaShem then knowing full well not only what they had done but where they were, called out to them, “Ayecha, where are you?” (Gen 3:9) This obviously was a rhetorical question…one for their benefit and not His. He wanted to get their attention and cause them to think about their choices and the blatant disobedience, the disobedience that would lead to such dire consequences.
“Ayecha, where are you?” This is the question that each of us must ask ourselves as we go through each day? It involves taking a deep inner look within our hearts and doing some serious soul searching…it is actually the first step in developing a sense of G-D Consciousness!
If we fail to ask ourselves the question, where am I…”ayecha, “then we will most likely be asking ourselves “eichah” how did this happen????
Tisha b’Av is not just about mourning for a building (the Holy Temple). It is about the loss of the Divine Presence…it is about losing the sense of awe towards YHVH our G-D and mourning for the absence of His Divine Presence in each of our own hearts…it is about taking stock of ourselves and doing t’shuvah! The Holy Temple had to be torn down, cleaned out because it had become corrupt… the same could be said regarding our hearts today…
Nachamu, Nachamu – the Beginning of Comfort As we move away from this painful day each year, the heaviness although still present, begins to lift a bit, for we know that the blessed Sabbath is coming! This Sabbath following the 9th of Av is a special one with a special message. It is called Shabbat Nachamu, the Sabbath of Comfort by the Jewish sages of old. Named after the Haftorah portion from Isaiah 40:1-26, it begins with the moving words of HaShem telling His prophet Isaiah, “Nachamu, nachamu, ami” which translates, “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people.”
This is the 1st of the ‘7 Haftorahs of Consolation’ after the 9th of Av leading up to the 1st of Tishrei and Rosh HaShana. Rabbi Hertz in his commentary on this haftorah and the ones to follow says that these haftorahs “consist of sublime messages of encouragement that have sustained and fortified Israel during its ordeals of cruelty and persecution throughout the ages.” (p.776)
On this Sabbath, we read the parsha, Vaetchanan (Devarim 3:23-7:11) which includes the most incredibly awesome one-time event of all time when HaShem, YHVH, the One G-D and Creator of the heavens and the earth, descended upon Mt Sinai amidst the fire and smoke and thunder and lightening and spoke to His people “face to face” proclaimed His “aish da’at,” His Fire Law with the Ten Words known as the Ten Commandments. It was here on this mountain that He entered into an eternal covenant with His people. (Devarim 4:11- 5:18).
The text continues with admonitions to diligently keep all the commandments and the statues and to take care to do them and to teach them to their children all the days of their lives in order to prolong their days that things would go well with them when they went into the land to possess it.
And there were warnings, here in this text, and all through the Tanakh, “remember, remember,”…”lest you forget,” warnings that were meant for G-D’s children for all time…warnings and consequences that would follow if these admonitions were not heeded.
Devarim 6:4 has formed the central tenet of Judaism and those who follow the Torah faith over the centuries. “Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai Echad!” “Hear O Israel, HaShem is our G-D, HaShem is One! And you shall love HaShem your G-D with all your heart, all your soul and all your might (all your everything). And these words which I command you this day shall be in your heart…”
One cannot help but think that had the people kept these words in their hearts, passed them down through the generations and remembered to do them as HaShem had commanded that neither the rampant corruption of the leaders nor the baseless hatred among the people would not have taken root and flourished…for there would have been no room in their hearts for anything but awe and respect for their G-D and love for one another. As we look around at the present situation in our world today, we find many similarities, we shake our heads and ask ourselves, “Eichah, ”like the prophet Jeremiah who was lamenting over the fate of Jerusalem… Eichah, how did this happen? The only answer remains for each and every person to delve deeply inside his or her own heart and ask, “Ayecha,” where am I?”
We must continue to guard our hearts in the midst of all the chaos and not become despondent or in a state of despair! Proverbs 4:23 admonishes us that we must guard our hearts because everything flows from it, “Keep your heart with the greatest vigilance for out of it are the issues of life.”
Guarding our Hearts So what happens when we fail to guard our hearts? They become broken and we fall. The prophet Joel says, “Rend your hearts and not your garments.”(Joel2:13) What does it mean to rend our hearts?
King David, referred to as a “man after G-D’s own heart in I Samuel 13:14 gives us a perfect example of rending our hearts. After his sin with Bathsheba, he is deeply grieved and heartbroken. He cries out to HaShem his G-D, “Create in me a clean heart O G-d and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence and take not Your Holy Spirit from me.”(Psalm 51:12-13)
In order to pray this prayer we have to be honest, vulnerable and open up our hearts, and as we do t’shuvah we ask of ourselves, “Where are you…what were you thinking?!”We must own up to our disobedience and prepare to accept and live through the consequences and hopefully grow as a result.
Like King David, we are all human; we all make mistakes as we go through our lives. The Hebrew calendar is cyclical, not linear, much like our lives. Rabbi Jacobson makes the analogy that these cycles in life can be compared to waves in the ocean and that when coming face to face with such a wave we are called upon to become good swimmers and make good judgments. When a strong wave hits and knocks us down, we know we are in trouble for have misjudged the power of that wave. It is at that time that we have to learn not to resist or fight the wave, but “go with the flow,” face the consequence and ride it through.
The Purpose of Tears There is a time for everything…”Crying over the loss of the Temple,” Rabbi Jacobson says is “like riding the difficult waves.” And I might add, that when we begin thinking too highly of ourselves fail to guard our hearts and instead of following the way of HaShem, we make the choice to go our own way…that is generally the pride that comes before the fall. When we come back to ourselves, we are deeply grieved…we cry, we do t’shuvah and try to prepare ourselves to take responsibility and face the consequences. It has been said that tears are for the soul what soap is for the body…they are cleansing and provide us with renewal of both body and spirit.
Our tears Rabbi Jacobson says, are a part of the swim, part of our journey designed to guide us in the way we need to travel. If we fail to embrace the sadness and hold back the tears, we run the risk of becoming desensitized to it and then we will become desensitized to the joy as well. “In other words,” he says,” if we don’t cry when it’s time to cry, we won’t be able to rejoice when it’s time to celebrate.”
Speaking of celebrating, six days after the 9th of Av, on the 15th day of the month at the full moon, there is a little known festival held from ancient times in Israel called Tu b’Av. Tu b’Av marked the beginning of the grape harvest which continued until Yom Kippur on the 10th of Tishrei. It was the practice for unmarried girls to dress in white garments and dance in the vineyards. This holiday is referred to in Judges 21 when the men who remained from the tribe of Benjamin after the civil war were allowed to go out into the vineyards and take brides for themselves. In modern times, this holiday is considered a holiday of love.
Conclusion – Hope Springs Eternal!
After the ninth of Av, the heart begins to be comforted and turn back to hope. In Jewish tradition the 15th of the month represents a turning of the corner for there is profound sense of things beginning to turn around!
Within one month we have utter sadness and tragedy contrasted with joy, rejoicing and comfort. Such is life…a mix of opposites. To quote King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
With these thoughts in mind, may we fully embrace the wisdom of Rebbe Nachman…”Tears open gates…music demolishes walls.” The month of Av is coming to its midpoint…we have shed our tears, the gates are opening…now let us be comforted and rejoice as we demolish the walls of separation within ourselves, between one another and our Creator… and look forward to the music!!!
“Restore us to you HaShem and we will be restored! Renew our days as in days of old!!!” (Lamentations 5:21)
By Elisheva Tavor 14 Av 5780