The 5th Month – אב / Menachem Av Part II
By Elisheva Tevor
Part of an ongoing series entitled Hidden Sparks Beneath the Surface by Elisheva Tavor
Rebbe Nachman once said, “Tears open gates…Music demolishes walls.” This statement rings so very true, especially at this time of year as we are nearing the close of the 5thmonth, the month of calamities, named Menachem Av, translated the Comfort of the Father…but where, we may ask is the comfort?
We have come through what has become known in Jewish circles as Tish B’Av, or the Ninth of Av…the saddest day of the year. We have bowed ourselves low, sat on the floor, tears flowing and hearts rent as we in solidarity, read the Book of Lamentations together and cried out the plaintive cry echoed through its pages…Éichah, Eichah, how did this happen???
We remember…we go back in time…what was once a people united, has now become divided into two groups, the Southern Kingdom of Judah in the south and the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the north.
Jerusalem in the south has been plundered; its walls breached, its Holy temple destroyed.
Many of its people have been slaughtered, and the remainder taken into captivity, a fate befallen the Northern Kingdom less than 200 years previously.
We grieve yes, but, we cannot allow ourselves to stay there, for despite this great tragedy and all the subsequent ones that have occurred on this selfsame day, all is not lost…there is a glimmer of hope that springs eternal…like “hidden sparksbeneath the surface,” the hope rises out of the ashes of the destruction for the next generation and for the generations to come. And we are a part of that generation today!
And so we like our ancestors of old turn to hope and look to the promise found in the words of Psalm 102:14-19.
“14 Thou wilt arise, and have compassion upon Zion; for it is time to be gracious unto her, for the appointed time is come.
15 For Thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and love her dust.
16 So the nations will fear the name ofHaShem, and all the kings of the earth Thy glory;
17 When HaShem hath built up Zion, when He hath appeared in His glory;
18 When He hath regarded the prayer of the destitute, and hath not despised their prayer.
19 This shall be written for the generation to come…”
Each Sabbath after the 9th of Av continuing through the following month of Elul, and up until Rosh HaShanah, the designated weekly Haftorah readings with their poignant words of comfort are read in synagogues around the world. Beginning with Isaiah 40, the plaintiff cry touches our hearts…”Nachamu, nachamu, Comfort ye oh comfort ye my people. “
Six days after the 9th of Av, on the 15th day of the month at the time of 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 where the girls were dancing and take brides for themselves. In modern times, this holiday is considered a holiday of love. (From Wikipedia May 2017). It is a day filled with simcha, joy and rejoicing and looking to the future and in traditional Jewish thinking is a day when things begin to turn around, so to speak.
So 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…”to everything there is a season and a purpose under the heaven…”
The Hebrew calendar is cyclical, not linear. 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, we learn not to resist or fight the wave, but “go with the flow” and ride the wave, allowing it to carry us. There is a time for everything…”Crying over the loss of the Temple,” Rabbi Jacobson says is “like riding the difficult waves.” Our tears 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: if we don’t cry when it’s time to cry, we won’t be able to rejoice when it’s time to celebrate.”
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 a close…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 of old!!!”(Lamentations 5:21)