Tisha B’Av- A Day of Growth

By Rabbi Tzvi Alyesh

This year we commemorated Tisha B’Av, which began July 26th at nightfall, for a full 25 hours until the night of the 27th of July. It is a day of intense mourning and lamentation; we sit on low chairs, fast for the entirety of the day, read elegies and dirges, follow strict limitations on washing and rubbing ointments, and restrict the physical with our spouses. Overall, it is a very somber day when we grieve the loss of both the first and second Bais Hamikdash, our holy Temples.

For many of us, this period during the year is hard to connect with, for some of us, perhaps we feel the calendar year would be better without it!! In most parts of the world, the three weeks and Tisha B’Av fall in the summertime, and we may feel as if some of the best weeks of the year for enjoyment are taken away from us!! Perhaps with a better understanding of why we grieve we can shift our perspective! And what lessons can we learn and apply to our personal lives??

I think it is fair to say that all of us have had moments when we feel like life isn’t moving in the direction we had hoped, and  we’d prefer to turn over and just go back to sleep. It could be that we are in a difficult relationship, have a frustrating work setting, are struggling with finances, challenges with children, or housemates, among so many other parts of our lives that can seemingly go awry. It is inevitable for humans to suffer and have challenges; do not ever be fooled when people parade their seemingly perfect lives before you. This is really illusional, since it was not the way mankind was designed, and many times those “perfect” people are those in  the most pain. 

Yet, often even when the difficulties seem to be insurmountable, suddenly you get that proverbial tap on the shoulder: you run into an old pal you literally have not seen in decades, a long awaited business deal goes through, a mentor of yours reaches out and provides some much needed inspiration. These very unexpected encounters often frame your day differently. Suddenly, the difficult boss does not seem as daunting as it did moments ago, the unhealthy relationship – you will figure out how to manage it without getting hurt even further. It is fascinating how one can have such an immediate and radical transformation in their day, moving from a deep, heavy darkness to a brilliant shining light. 

And I ask you, what has made you feel so different? How is it that we can make such an about face in such a short amount of time? What deeper emotions are at play here?

There are probably many ways to explain and understand this phenomena, but I would like to suggest an idea that provides a profound understanding of mankind. When out of the blue something unforeseen occurs, our subconscious perceives this as a non-coincidental occurrence, and we instinctively feel that there is a Higher Power here at play in our world who controls everything; in that exact moment the changeover transpires!! And we just relax and stay calm!! Just think, when a young child holds their parent’s hand, they do not hesitate to cross the busy avenue, rather they rely solely on the parent to keep them safe. Similarly, when we get that wake up call reminding us that we are not alone, we are encouraged and transformed. We understand that just as the child is entirely reliant on their parents, so too we have the Father in Heaven that we can speak and pray too!! This is a life altering moment when we almost feel as if we have seen G-D Himself. 

Now getting back to the Temple, which should be rebuilt speedily in our days; when our holy Temple stood, literally every waking moment we had this ability to experience this intimate closeness with Hashem, there were ten constant miracle that happened there every day, and when a person visited he left on a spiritual high!! Man could simply resolidify that bond with G-D instantaneously with a quick hop over to the Temple!!

In our days, when sadly we do not have the Holy Temple, it is incumbent on us to find those connecting points with Hashem and His Torah, whether it is through joining a Shabbat dinner, having a Mezuzah affixed to one’s door, donating charity, or helping someone in need. By emulating G-D, we channel that energy to grow closer to Him, and through these experiences, we will merit that close relationship with Him, similar to the days when our Temple stood. Tisha B’Av enables us an opportunity to contemplate and to reconnect. If we open the door just a crack to allow Him into our lives, it will be that much easier to connect and build that lasting deep relationship with Him, and be better equipped to meet life’s challenges.

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