A Jew must love G-d on Tisha B’av in the same way as on Simchas Torah. Even when events are inexplicable and painful, one must remind himself that G-d loves him and is always with him.
One night Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichiv was staying at an inn. At midnight he sat down on the floor to recite Tikkun Chatzos as he did every night.
The innkeeper awakened by the sounds of weeping came to see what was wrong. Reb Levi Yitzchok explained that he was reciting special prayers to mourn the destruction of the Temple and the elongated exile that we are subject to. The innkeeper replied that those tragic events transpired centuries earlier. Why cry over spilled milk? The Rebbe gently described to his host the grandeur and opulence that was Jerusalem. He described the Kohanim doing the service in the Bais Hamikdash and bringing the offerings on the altar, while the Levites sang harmoniously. He delineated the many miracles that took place and the feeling of closeness and connection that every Jew felt with his Creator.
When the innkeeper heard the Rebbe’s description he began to cry. In fact he cried so intensely that soon Reb Levi Yitzchok had to put his arm around the innkeeper to console him. “Despite what we have lost, we are actually quite fortunate. On Tisha B’av afternoon, after spending hours sitting on the floor and reciting lamentations, recounting all the tragedies that have befallen us as a people during the exile, we arise and don our Talis and Tefillin. During Mincha we recite the added prayer ‘Nachem’ which requests that G-d console us for our losses. How does this drastic transition occur? How can we begin to accept consolation when moments before we were in a state of inconsolable grief? Furthermore, most of the Bais Hamikdash burned during the afternoon of the ninth and the morning of the tenth of Av. Why are we rising from our most intense state of mourning during the time when the flames were ravaging the Sanctuary?
The Rebbe continued, “The truth is that we do not comprehend G-d’s kindness and love for us. Our Sages explain that the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed to save us. Had He allowed us to receive the retribution we justly deserved we would have been destroyed. But because He channeled His anger, as it were, towards the physical structure, we were able to survive the harrowing and traumatic ordeal. Therein lies our solace! The very fact that G-d destroyed the Bais Hamikdash demonstrates His love for us.
“That is why we are able to be consoled at the height of our grief. The very burning of the Bais Hamikdash symbolizes the reason why we are able to be consoled. For in that sense the burning Temple symbolizes G-d’s unyielding love for us.”
When Reb Levi Yitzchok concluded his narrative, the innkeeper stopped crying, and then he got up and began to dance. The Rebbe arose to join him and they sang and danced. One of the other guests at the inn was awakened by the noise and went to investigate. The sight that greeted him was astounding. He asked the innkeeper why he was dancing with the Rebbe in the middle of the night. The innkeeper smiled and replied, “Why do you think we are dancing? We are dancing because G-d destroyed the Bais Hamikdash!”
The Shabbos following Tisha B’av is titled Shabbos Nachamu – the Shabbos of consolation. The opening words of the haftorah read, “Console! Console My People!” Despite all we have suffered and all of the difficulties and pains people suffer from, we take solace in the knowledge that G-d’s love for us is boundless and unconditional. In addition, we wear our tragedies as banners of pride knowing we are part of an eternal people who will ultimately prevail and persevere. No other nation can feel consolation in the tragedy itself, besides Klal Yisroel, for we know that we are part of a Master Plan.
We await the ultimate consolation when G-d will abolish tears and pain forever, and the whole world will recognize the undeniable truth, “On that day, G-d will be One, and His Name will be One.”
Rabbi Dani Staum
About the Author: Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead, as well as Guidance Counselor and fifth grade Rebbe in ASHAR, and Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor. He can be reached at email@example.com. Visit him on the web at www.stamtorah.info.
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