On this coming Shabbos Parshas Matos-Masai we bentch Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av. Rosh Chodesh (on Yom Sheini – Monday, July 8) marks the start of the mournful “nine days” during which we restrict many activities normally taken for granted, such as eating meat and drinking wine (Shabbos is an exception), the purchasing and wearing of new clothes, doing laundry (the washing of children’s clothing may be permitted; consult your halachic authority), listening to music, swimming and participating in joyful pursuits.
Multiple tragedies have befallen us on the ninth of this month (Tisha B’Av). Like fools, we cried all the night (of the eighth of Av), falling for the tall tale spun by the spies sent by Moshe to investigate the Holy Land, who didn’t recognize a good thing when they saw it. This senseless sobbing paved the way to an endless torrent of tears, for on this date both the first and second Batei Mikdash went up in smoke; the city of Beitar fell under siege during Bar Kochba’s revolt; the Jews were expelled from Spain (in 1492); the first World War broke out and the first transports were dispatched to the gas chambers in the Second World War.
The Talmud says that whoever mourns Yerushalayim will merit being consoled. Even the sun and the moon will be consoled when Hashem will heal our wounds, for they mourned Yerushalayim at the time of its devastation by hiding their light. “Vehaya ohr ha’levana ke’ohr hachamah v’ohr hachamah yihye shivasayim ke’ohr shivas hayamim…. When Yerushalayim will be reborn, the light of the moon will be as bright as the light of the sun, and the sun’s light will shine seven times brighter than today.” [Yeshaya 30:26]
Why do our Sages refer to Tisha B’Av as a moed – a holiday? Two thousand years of dispersion hasn’t dulled our reminiscence of our glorious Bais HaMikdash; we never stop mourning our cataclysmic loss. That we cannot be consoled nor be made to desist from praying and hoping for the day when we will reunite with the Shechinah in the holy city of Yerushalayim is a consolation in itself — for something gone for good is in due course laid to rest in one’s mind. The dream that doesn’t die is what makes Tisha B’Av a holiday, for we know for certain that it will one day be fulfilled. [Kedushas Levi]
In the interim, the glass is broken by the chosson under the chuppah… the plate is shattered at a Tenoyim… the bride’s face covering is bare of gold threading… just some of the halachos of the Shulchan Aruch that define zaicher l’churban (remembrance of the Churban).
Tzaddikim whose Yahrtzeits fall in Av: Aharon HaKohen and R’ Shlomo ben Bentzion Halberstam of Bobov (1 Av); R’ Bentzion ben R’ Shlomo Halberstam – Kedushas Tzion of Bobov (4 Av); R’ Yitzchak ben R’ Shlomo Luria – the Arizal and R’ Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky of Vilna (5 Av); R’ Sholom Noach ben Moshe Avrohom Brezovsky – Slonimer Rebbe and author of the Nesivos Sholom (7 Av); R’ Yaakov Yitzchok ben R’ Avrohom Eliezer HaLevi – Chozeh of Lublin (9 Av); Yissachar ben Yaakov Avinu (10 Av); R’ Nosson Nota ben R’ Shlomo Shapiro of Krakow, author of the Megaleh Amukos (13 Av); R’ Tzvi Hirsch ben Aharon Friedman of Liska (14 Av); Nachum Ish Gamzu, R. Shimon Libya of Tripoli – Kesem Paz and R’ Dovid Yosef ben R’ Shlomo Yechiel Biderman of Lelov (15 Av); R’ Yaakov ben R’ Machir Culi – Me’am Loez (19 Av); R’ Levi Yitzchok ben R’ Boruch Schneur Schneerson (20 Av); R’ Chaim ben R’ Yosef Dov Ber Soloveitchik, R’ Aharon ben R’ Yissachar Dov Rokeach – Belzer Rebbe, and R’ Dovid Hager of Zebultov – Tzemach Dovid (21 Av); R’ Meir Hagodol of Premishlan ben R’ Yaakov Tam (22 Av); R’ Yaakov Yisroel ben R’ Chaim Peretz Kanievsky – Steipler Gaon (23 Av); R’ Yaakov Meshulam Orenstein – Yeshuos Yaakov and R’ Yoel ben Chananya Yom-Tov Teitelbaum – Satmar Rebbe VaYoel Moshe (26 Av); R’ Yehoshua Charif of Krakow – Maginei Shlomo and R’ Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin – the Netziv (27 Av); R’ Avrohom Yaakov ben R’ Meir HaKohen Pam (28 Av); R’ Shmuel ben R’ Yosef Zundel Salanter, and R’ Eliezer Zusha ben R’ Yisroel Avrohom Portugal – Skulener Rebbe (29 Av).