Editor’s note: The following is an abridged version of an article written by Shmuel Sackett, co-founder, along with Moshe Feiglin, of Zo Artzeinu, Manhigut Yehudit, and Zehut.
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No laundries, no showers, no swimming, and no pastrami sandwiches. It seems like the big expression during the Nine Days is: “Just say no!” Please allow me, therefore, to change things up a bit. Here is a list of things you can say “yes” to during this period.
1) Say “yes” to living a meaningful Nine Days. Don’t be bitter, mad, and depressed. Don’t focus on the negative and how many hot dogs you could have consumed. These are very special days and you need to focus on the positive.
2) Say “yes” to getting to know everything about Machon HaMikdash – The Temple Institute. For 30 years this amazing organization, led by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel and Rabbi Chaim Richman, has educated our nation about the Mikdash. Just walk into any Judaica store and see how many books, pictures, puzzles and games explain the beauty and significance of the Beit HaMikdash. All of those items are a result of the groundbreaking work done by the Temple Institute.
It recently a 400-page sefer on the menorah! It has published machzorim, siddurim, Mishnayos, and Gemaras. It has children’s story books and coloring books and games and software that makes teaching about the Beit Hamikdash fun and educational. Finally, it has an amazing website that is constantly updated with videos, shiurim, and fascinating information: www.templeInstitute.org. During these nine days, drop Facebook and Instagram and spend quality time on Machon HaMikdash’s website. You won’t regret it.
3) Say “yes” to your family. These days are perfect for quality family time and you don’t need a vacation to do it! Since you can’t go to the pool or the movies or even the mall for a fun shopping spree, why not sit at home and get to know your own family? Talk to your spouse and your kids. I realize this sounds silly but when was the last time you actually did that?
4) Say “yes” to learning from an older person. We don’t realize the treasure we have in the older generation. Every one of the older men and women in your shul or community can write a 500-page book on their life experiences. They are walking and talking museums. During these nine days, go over to an older man after minyan and ask him to tell you about his life. I promise you will be amazed by his reaction and stories, which will brighten both your day and his.
I recently went over to an older man in my shul in Herziliya. I never saw him with a wife or children so I became his friend and asked him about his life. This man was a partisan fighter during the Holocaust, came to Israel after the war, married, had two kids, and worked as a spy for the Mossad! The man was a hero but until I spoke to him, he was just some old guy in shul.
5) Say “yes” to learning Torat Eretz Yisrael. We were thrown out of our land during this time, so now is a perfect time to study about what makes Israel so special. There are many books today in English by the great Rav Kook including online shiurim that explain his holy words. Listen to these shiurim. Learn the sefer Eim Ha’banim Se’meicha (available in English). Visit the website of Rav Nachman Kahana; it’s replete with Torat Eretz Yisrael and can be found at www.nachmankahana.com.
6) Say “yes” to inreach. We all know what “outreach” is and how vital it is to bring Torah close to those outside our world – but “inreach” is just as important. This word means to reach out to those in our community who might have fallen a bit to the side or who find little or no excitement in a Torah was of life. Inreach can be performed with kids still in yeshivos, not just the ones who ran away. We tend to rush and invite those kids who are already off the derech – and that is wonderful – but what about those who are still on the derech but making several wrong turns?
You need to counter their complaints about the Nine Days with positive energy, telling them how special our nation is to have the ability to connect to events from thousands of years ago. What other religion does that? Who else in today’s modern world thinks about yesterday… let alone 2,000 years ago? How special that we identify and salute the great men and women from long ago! What an honor to be part of this nation!
7) Say “yes” to calling and meeting with Nefesh b’Nefesh. What better time to open your aliyah file than the Nine Days? All the great kabbalists say our job is to do a “tikun” – to rectify and repair the mistakes of old. Well, 2,000 years ago our grandfathers and grandmothers made some serious errors and were driven from the Land. Now is the time to repair those mistakes and return. We all know sinas chinam destroyed the Beit HaMikdash and all the Rabbis say that it will take the opposite – ahavas chinam – to rebuild it, but I say that is not enough. We must also move back to Eretz Yisrael!
8) Say “yes” to living a life of kedusha (holiness) and not just halacha. I know these two should go together, but they often do not. This article is already too long, so I will not go into this concept is detail but allow me to write this: Be honest. You know exactly what I mean when I say kedusha.
The Nesivos Shalom speaks a lot about this. He states many times in his wonderful sefer that all other religions have holy men or holy women, but they don’t have the notion of the entire nation being holy. In our Torah, over and over again it says, “Kedoshim tiyu” – commanding every Jewish man, woman, and child to be holy. What a special opportunity we have, which has not been given to anybody else!
9) Say “yes” to being part of history. With the help of Hashem, this will be the last time we keep the Nine Days this way. By next year, these will be great and happy days with lots of meat… the meat of the korbanos in the Beit Hamikdash! Wine will be flowing and happy songs will be sung by the Levi’im. We will dance during these nine days and celebrate with our children and grandchildren. Therefore, make these nine days memorable because they will be the last ones with all the restrictions. You will be able to tell your future generations that you fasted on the last Tisha B’Av!