Rabbi Dovi Eisenberger was one of the esteemed learning rabbeim here in Camp Dora Golding for a number of summers. As Tisha B’Av was beginning a few summers back, just after he had left his bungalow to daven Maariv and Eichah, he was frantically summoned back by his family. A bat had been spotted in his daughter’s bedroom. After a few frenzied minutes, George, the camp’s legendary worker, was summoned. In his inimitable fashion he coaxed the bat as he gently proceeded towards it, grabbed it by its feet, and removed it from the premises.
When informed about the ordeal, one of their neighbors remarked that in Perek Shira it says that the opening words of the haftora read the Shabbos following Tisha B’Av –“Nachamu nachamu ami – Console, console my nation!” – are the shira of the bat. No one wants to find a bat in their home, but the symbolism of the bat flying into the room just as Tisha B’Av was beginning was extraordinary. The fact that the room that the bat had flown into was that of the Eisenberger’s daughter Nechama was even more remarkable.
Why is it the bat who sings the song of consolation?
Before the camp redid almost every building in camp, performances and plays were performed in the Recreation Hall, referred to as the rec (or “wreck”) hall, and it was not uncommon for bats to fly around in front of the stage, and occasionally above the crowds, as the plays began. This added a great deal of drama to the production, especially when an actor had to duck in the middle of a scene.
Bats function best at night. Using echolocation, the bat navigates with precision even in the darkest of places. Exile is often compared to darkness, a time when it is difficult to see things clearly. During exile it is challenging to comprehend the ways of G-d and why there is so much pain and suffering. Just as the bat can navigate through the darkness by utilizing echolocation, so too must we learn how to navigate the darkness of exile using the “echolocation” provided for us by the Torah and our leaders.
It is commonly known that pirates wore a patch over one eye. Truthfully, however, it had nothing to do with missing an eye but was rather to help them see adequately. While the eyes adapt quickly when going from darkness to light, studies have shown that it can take up to 25 minutes for eyes to adapt when going from bright light to darkness. Pirates frequently had to move above and below decks, from daylight to near darkness. They wore a patch over one eye to keep it dark-adapted. When the pirate went below deck, he would switch the patch to the outdoor eye and see in the darkness easily, potentially to fight while boarding and plundering another vessel. Like pirates, we need to be able to endure in worlds of lights and worlds of darkness.
Rabbi Eisenberger added that bats hang upside down. In exile when the world often seems backwards and upside down, the bat symbolizes the ability to “hold on” if its feet are firmly rooted.
Finally, bats tend to nest together in very close proximity, as we were reminded during every performance in camp. The symbolism of this characteristic of the bats is obvious. United we stand; divided we fall. Unity is the key to our redemption and the source of consolation.
“Nachamu Nachum Ami!”