Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Ninth of Av
To dedicate this lesson

Triangles and Tisha B’av


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Av 6 5775
The Three Weeks come to a conclusion this Motzei Shabbat and Sunday with the Fast of Tisha B’Av. Many (including Rav Soloveichek) compare the stages of Aveilut/mourning to the stages of the Three Weeks. Aveilut begins with the most severe pain and emotional trauma - the periods of Aninut and Shiva – which then give way to the less restrictive 30-day period of the Shloshim; followed finally by the 12 months of mourning, which are even less restrictive than the shloshim.

The 3 Weeks follow the same pattern, but in reverse order: The opening 12 days, beginning on the 17th of Tamuz, introduce a general mood of sadness. Then, on Rosh Chodesh Av, that sadness intensifies, culminating finally in the saddest day of the year, Tisha B’Av.

But we might ask: Why are these two similar events – Aveilut and Churban Bet HaMikdash - not done in the same exact order? Why are they "mirror-images" of one another?

Picture inverted triangles. The top one represents aveilut. What is the progression of mourning? It begins with a very small point; that is the intense moment when a loved one dies. We are constricted, all alone with our thoughts and pain and personal feelings; we are the "Ani," the "I" of Aninut. We are even separated to some extent from G-d; we don’t perform positive Mitzvot, or even Brachot. Then, at the Shiva, we "open up" a bit more, as friends and family come to console us. As even more time goes by, we slowly return to wider society, to a more normal life. Our activities expand, and the triangle becomes wide again.

But in the Three Weeks, it’s the opposite dynamic. We had a vibrant, expansive community and unlimited spiritual opportunities in ancient Israel. But we did not appreciate what Hashem gave us. And so, on 10 Tevet, a siege was put upon Yerushalayim; it was a "wake-up" call to us to clean up our act. But we didn’t get the message, and so, 6 months later, on 17 Tamuz, the walls were breached and our fortunes shrank even further. Yet we still had the chance to do Teshuva, and to reverse the coming tragedy. Alas, as the prophet Yirmiyahu reports, we dismissed the danger, ignored the call to repent, and our fate was sealed. Jerusalem was sacked, the Bet HaMikdash burnt, and a great people became very small. Indeed, we almost disappeared completely, like that tiniest point of the bottom triangle.

But there is good news, too. When the triangle reaches it’s smallest stage, it begins to regenerate, to grow and expand. And so, while the expansion has been long and slow, we have once again become a great nation. We have reclaimed Eretz Yisrael, largely rebuilt our Holy City, gathered in our people from far and wide. In just two generations, our Jewish population has grown more than 1000%! Tziyon again brims with Jews and Torah & life.

None of this has happened by chance; it is the result of a deep and determined partnership between Hashem and His people. Our mission is not yet complete, but we are almost, almost there. The moment is close - close your eyes, and visualize Geula.

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