– Author: Rav Emanuel Nahon

הורני ה’ דרכך

Translated from an article by Rav Emanuel Nahon

Five of our greatest national tragedies occurred on Tisha B’av. However, just one week later we celebrate Tu Bav as one of the happiest days in the Jewish calendar. How is it, that national disaster turns into a spirit of hope? What revolution took place, events occurred and paradigms shifted in the minds of the masses, that enabled such a transformation?

In this article we will try and show the deeper understanding of what the loss of the Beit Hamikdash meant, and the ability of the nation to keep a dream alive for almost 2000 years through an unwavering emunah which became the bedrock of their optimism and hope .

Through analyzing these two days we will be able to reflect on our own lives and how we can make dreams turn into reality.

                The meaning of Tisha B’av

The gemara[1] lists the five tragedies

מסכת תענית דף כו עמוד ב

בתשעה באב נגזר על אבותינו שלא יכנסו לארץ, וחרב הבית בראשונה ובשניה, ונלכדה ביתר, ונחרשה העיר.

Masechet Taanit 26b

On the ninth of Av it was decreed on our forefathers that they wouldn’t enter the land, and the first and second temple were destroyed, Beitar was captured, and the city was plowed over.

Let us examine each of these tragedies independently and collectively to understand the spiritual significance of these events.

               The Decree not to enter the land

When the spies returned on the 8th of Av and gave their report, that night the nation of Israel cried and longed to return to Egypt. This crying in the words of the Sages[2] is called “ a cry for no reason”. Hashem

then decreed that they wouldn’t enter the land of Israel. What is the significance of the crying of the Jewish people? The Maharal[3] explains that Eretz Yisrael is not natural to the Jewish people as other lands are to their native people. There is a special relationship that needs to be clarified and explored.

ספר נצח ישראל פרק ח

ענין זה עמוק מאוד מאוד, כי כאשר הוציאם מארץ מצרים, הוציאם על מנת לתת להם הארץ. ואילו באו אותם שיצאו ממצרים אל הארץ, היו עומדים שם לעולם בארץ. ודבר זה בארנו בחבור גבורות ה’ בכמה מקומות, כי היציאה של מצרים היא נצחית, כי עדיין מחמת אותה היציאה אנחנו אל השם יתברך אשר הוציאנו ממצרים. ואם היה היציאה ממצרים וביאתם לארץ מעשה אחד, דהיינו שאותו הדור שיצאו ממצרים באו אל הארץ, כאילו היה מעשה אחד היציאה ממצרים והכניסה לארץ. כי השם יתברך הוציאנו ממצרים להכניס אותנו אל הארץ, [ו]כשם שהיציאה היא מקוימת נצחית, כך היה נצחי ביאתם אל הארץ, ולא היה בטול לעולם. ובשביל שבכו בכיה של חנם, ולא רצו לכנוס לארץ, ונשבע הקדוש ברוך הוא שלא יביא אותו דור אל הארץ, רק דור אחר, ואז היה נחלק היציאה ממצרים מן הביאה אל הארץ, ולא היה מעשה אחד.

ועוד, כי כל הדברים הטבעים משתוקקים אל מקומם הטבעי. ואם היה הארץ לישראל מקום טבעי, והיו משתוקקים אל הארץ, היה נשאר זה נצחי. אבל היה כאן ההפך, שבכו בכיה של חנם, ולא רצו לבוא אל הארץ. לכן מורה זה שאין הארץ מקום הטבעי לישראל, ולכך לא היו נשארים שם. וזה שאמר שהיו בוכים בכיה של חנם, ומאסו בארץ חמדה (תהלים קו, כד), ודבר זה נקבע להם בכיה לדורות, שהיה גורם שגלו מן הארץ. כי הבכיה שהיו בוכים מורה שאין הארץ שייך להם לגמרי, כי חן מקום על יושביה (סוטה מז א), וכל דבר משתוקק למקומו שהוא טבעי לו.

Maharal Netzach Yisrael chapter 8

This idea is very deep, for when the Jewish people left Egypt, G-d took them out in order to give them Eretz Yisrael. If the generation that left Egypt would have entered the land, they (Jewish people) would have remained in the land forever…. For the exodus is eternal as we are still serving G-d based on the fact that he took us out of Egypt. Now if the exodus from Egypt and entering the land would have been one act; that being that the generation that left would also have entered the land, that would have forged these two events into one. For G-d took us out of Egypt in order to bring us into the land, and just as the exodus is eternal, so would have our entrance into the land been eternal without the possibility of nullification. But since they cried for nothing and didn’t want to enter the land; G-d swore not to bring that generation in, only the next generation; which meant that the events were now divided, and not one act….

Similarly all natural things desire to return to their natural place. Now if the land was natural to the Jewish people, and they would have desired to enter it, it woulgd have remained for eternity. But the opposite occurred. They cried for no reason, not wanting to enter the land. This showed that the land wasn’t natural to the Jewish people, and therefore they didn’t remain there. This is what the term means that they cried for no reason and denigrated the special land; this was then instituted for generations that led to the exile. For their crying shows that the land doesn’t belong to them completely for the favor of the place is perceived only by its residents (Sotah 47a) and everything desires to go to its natural place.

The distinction between the generation that left Egypt and the generation that entered the land shows that there is a gap between the birth of the nation and it’s settling of the land. This gap in essence brought into the world the possibility of a future exile.

To rectify this, we need to make Eretz Yisrael a natural place for us; to recognize that this is the land given to us by the creator of the world to fulfill our destiny. This for the jewish people takes effort and does not necessarily come naturally like other nations of the world. Our longing for Zion is actually what makes us the owners of the land. Without this desire, we lose our merit to the holy land. Our Sages have told us[4]  :“And to Zion it shall be said: “this man this man was born in her, and he will establish her on high”Rav Meyasha  the grandson of Rabi Yehoshua ben levi said – this refers both to one who is born there and one who yearns  to see it.

To summarize – The unwillingness of the people to enter the land shows a certain disconnect between the people and their land. This disconnect enabled the possibility of us losing our right to the land and going into exile. Our natural right to the land has been expunged, and we now have to work hard and long for it by understanding our destiny in order to retrieve it.

The destruction of the 1st Beit Hamikdash  – The loss of Shechinah

The Maharal explains further[5] that the first temple symbolized G-ds presence amongst the Jewish people; a connection to the Creator, over and beyond what can usually be grasped in the natural world. In the 1st Temple the Shechinah resided amongst us. Therefore the first Temple was destroyed when Am Yisrael transgressed the three most serious sins (Idol worship, forbidden relations and murder), all of which impurified the nation to an extent that the Shechinah could reside among the nation no longer.

Destruction of the 2nd Temple – loss of the unifying factor

The 2nd Temple symbolized the unity of the nation. (Many of the miracles demonstrating the presence  of the Shechinah in the 1st Temple were absent in the 2nd).Although the Shechinah wasn’t present as it was in the first Temple, nevertheless the Mikdash was the focal point of the nation’s unity. Here, one Kohen Gadol represented the entire nation doing the temple service and pleading on their behalf for forgiveness on Yom Kippur. Personal altars were forbidden and so all personal as well as communal sacrifices were brought to the Temple. Therefore the 2nd Temple was destroyed when the nation sinned with Sinat Chinam – Baseless hatred. At that stage there was no longer unity, and we didn’t deserve a unifying focal point – the Temple.

The fall of Beitar

Beitar represented the national strength of the Jewish people. The Rambam writes[6]:

הלכות תעניות פרק ה הלכה ג

ונלכדה עיר גדולה וביתר שמה והיו בה אלפים ורבבות מישראל והיה להם מלך גדול ודימו כל ישראל וגדולי החכמים שהוא המלך המשיח, ונפל ביד גוים ונהרגו כולם והיתה צרה גדולה כמו חורבן המקדש

Ramba Hilchot Taaniot chapter 5 halacha 3

A great city of Israel was captured – the city of Beitar. There was tens of thousands of people there with a great King, and all of Israel and the greatest of Sages thought he was the King Mashiach. But he fell to the goyim and everyone was killed and it was a great tragedy similar to the destruction of the temple.

After the fall of Beitar, all hope was lost of any semblance of Jewish sovereignty. Bar Kochva was the last icon of Jewish nationhood for nearly 2000 years.

Rav Kook wrote in a letter to Bnei Akiva[7]

And specifically because the vision failed, Bar Kochva fell and with him the nation of Israel from a perspective of national freedom, it is because of this that we are certain that the truth of the Torah of that holy mouth (Rabbi Akiva) will come to fruition and this reality is becoming stronger all the time. ודווקא מפני שהחזון בשעתו נכשל, ובר כוכבא נפל ועמו נפל ישראל בבחינת חירותו הלאומית, בטוחים אנו כי תורת אמת אשר בפה קדוש (רבי עקיבא) יבוא תור לה, והתור הזה הולך ובא”.

The city was plowed over

The Rambam writes[8]

ובו ביום המוכן לפורענות חרש טורנוסרופוס הרשע ממלכי אדום את ההיכל ואת סביביו לקיים +ירמיהו כ”ו+ ציון שדה תחרש On the day designated for suffering, Turnesrufus the wicked from the Kingdom of Edom, plowed over the area of the sanctuary of the temple and fulfilled the prophecy “Zion will be plowed like a field”

The difference between the destruction of the Temple and the plowing of the city is the element of disgrace. When a city has been plowed over, it is as if it never was. Its existence becomes meaningless – the value and contribution of the Jewish people somehow seem to falter and wither into nothingness. The Romans tried to destroy our longing to rebuild our glorious past and a yearning for the land of our forefathers. They tried to belittle our achievements and convince us that we have no past and therefore we have no future.

The meaning of Tu Bav

Let us now look at the 15th of Av. What events took place on TU B’av? One of the opinions brought down in the gemara[9] is as follows

תלמוד בבלי מסכת תענית דף לא עמוד א

רב מתנה אמר: יום שנתנו הרוגי ביתר לקבורה. ואמר רב מתנה: אותו יום שנתנו הרוגי ביתר לקבורה תקנו ביבנה הטוב והמטיב, הטוב – שלא הסריחו, והמטיב – שנתנו לקבורה.

Masechet Taanit 31a

Rav Matna says: it was the day that the dead of the city of Beitar were permitted to be buried. Rav Matna further states : on the day that the dead of Beitar were permitted to be buried, they instituted in Yavne the bracha of Hatov Vehameitiv.- Hatov – for the bodies didn’t rot; and Hameitiv – that they were permitted to be buried.

At first glance it isn’t clear why permission to be buried was such a joyous occasion. Let us first understand the meaning of burial.

The Maharal writes

ספר תפארת ישראל פרק נב

חד אמר, שעשה לו קבורה, ובזה נראה כי אין האדם כמו הבהמה שאין לו תקוה עוד, ולכך אין הבהמה נקברת, אבל האדם נקבר. וקבורתו מורה על שלעתיד יקום ויחיה ולא קבל ההעדר מכל וכל. שאם קבל ההעדר מכל וכל, למה לו הקבורה. אבל מורה דבר זה

שאין לו ההעדר מכל וכל. וכן אם קבל העדר מכל וכל למה לו התכריכין, כיון שקבל העדר מכל וכל. אבל יתרון זה אין לו מציאות עתה, שהרי הגוף מת,

Tiferet Yisrael chapter 52

By this it shows that humans are not like animals, which have no hope and therefore go without burial. Humans on the

other hand who are buried demonstrate by this action, that in the future they will rise and live again and their absence is not absolute. For if not so, why would they need to be buried?  This shows that there is no absolute lacking. Furthermore, if there is absolute lacking, why is there a need

for burial shawls. For there is no benefit for these clothes and this reality at present, for the body has died.

According to the Maharal – burial is the quintessential act that symbolizes faith in the resurrection and that the soul lives on.

Similarly – Rav Chaim Luzzato (the Ramchal) writes further in his book[10]

ראי, אפילו המיתה שהיא הביטול היותר גדול שבעולם, אינה ביטול גמור, כי הרי יש תחית המתים, שאף על פי שהגוף שב לעפר, הנה הלוז שבו מתקיים כידוע, לבנות ממנו הגוף ההוא עצמו. See that even death which is the greatest nullification in the world is not a complete nullification. For there is the resurrection of the dead; even though the body returns to dust the luz within it remains and through it the body will be rebuilt.

Burial on a national level

The Ramchal then continues to explain the meaning of this on a national level.

וישראל בגלות הורידם עד עפר, שנאמר בהם (איכה ג,ו) במחשכים הושיבני כמתי עולם. ועם כל זה קרא כתיב (ויקרא כו,מד): ואף גם זאת בהיותם בארץ אויביהם לא מאסתים ולא געלתים לכלותם להפר בריתי איתם, וכתיב (מלאכי ג,ו) כי אני ה’ לא שניתי ואתם בני יעקוב לא כליתם. והיינו כי אין הקב”ה ניחם על מעשיו הטובים שימאסם, ואע”פ שמניח להם קלקול, אינו שעזבם ודחם בשתי ידיים ח”ו, אלא מניח להם לסבול, ה שהוא יודע היותו סוף סוף לטובתם, על כן הוא מקיים מציאותם, אבל מניחם הוא להצטרף בכור הנסיונות של הצרות הרבות והרעות. אחר ישובו ויפרחו כגפן, ויצמחו מחדש כארץ תוציא צמחה וכגנה זרועיה תצמיח. והזרעונים עצמם ראיה לדבר, שהם מתקלקלים תחת הארץ, אך לא מתבטלים, אלא על כן מעפר יחזרו ויצמחו. And Israel in exile was brought down to dust. As the verse states “He has placed me in darkness like the eternally dead” (Eicha 3/6) Notwithstanding this, the verse states “but despite all this they will be in the land of their enemies, I will not have been revolted by them, nor will I have rejected them to obliterate them to annul my covenant with them” (Vayikra 26/44) and it is written “for I am Hashem I have not changed, and you the sons of Yaakov have not perished”(Malachi 3/6)….

That is to say that G-d doesn’t completely forget them, and even though he lets them go astray, that doesn’t mean He leaves them and pushes them away with both hands heaven forbid. Rather, He lets them suffer, G-d who knows what is ultimately the best for them, therefore He keeps them alive yet lets them join in the furnace of trials and tribulations. Thereafter they will return and blossom like the vine, and flower anew…Seeds themselves bear testament to this as they rot under the ground yet they aren’t nullified. Rather from the earth they return and blossom

On a national level the description of burial for the Jewish people is equitable with the absence of the nation on the historical podium. The nation wonders between the other nations, in exile and downtrodden. However the national strength is not lost completely, it is buried in the ground but we have full faith that it will return and blossom after the Galut.

In this light, Tu Be’av is in essence the tikkun for Tisha Be’av. Where on tisha Be’av the city of Beitar was captured and destroyed, on Tu Be’av – the bodies were allowed to be buried- signifying that all hope is not lost and one day we will arise again. It also symbolizes that all the other things that we lost – the residing of the Shechinah, and the unity of the nation will once again return to us.

The mourning and destruction that start at the beginning of Av and reach their climax on Tisha Be’av- have an about turn on Tu’Bav, and joy abounds in the world  ( All the summer weddings usually start around this time)

Our generation

In our generation we are witness to many jews making Aliyah and generally this happens in the summer just before or after Tisha B’av. One could say that to a certain degree this is a form of “tikkun” for the lack of desire of generation of desert that didn’t want to enter the land.

Similarly, we have merited to see the establishment of the State of Israel and the sovereignthy of the Jeiwsh people of the Holy land. This can also be seen on a certain level as a tikkun for the tragedy that took place on Tisha B’av with the fall of Beitar and Bar Kochba.

Three other things need to take place in order to fully rectify the events of that day

The city was plowed over – the holy temple sight remains in ruins and everyday there are those trying to wipe out any historical ties that the Jewish people have to Makom Hamikdash. This disgrace goes unheard or unanswered. We need to be more active in demanding the dignity that should be given to our holy site.

Rebuilding of the 2nd Temple – when the Rambam writes the laws of the Temple, he brings the measuremnets of the 2nd Temple. We can assume from this that the future Temple will be similar to the 2nd. On a spiritual level that means that we need to strive to re-create the level of unity which was the focal point  of the 2nd Temple.

The rebuilding of the 1st Temple- the most sublime of all our dreams is to have the Shechinah once again reside amonst the nation. “and I will walk amongst you and I will be for you a g-d and you will be my nation”(Vayikra26/12).

On Tisha B’av we internalize the great national losses that we have incurred on a spiritual level. But On Tu B’av we realise that these things are not totally lost, they are merely buried waiting to arise once again. We have thank G-d merited to see some of these things arise in our generation, and with great effort and we can cause the other lofty ideas and dreams to arise and come to fruition.

[1] Masechet Taanit 26b

[2] Sanhedrin 104b

[3] Maharal Netzach Yisrael chp 8

[4] Masechet Ketubot 75a

[5] Netzach Yisrael chapter 4

[6] Rambam Hilchot Taanit chapter 5

[7] Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook –Maamrei Reiya pg 202

[8] ibid

[9] Masechet Taanit 31a

[10] Ramchal Daat Tevunot pg 123 (Friedlander edition)

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