Weekly Torah Portion – From Sorrow To Joy
Parshat D’varim: Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22; Isaiah 1:1-27.
This Shabbat coincides with the 9th of Av on the Hebrew calendar. Known in Hebrew as Tishah b’Av, it is the day on which we annually mark the destruction of both holy temples in Jerusalem by fasting and mourning.
This year, however, since it coincides with Shabbat, not only do we push off all mourning observances to Saturday night and Sunday, but we are actually encouraged to add in joy and feasting so there should be no doubt or suspicion of any mourning.
The obvious question is why? Why do we mark this day in 2018 with feasting and joy when in most years we mark it with fasting and mourning?
Certainly this is not just a result of technical Jewish calendar legalities; there is a deeper message here in regard to the inner meaning and purpose of the day. Indeed, the Talmud tells us that in the Messianic era the fast of Tisha b’Av will be celebrated as a great holiday.
The chassidic masters explain this with an illustration. Imagine the anguish and pain of someone watching a lifelong home go up in flames. No doubt that the feeling of unimaginable loss has filled his heart.
Now, imagine the feeling of someone who has consciously decided to demolish his lifelong home in order to build a much greater and more beautifully designed mansion.
Surely, there is still a feeling of yearning and loss; but at the same time, those feelings are overshadowed by the excitement and joy in awaiting the completion of the dream home, a home much more beautiful than the original.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, explains that the latter is in essence what occurred with the destruction of the temples and is still taking place today.
True, we have lost a magnificent spiritual and physical edifice that was the epicenter of the Jewish people; but, in truth, God was just preparing the ground for something so much greater.
In order to build or grow there almost always are difficulties and loss involved; our job, our challenge, is to transform tears into action and opportunity.
This is what we are observing on Shabbat this year. This Shabbat gives us the strength to transform pain and loss into joy and happiness. This Shabbat, we are preparing ourselves and getting a little taste of an era when pain and suffering will permanently be removed from this world and replaced with the greatest of good.
We are celebrating the building of the final temple and ultimate redemption, which will be so much greater than anything we have had in the past. May it occur even before this 9th of Av.
Rabbi Mendel Stein is development director of Lubavitch Yeshiva-International School for Chabad Leadership in Oak Park.