All who eat and drink on the 9th of Av will not see the rejoicing of
Jerusalem and all who mourn for Jerusalem will merit to see her joy…
(Shulchan Aruch- Orach Chaim 554:25)
All who eat and drink on the 9th of Av: It is enough for the house of our
G-d to be pained about its destruction at least one day in the year!
An ominously difficult day looms larger and larger as it approaches. The
9th of Av is admittedly not an easy day to face and endure. It’s hard not
to eat for the duration of a long summer day. We have no music to distract
and console our spirits. We are to sit alone on the floor for at least
part of the day and review the tragic trail of our history. It’s not an
easy time. Yet, it is critical to observe. The actions of the laws will
tend to shape our mood and may thereby promote a real tear or two, and
that would be a huge accomplishment.
Why is it good to cry on the 9th of Av?
I heard from Rabbi Shimshon Pincus zl. on Tisha B’Av many years ago the
following powerful idea. He said that when one attends a simcha, a joyous
occasion, a wedding for example, it’s not easy to distinguish between the
close family members and the guests. Everyone is dressed in their best. In
the circle of dancing all have big smiles. The food is abundant. The
drinks are flowing and it is neigh impossible to sort out the ones most
close and those more peripheral to the joy of the day!
However at a funeral it is immediately clear and evident who the essential
mourners are. Many respectful participants will sit and listen to eulogies
but with dry eyes. Others are sobbing and at times uncontrollably. We can
be sure that these are the close ones.
Therefore on the 9th of Av a Jew has a chance to move closer to heart of
his people. Not only to demonstrate sympathy, that’s nice too, but to
empathize- showing that he feels it too. The more one identifies with the
goals of the Jewish Nation the more there is to feel. The more isolated
and insular the posture the more one maintains a cool and distant
attitude. So it is, the less one cares the less one shares even in the
happy events. Tisha B’ Av like Pesach is a critical day for each of us to
find the placements of our hearts.
What exactly are we mourning about on Tisha B’Av? Is it that we have
suffered so much in exile! That’s part of it. Is that the real pain
though? At a funeral, are the ones who are wailing absorbed in thoughts of
their own discomfort or are they rather busy in the mind identifying with
the pain of the departed and measuring the enormity and magnitude of the
On Tisha B’Av we are not sitting there thinking about our stomachs that
are grumbling or even that we find ourselves again under siege. The
Chofetz Chaim spells out the real motive of the day as quoted above, “It
is enough for the house of our G-d to be pained about its destruction at
least one day a year.” Contemplating that thought alone is enough to take
us beyond our personal discomforts to rather stare at the enormous source
of pain and to realize that the greatest loss is not ours alone. Every
king and dictator has a palace or capital building that crowns his
authority. It’s hard to find a sports team that doesn’t have a stadium
where its powers are on display. Where is G-d Almighty’s house? Not only
we are in exile and under siege but the whole notion of HASHEM Echod is
abused and mocked and misrepresented on a daily basis. It is about this we
mourn and it is about this we cry!