We are now entering a time referred to as “The Nine Days.” These are the days beginning with the first day of the Hebrew month “Av,” and ending with the ninth of Av. These days are the prelude to the destruction of the Holy Temple which was located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Code of Jewish Law directs us to keep the laws of mourning to varying degrees culminating on the ninth of Av when we fast and mourn as a mourner does during the seven-day period of mourning for a close relative known as “shiva”.
Tisha B’Av (The Ninth of Av) is infamous for the destruction of both Temples, the subsequent destruction of the city of Betar where millions of Jews died, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, and other great tragedies. Our extended wanderings throughout the diaspora are directly related to Tisha B’Av and its events. I would like to share one point which is explained by Rabbi Chaim Friedlander about how the Torah wants us to view our relationship with G-d while in the diaspora.
Moshe Rabbainu, who brought the Torah down for us from Mount Sinai, called G-d “the Great, Mighty, and Awesome G-d”. When the first Temple was penetrated by the enemy, Yirmiyahu the Prophet saw the desecration and removed the word “awesome” from the phrase that Moshe said. He reasoned that G-d’s awesomeness is not manifest under such circumstances, and it would not be right to call G-d awesome. Subsequently, Daniel, the great sage who lived during the Jewish Exile in Babylonia, after the destruction of the first Temple, made another omission. He said “other nations are forcefully dominating the Jews; where is G-d’s might manifest?” So he only said Great and Awesome, and he omitted “Mighty.”
The Babylonian exile only lasted 70 years. Back in Israel the Assembly of great sages reinstated all three names. It’s important to note that their observations were made with 20/20 hindsight, as is is impossible to draw objective conclusions while living through terrible suffering. Their reasoning: G-d’s might and awesomeness are equally evident when He doesn’t react against desecration of His Temple, His Name, and His People. A ruler of flesh and blood must react quickly and decisively against rebellion. G-d, on the other hand, can take His time. Nothing threatens Him. To amplify on this, the Midrashic writings teach that G-d continually renews creation and everything therein. An evildoer is having his life force given to him constantly, not excluding the moments that he is perpetrating the worst evils. This is the manifestation of G-d’s Greatness, Might, and Awesomeness at a time like now when His presence is deliberately hidden from us.
This month is called Av, which is Hebrew for “father”. Although G-d has hidden His manifest countenance from us, and we are forced to live with all of the consequences that follow from that, the name of the month conveys to us that G-d acts as a loving father would. That is, whatever we must live through is purposeful, and for our ultimate good. The fact that we continue to survive when the Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, etc. etc., are only a weak memory, if that, is a solid reminder to us that we are not forsaken.
“Just as a father disciplines his son, Hashem your G-d is disciplining you” (Deuteronomy 8:5).
We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of this week’s Dvar Torah by Rabbi Label Lam, of FOUNDATIONS for Jewish Learning Monsey, N.Y. 10952 Phone: 914-352-0111 or 800-700-9577. Fax-914-352-0305.
Foundations will be conducting a fascinating introduction to Judaism seminar from Sept. 20-22 On Rosh HaShana in the New York area for people at all levels. Those interested should please contact them at the above toll-free number.