June 21, 2024
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It’s Not Just About the Cheesecake or Eggplant Parmesan

I recently overheard a “profound” discussion between two 5-year-old grandsons. Apparently, one had a cookie or cupcake that his cousin wanted to taste. Among the pleas, I heard the little boy say, “You know that it’s a mitzvah to share. And you know that every mitzvah we do adds another brick to the third Beit Hamikdash.” He then proceeded to give his cousin an entire lecture, on a 5-year-old level, of course, on the mitzvah of “mitzapim l’geulah” (anticipating the ultimate redemption).

As we approach the “Nine Days,” which Chazal set aside as days when we increase our mourning and yearning for Moshiach, we would do well to take this little boy’s lesson to heart.

Open any magazine, peruse the ads touting “Nine Days Menu,” and you may think that these publications are mixing up Shavuot and the Nine Days leading up to Tisha B’Av. On Shavuot, there’s a custom to eat dairy foods, and it’s also meritorious to enhance your Yom Tov table with beautiful foods, whereas during the Nine Days one of the aspects is mourning and refraining from eating meat. We are supposed to minimize anything that brings gladness, and as Chazal says, “Ein simcha ela b’basar” (there is no joy without meat).

Yes, your family has to eat. Serving filling and nutritious dairy meals is a bit harder than the simple chicken and potatoes or schnitzel and rice that is your usual fare. This does not mean, however, that you have to come up with exotic gourmet dishes. There is an abundance of simple foods with which to create good meals to satisfy our families: Think eggs, tuna, flounder, eggplant, pizza or various fruits and vegetables. Creating epicurean masterpieces defeats the purpose of our going meatless (and the children probably prefer the simpler fare).

Listening to music is also forbidden during the three weeks of mourning. The new a capella tapes, which feature singing without instrumental music, probably conform to the letter of the law, at least according to some rabbis, but it certainly does not comply with the spirit of sadness and mourning that should prevail at this time.

What can we do to enhance our mourning in a positive manner? If we stop and think about what we are missing, and imagine life after Moshiach’s arrival, we can put these days to good use.

It is said that when Moshiach comes, the 17th of Tamuz and the Ninth of Av will become Yomim Tovim. What will happen during the three weeks in between? If they become one long Chol Hamoed, how will we spend that time? Remember, the Beit Hamikdash will be standing, and the avodah will be in full force, so a few visits to see the kohanim in action will definitely be a worthwhile activity. Mundane concerns about livelihood will fall away, so Torah learning and serving Hashem will be enhanced. Just picturing the scenario in our minds should increase our yearning and thus our tefillot for a rebuilt Beit Hamikdash.

Alas, Moshiach is not here yet. We are still fasting on Tisha B’Av. What can we do to hasten the end of our long exile? Perhaps we should follow the example of two little boys by increasing our mitzvot and improving our davening. Perhaps the next mitzvah you do will add the final brick to the third Beit Hamikdash and we will soon hear the Shofar Shel Moshiach heralding the beginning of a new, glorious era.

By P. Samuels

 

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