May 26, 2024
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Tisha B’Av: Day of … Hope?

By Yitzhak Kornbluth

There have been many connections drawn between Tish’a B’av and Pesach.  Of these, many involve contrast (such as in the קינה of אש תוקד בקרבי), while others show commonality between the two. Some are fairly obvious but arguably trivial (for instance, the first day of Pesach always falls out on the same day of the week as Tish’a B’av), while others are less obvious but hint at deeper messages (for instance, our tefillin contain both mention of יציאת מצרים, and the passage of והיה אם שמע in which we are warned of the חרבן. There is one connection in particular that I believe has an essential message for us as we once again observe תשעה באב or prepare to do so.

To develop this connection, we may start with a question about Pesach: Among the events we celebrate are the מכות. But why is that cause for celebration? Doesn’t the Midrash tell us that Hashem prohibited the angels from singing שירה since His handiwork was being destroyed?

We may answer this question: It is this very fact that makes the מכות so significant. The greatest expression of love for someone else is personal sacrifice, and presumably the same should be true for Hashem demonstrating His love for us. However, Hashem is capable of doing anything effortlessly, so how can He “sacrifice” for us? Pesach gives this answer: Destroying His own handiwork is nevertheless “difficult” in a sense, and so doing so for our sake is a demonstration of love. Furthermore, the fact that Hashem will go to such lengths is a source of hope, that no matter how bad things get, He will do what is necessary to save us.

This is all very well and good when we are being oppressed by non-Jews. But what about when Jews are oppressing other Jews? What happens when the leaders of the people see wrong and decide that it is not in their best interests to do anything about it? What happens when their highest priority is not standing up for their fellow Jews, is not subservience to the Torah, but rather is mere money and power? When the בית המקדש, the very seat of the Sanhedrin, is instead used as a basis for self-certainty in such a warped set of priorities? In such case, are we doomed to such a flawed state continuing indefinitely?

To this, תשעה באב tells us that we are not. Hashem will ensure that we are saved from such a state as well. Even if He must wage war on His own children, even if He must destroy His own sanctuary, such a situation will be ended. In this way, Tisha B’Av is a statement of hope, and of Hashem’s love for His people, even greater than that made by Pesach and the other ימים טובים.

This leaves us with one question, though: If this is so, why do we mourn on Tisha B’Av? There are a number of answers to this question, but one in particular stands out: What we mourn, even more than the חרבן itself, was the fact that it was necessary, that we had brought ourselves to such a state that Hashem decided that the destruction of the בית המקדש was preferable.

And so, this Tisha B’Av, let us ask ourselves: Are we any better? Do we have proper leadership, in those who make decisions for our institutions, our shuls and yeshivos? Are they committed to caring for their fellow Jews even when it would be more convenient not to? Do they consistently follow the mandates of the Torah? Or do they still set their sights on money and power above all else, paying lip service to Torah values only as needed to maintain power and funds?

Regretfully, it would appear that we have been told the answer to this question:

כל דור שאינו נבנה בימיו מעלין עליו כאילו הוא החריבו, Every generation that is not built in its time is exalted as if it destroyed it.

May we soon merit to make ourselves into a generation in which the restoration of the בית המקדש is judged to be desirable, and not, חס ושלום, one in which even more חרבן is necessary, as the only hope remaining to end a situation that must not continue.


Yitzhak Kornbluth was born in Teaneck, and attended Yeshiva University before getting a Ph.D in mathematics and a job as a software engineer.  He currently resides in Washington Heights, but will soon be moving to the Boston area.

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