We experience the saddest day of the year on Tishab’Av, but yet as soon as it’s over we get excited to eat meat again, get haircuts and shave, listen to music, resume life as normal, and enjoy the summer the way we’d like to. Where is our continued sense of mourning? We haven’t seen the BeisHamikdash (the 3rd Temple) rebuilt – why aren’t we still sad? Why do we just continue with life as is and not carry the sense of mourning like we did on Tishab’Av throughout the year?
As this Shabbos, is known as Shabbos Nachamu (Consolation), three thoughts come to mind that help me personally reconcile this paradox:
1. A Jew must be happy: In Parshas Ki Savo, which we’ll be reading in a few weeks, Moshe relates all the curses that the Jews will receive for not following in the ways of Hashem and the Torah. But the systemic cause and underlying reason that they do not follow in the ways of Hashem and the Torah is because they didn’t live life as HAPPY Jews: “because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, amid gladness and goodness of heart…”(Deuteronomy 28:47). Although it might be sad and extremely depressing that the BeisHaMikdash hasn’t been rebuilt, Hashem wants to see us serving him out of happiness. The KotzkerRebbe explains that for the month of Av we must lessen our happiness, and for the month of Adar we must increase our happiness, but we only could lessen and increase because we are ALWAYS happy as Jews.
2. Live for the moment but look to the future: How do we approach life that we’ll always be in a state of happiness? There is a famous Gemara at the end of Tractate Makkos [24a]: Rabbi Akiva was walking with several other Rabbis in the ruins of Jerusalem and when they reached the Temple Mount they saw a fox emerging from the place of the Holy of Holies. The Rabbis all started weeping, except Rabbi Akiva who laughed. The Rabbis explained that they were weeping because a place so holy was now desecrated with a fox walking through it. Rabbi Akiva explained to them that he was laughing because that alongside the prophecy that the Temple will be destroyed was the prophecy that it will be rebuilt. With these words his colleagues replied to him: "Akiva, you have consoled us! Akiva, you have consoled us!"
Rabbi Akiva understood that Hashem runs the world and that if one aspect of what he promised has come true, so will everything else. We must live this way as well. If we trust Hashem and understand that although times are tough and we’ve suffered a lot as Jews, His promise will be kept and we will experience the building of the BeisHaMikdash soon in our days.
3. Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere: The Talmud [Bava Basra 121b] teaches us that along with Yom Kippur, the 15 of Av, known as Tub’Av (this Friday) is celebrated as one of the happiest days of the year. There are several reasons, however one of them really teaches us that in the direst of circumstances we could feel Hashem’s presence and celebrate. The story of Beitar, where Jews were brutally murdered after the Bar Kochba rebellion teaches us this. Millions were killed and the Romans refused to let their bodies be buried, however 17 years later the Jews were finally granted permission to return this city, and they found the bodies which were not decomposed at all. This was a true miracle.
We know that when a neshama leaves a body the body decays. With the destruction of the second BeisHaMikdash, the Jewish people thought that Hashem’s presence was to leave them as well. This miracle showed the Jews that although they lost the BeisHaMikdash, Hashem’s presence had not left them. It indicated to them that they as Jews still had Hashem with them, that they remained as G-d’s chosen nation, and that they were still able to access spirituality.
Even in the most dire or situations and circumstances, Hashem is with us and running every aspect of the world.
As Shabbos Nachamu, we should merit to feel Hashem’s warm embrace and love of his people. We should look to incorporate happiness into every aspect of our lives, live for the moment but look to the future, and realize that Hashem is truly everywhere!
May we merit the coming of Mashiach and the third BeisHaMikdash speedily in our days!