Turning Darkness Into Light

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 14/7/2019

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Turning Darkness Into Light

R’ Dessler[1] tells us in the name of his Rebbi that time doesn’t pass by us rather we pass through time. When a given time of year comes around, we relive it. An example of this is Shavuos as when it comes, we experience Matan Torah again.[2]

 

Tisha B’av is known to be a day of tragedy[3] and as the Gemara says אתם בכיתם...; you cried a crying without cause, therefore, I will establish crying throughout the generations on this day.[4]  

 

The word to cry- בכי- means confusion as in והעיר שושן נבוכה; the city of Shushan was bewildered.[5] The word for tears is דמעה. This is related to the term דמאי; produce that one isn’t sure if it was tithed, as it expresses the idea of confusion. Now we can explain why דמע; tear, and מדע; why, are comprised of the same letters, as a question symbolizes confusion. When one cries, he feels lost. So, what occurs when one cries? Water streams forth from his eyes as water is a dissolver and this is how he feels- dissolved, low. This also explains why one can’t talk when he is crying, since he feels confused.    

 

The Zohar[6] comments on ותצפנהו שלשה ירחים;[7] she hid Moshe for three months, that it also refers to the three months of Tamuz, Av, and Teves. In these months, the attribute of Hashem’s kindness in the world is hidden from us. 

 

During this mourning period we observe certain restrictions such as not taking a haircut, refraining from listening to music and so on.[8] The Noda B’Yehuda[9] during the three weeks wouldn’t eat anything from animals- no fish, meat and the like. From Rosh Chodesh Av until Tisha Bav, he would only eat dry bread with ashes. He would not sleep in a bed rather on chairs and would have a pillow for his head. 

 

We know that although at times life seems bitter, it is all for the[10] best.[11] The same applies to this period of the three weeks which culminates with Tisha Bav, a day rooted in Geula. Thus, in the system known as את בש, in which the first letter of the א-ב corresponds to the last, the first day of Pesach (א) lines up with תשעה באב- ת.[12] With this we can grasp why the month is called מנחם אב as it a consolation for us knowing that in the future when the Beis Hamikdash will be rebuilt, these will be days of happiness.

 

This idea is shown to us in Megilas Rus where נעמי said המר ש-די לי מאד;[13] Hashem has dealt bitterly with me. Taking the first letters of these words המר ש-די לי מאד, we notice it spells שלמה, since what appeared to be bitter was setting the way for the birth of Shlomo who would build the Beis Hamikdash. So, it all turned out for good.[14]

 

The Pasuk there concludes with the word מאד. The Mishna[15] tells us on בכל מאדך[16] that whatever measure Hashem metes out to you, whether good or bad, thank Him as we should thank Hashem even if an occurrence seems negative. The letters that precede that of מאד are גלת; exile, as ג is before ד, ל is before מ and ת is before א. On the other hand, the letters that come after מאד spell בנה (ב is after א, נ is after מ and ה is after ד) which refers to בנה בניתי; built a house of habitation for Hashem.[17]

 

With this we can grasp משכרתך שלמה מעם ה';[18] may your payment be full from Hashem, which can also be interpreted as referring to Shlomo. We should merit to see the building of the Beis Hamikdash speedily in our days.

R’ Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. R’ Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.



[1] Michtav M’Eliyahu, volume 2, p 21. See Sota 14a, Tosafos מפני as well as Breishis 37:14

[2] This is the idea of a birthday. The Karbon Haeida (1707-1762), who was a Rav in Berlin, writes in his commentary to Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashana 3:8, s.v. היה) that one usually doesn’t get harmed on his birthday since his Mazel is with him and protects him on this day.

[3] See Taanis 26. This is in line with the dictumמגלגלין חובה ע"י חייב...זכאי; harm is imparted through one who is guilty and benefit through one who is meritorious (Sanhedrin 8a). Similarly, we say ויציל נפשותינו מן השעות הרעות; May He rescue us from the bad times (Shacharis at Krias Hatorah).

[4] Sanhedrin 104b. Both בתי מקדש were destroyed on this day. In 1492, during the Spanish Inquisition, the deadline for the Jews to leave the country or face death was on Tisha B’av.

[5] Esther 3:15. When Adam sinned, Hashem said אַיֶכָּה; where are you (Breishis 3:9)- an expression of confusion. This is the same word as איכה (מגילת איכה), which we read on a day of confusion- Tisha B’av. 

[6] Zohar 2, 12a

[7] Shemos 2:2

[8] Tangentially, see the Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim, 1:168) where he permits a wedding on the night of the 17th of Tamuz.

[9] He was a Rav and Av Beis Din in Prague. The noted author of the Chaye Adam was among his students. The Noda B’Yehuda lived from 1713 until 1793.

[10] There is a saying, “This setback was a setup” (for something good to happen).

[11] In a Shul in New Jersey, an argument that ensued between the president of a shul and the Rav if the Tefila of אב הרחמים should be recited on a particular Shabbos in the month of Av (see Mishna Brura 284:16). The Rav ruled it should be said. This led to the dismissal of the Rav soon after Shabbos. In the meantime, a Rav in the neighboring town of Elizabeth died and they were now searching for a Rav. They hired this Rav who was recently fired. This new job had 500 congregants whereas the previous shul has just 100. Additionally, it was three times the salary of his previous position. At a Bar-Mitzva that took place in the Shul where he was now Rav in, he was asked to speak. Unbeknown to the Rav, the president from his previous position was invited and attended the Bar-Mitzva. Disgusted, the president, after the speech, asked the Rav disrespectfully how he got the job. His reply: the אב הרחמים; our merciful father, Hashem! Sometimes we think an event may be bad when in essence Hashem is looking out for us. This is what is meant in the Bracha of מודים (Shemoneh Esrei) in על חיינו המסורים בידך as He knows what is best.

[12] Orach Chaim, 428. Incidentally, this is a deeper meaning in על מצות (פסח) ומרורים (תשעה באב) יאכלוהו. See Eicha Rabba 3:5 which connects Tisha Bav and Pesach. The Pasuk says מחבל בני יהודה נחלת בני שמעון; the heritage of the children of Shimon was from the portion of the children of Yehuda (Yehoshua 19:9). A similar connection is shown between Shimon and Yehuda in the Bracha of Yehuda where it says שמע ה' קול יהודה (Devarim 33:7) as שמע refers to שמעון (see Rashi there). Shimon corresponds to the month of Av whereas Yehuda to Nissan. This alludes to that Galus (Av) is rooted in Geula (Nissan, the month that we were redeemed from Mitzrayim). Indeed, Nissan is called חדש האביב (Shemos 13:4) which is a contraction of אב יב which is the name of this month- אב.

[13] Rus 1:20

[14] See Drashos Chassam Sofer 2:299a, s.v. כי. Indeed, the initials of איכה form the phrase אני יודע כל הנסתרות; I know all that which seems hidden. Thus there is no need to ever doubt Hashem although an occurrence may seem bad. 

[15] Brachos 54a

[16] Devarim 6:5

[17] Melachim 1, 8:13

[18] Rus 2:12


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