Rabbi Benjamin Yudin
Rabbi Benjamin Yudin

Preparing for Tisha B'Av During War

The Shabbos prior to Tisha B'Av derives its name from the haftorah, whereby Isaiah the prophet castigates Israel for its sins, and prepares us for the national day or mourning, reminding us why we lost the Beis Hamikdash. The Beis Hamikdash unified the Jewish nation. To begin with, the korbanos were for the nation. On a daily basis, the Korban Tamid, the one lamb brought in the morning and the one lamb brought in the afternoon, were on behalf of the entire populace. One Kurban Mussaf - additional offering - was brought on behalf of the nation every Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, and Yom Tov. Even the atonement for each individual on Yom Kippur came about through the representative of the people, the Kohein Gadol.

The Ramchal (Daas Tvunos 160) teaches that the kohein officiating at the Korban Tamid had the challenging job of getting into the mindset of representing and reflecting all of Klal Yisrael. Just as they were represented by the kohanim in their avodah (actual performance of the offerings), the leviim with their singing and music, and Israelites with their ma'amad prayers, the kohein channeled the unique requests as per the character traits of the multitudes of the nation and offered them to Hashem.

King David expressed it in Tehillim (122:2) "Built up Jerusalem is like a city that is united together". The mishna (Avos 5:5) teaches that no one complained that the accommodations were stressful and crowded for the three pilgrim festivals in Jerusalem. The Chasam Sofer understands this to mean, that it was most certainly stressful but the higher cause and privilege of being in close proximity to the Beis Hamikdash united the people, and thus no one complained.

Moreover, the Beis Hamikdash was the vehicle whereby the Jewish nation experienced Hashgacha Pratis (Divine providence) on an ongoing basis. The above cited mishna enumerates ten open miracles that occurred therein regularly, showing His presence in their midst. Our observance of Tisha B'Av is a strong reminder of what we are missing today.

This Tisha B'Av is most unique. It is coming during the time of the unification for the Jewish people that we have not felt for a long time. I met two days ago with Mrs. Rachel Frankel, the mother of Naftali Hy"d. After sharing with her our deepest personal sympathy and expressing condolences on behalf of our congregation and community in New Jersey, I told her of monies that were donated in memory of the three boys to be used at the discretion of the families. Her immediate response was to use the funds to further the feelings of achdus and closeness that presently envelopes the land. Mr. Shaar, the father of Gil'ad Hy"d hoped that this incredible outpouring of prayer and concern on behalf of world Jewry could help stem the tide of assimilation and intermarriage in the United States.

The unity in Israel today is unfortunately being continued by the war in Gaza. If only the West Bank were being rocketed, one could imagine some responding by asking, "why are they living there?" But when rockets fly towards Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, and the airport, it most certainly unites all Israel in imo anochi b'tzarah, we are all in this together. In addition, approximately a half million Israelis have on their phones an app that apprises them of when a siren goes off anywhere in the country, creating Kol Yisrael areivim zeh l'zeh, an intense feeling of camaraderie and concern one for another.

Moreover, we too have witnessed to date incredible Hashgacha pratis.

  1. The iron dome was out of commission one day last week for eight hours outside of Ashkelon, and during these eight hours not a single rocket came.
  2. Last week, when over 1,400 rockets had been shot into Israel and but one casualty, then the Turkish Prime Minister said "It cannot be true". He doesn't realize (Tehillim 121:4), "Behold, He neither slumbers nor sleeps, the Guardian of Israel".
  3. A soldier was shot last night and the bullet was intercepted by the hand grenade he was wearing, which miraculously did not explode, damaging neither him nor his fellow soldiers.

The lists of the miracles that we witness daily are manifold.

Tisha B'Av reminds us that unity and Hashgacha pratis is to come from a positive source, the Beis Hamikdash, and not unfortunately from the horror of kidnapping of innocent teenagers and miracles from the battle front. Going into this Tisha B'av we are cognizant of (Tehillim 116:3) "Distress and grief I find, and I invoke the name of Hashem". Our prayers and Kinos are in response to the fifty three families that to date have made the supreme sacrifice for Am Yisrael. Our war with Gaza is but a continuation of the tragic circumstances that occur in the absence of the Third Beis Hamikdash.

The Gemara (Berachos 8a) teaches that since the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, Hashem takes refuge in the study of Torah. I understand this to mean that just as the Beis Hamikdash unified our people, Torah also has ability to unite our people. Case in point, notes the Aruch Ha'Shulchan in his introduction to Choshen Mishpat, Jews all over the world keep the same Shabbos, use the same esrog, keep Kosher, laws of family purity, etc.; we are all united through the Torah.

As we prepare to sit low and fast this Tisha B'Av, and pine for the day that our unity will emanate from (Tehillim 116:13), "The cup of salvations I will raise, and the name of Hashem I will invoke", I would like to suggest a few ways to perpetuate these remarkable feelings of unity, please God soon beyond the war. Firstly, take note: it is not Hillel, but Shamai who teaches (Avos 1:15) to greet everyone favorably, with a cheerful countenance. He does not mean only those in one's circle, who share your character and ideology, rather go out of your way to show kinship, respect and brotherhood to all. The Yerushalmi (Yuma 1) teaches that the destruction of the first Temple was but the roof of the building. The second Beis Hamikdash which was destroyed because of baseless and senseless hatred had its very foundation was destroyed. We need heavy doses of ahavas chinum, love for each and every Jew, because if we have one Father, then we really are brothers and sisters.

Secondly, don't just pray for our soldiers in Gaza, but get the name of a specific soldier, for when you focus on him among the rest, your prayer is more focused. May I suggest that you keep in mind Amatzya Chaim ben Chedva Malka, who sustained serious injuries to his legs and doctors hope he will walk in several weeks.

Finally, your acts of chessed, your prayers, and your Torah study, are the parcels that we can send from abroad to the soldiers and the rest of Israel.

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