The Three Weeks & Devarim
What Are We Missing On Tisha B'Av?
By Rabbi Label Lam
Woe to them, the children that have been exiled from the table of their
father. (Talmud Brochos 3A)
Amongst the things we refrain from on the 9th of Av are; food, friendship,
learning Torah, music and more. What are we meant to get out this exercise
of fasting and looking forlorn?
Yitzchok Blazer ztl., was invited by a group of young scholars to their
town to deliver a lecture. He ascended the platform wrapped in his talis
and began; “A Jew once lost his way in a forest. The harder he tried to
get out of it the more it closed in on him. After wandering for about two
days, he almost gave up hope of finding his way out when he found another
Jew coming toward him. Joyfully he ran over to the other Jew and asked him
to show him the way out of the forest. The second Jew asked him, “How long
have you been lost in the forest?” “Two days!” answered the first. “I
have been blundering here for a few weeks already” exclaimed the second
Jew, “and I have not yet found the way. You who have been lost for only
two days are asking me?”
Yitchok Blazer raised his voice and cried, “Gentlemen! You are young men
who have been lost in life for just a short time, but I am already old and
have been lost for years. I am still looking for a way out of the forest
of tangled character and you ask me to show you the way? With that Reb
Itzele broke into loud sobbing and the congregation cried with him.
Was Reb Itzele really more lost than they? Was it then all futility the
lifetime he dedicated to self improvement? Was he just being dramatic or
overly modest? No!
On Erev Rosh HaShana a number of years ago I made haste to head to the
local Mikvah-ritual bath- to beat the rush. There was only one other
person there and he was just entering the “pool”. He shouted
repeatedly, “OHHHH! The fires of Gehinom (Hell)”, as he inched into the
extra hot waters of the Mikvah. A little scared but still determined I
prepared for my entry and found out that he had been right. It was hot but
there was no turning back. I crept continually forward until I was almost
entirely immersed and lo and behold there was the other fellow, his head
bobbing like a beach ball. Steam rising all around and he had this serene
grimace on his face. I couldn’t resist. I said to him, “We get used to
Gehinom, don’t we!”
On the 9th of Av we are like little children sent away from the table. The
child sent to his room can artfully distract himself. His parents wait for
the breaking point. He might then even be willing to admit his faults like
fighting with his siblings etc. That time never comes. Why? He’s found
some candies, there’s a cell phone, a computer and a treasure of other
goodies. He’s forgotten that he’s being punished.
The father realizing that the child is too busily engaged in his “things”
forbids him for a time to play with these toys and those. Suddenly, he
feels alone and isolated from the family. Tears begin to stream. He cries
out longingly to his father and is invited to the table again with a
pleasant mixture of joy and humility.
On the 9th of Av we are to realize that we are lost, lost in exile. In so
doing and to that extent we become candidates to be found. Therefore for a
day we are removed from those things that give us either comfort or
consolation in our present station. And so while we find ourselves
deprived of Torah, the company of good friends, music, and food, we might
begin to wonder profoundly: “What are we missing on Tisha B’Av?”
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.