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Is Tisha B’Av a holiday?

Photo Courtesy Joshua Halickman

Parshat Devarim is always read on the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av (the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av) the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. Originally, Tisha B’Av was supposed to be the happiest day of the year. How did it happen that the happiest day became the saddest day?

The first calamity that fell on the 9th of Av is Chet HaMiraglim, the Sin of the Scouts which is recounted in Parshat Devarim (in addition to Parshat Shlach, the parsha dedicated to the Sin of the Scouts in the Book of Bamidbar).

The scouts came back from their 40 day tour of the Land and instead of giving rave reviews and words of encouragement to the soon to be olim (immigrants to the Land of Israel) they brought back a negative report which caused the rest of the nation to lose interest in moving there. It was then decreed that they would wander the desert for 40 years and only the new generation would enter the Land.

In Dvarim 1:41 we see the nation’s response: “We have sinned to God. We will go up and wage war in fulfilment of all that HaShem, our God commanded us.” They then got their weapons ready to fight.

In Dvarim 1:42, God said to Moshe: “Say to them, ‘Do not go up and wage war, for I am not in your midst; so that they will not be shattered by your enemies.’”

Even though they repented, it was too late for them to be able to enter the Land at that time. Their plan to conquer the land failed and they were beaten back with great losses.

According to Rav Moshe Lifschitz, based on the teachings of Rav Dessler in Michtav M’Eliyahu (Volume 2), Tisha B’Av is a tikun (correction) for the Sin of the Scouts. When the scouts returned from visiting the Land, they caused B’nai Yisrael to cry for no reason. The nation had to live in the desert for a generation until their desire for the Land was fully restored. On Tisha B’Av, we are crying for a reason. By crying for the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, we are transitioning to the next step of rebuilding. We are showing that we truly desire to be in the Land of Israel and in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem.

We learn in the Shulchan Aruch, Laws of Tisha B’Av 559:4 that Tisha B’Av is referred to as a moed, a holiday and therefore Tachnun is not recited.

Why would Tisha B’Av be considered a holiday?

In Megillat Eicha 1:15 the word “moed” is mentioned: “God has trampled all my heroes in my midst; he proclaimed a ‘moed’, a set time against me to crush my young men. As in a winepress, God has trampled the maiden daughter of Yehuda.”

The Shelah, HaRav Yishayahu HaLevi Horovitz, taught that the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash is part of the process of rebuilding. Destruction brings us to the point where (Eicha 4:22) “the punishment of your iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion.” After which the eternal Beit HaMikdash will be built and it will never be destroyed. Therefore we give honor to the destruction as we give honor to the rebuilding.

The Shelah continues: It is taught in Zecharia 8:19, “…The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth shall become times of joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts to the house of Yehuda, therefore love the truth and peace.” The Torah hints to us in the words of Aharon which were said on the 17th of Tamuz (Shmot 32:5), “a festival for HaShem tomorrow,” that in the future the 17th of Tamuz will be a holiday of joy and gladness. And Tisha B’Av is called “moed” since it too will be a holiday.

The Shelah adds that Tisha B’Av always falls out of the same day of the week as the first day of Pesach, when B’nai Yisrael were redeemed from Egypt which is the precursor to the future redemption as it says in Micha 7:15: “As in the days when you left the land of Egypt I will show it miracles.”

We conclude Eicha with the hope that the redemption will come soon: “Turn us to you O God that we may be turned! Renew our days as of old.”

May we merit to celebrate Tisha B’Av as a holiday in the Third Beit HaMikdash in Yerushalayim.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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