A common question that is always asked at this time of year is: is Tisha B’Av still relevant?
If it is relevant, why do we read Aicha (Lamentations)? We read it and are in an entirely different place and state of mind, we feel like hypocrites when reading about the desolation and death that is so far away from where we are today.
The Talmud in Rosh Hashana 18b says:
“דאמר רב חנא בר ביזנא אמר ר”ש חסידא מאי דכתיב (זכריה ח, יט): “כה אמר ה’ צבאות צום הרביעי וצום החמישי וצום השביעי וצום העשירי יהיה לבית יהודה לששון ולשמחה.” קרי להו צום וקרי להו ששון ושמחה בזמן שיש שלום יהיו לששון ולשמחה אין שלום צום.”
“As Rav Ḥana bar Bizna said that Rabbi Shimon Ḥasida said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Thus said the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall become times of joy and gladness, and cheerful seasons, to the house of Judah” (Zechariah 8:19). It calls them days of “fast” and it calls them “times of joy and gladness.” How so? When there is peace in the world, they will be times of joy and gladness, on which eulogies and fasting are forbidden; but when there is no peace, they are days of fasting…”
The Talmud’s words ring out loud and clear to me today. I read the, and am deeply saddened.
Is it relevant that today when we are literally fighting over Yerushalayim? The Arabs are rioting, terrorists at large slaughtering innocent families, the government are weakened by all this and are surrendering to their demands and we ask if it is relevant today?!
When there is peace the Talmud says we will not fast. I really wish we could honestly ask ourselves if the fast is even relevant today, but sadly we are not even close. When murderers of Israelis and Jews are made heroes and calls of incitement are zealously answered; we are far away from peace.
But it is because we today ask if Tishaa Be’Av is even relevant that we must read Aicha (Lamentations) today. In life, we only know how to appreciate what we have when we realize what we lost and what we didn’t have. We can easily look around today and think about how great we have it, and decide that it is time to forget the fast and party. We must be reminded that we are not there yet.
It is time to rethink our understandings about Yerushalayim. What does it really mean to us? is it a regular city? Is it a destination, or is it our destiny?
It is part of our destiny, part of our purpose as the Jewish people. We are not finished mourning the destruction we read about in Aicha (Lamentations), we are still not fully recovered from that fall. So we read it again.
We are far from achieving this purpose, this ultimate mission of making the world a better place through Yerushalayim as Yishayahu (2, 2-4) says:
וְהָיָ֣ה ׀ בְּאַחֲרִ֣ית הַיָּמִ֗ים נָכ֨וֹן יִֽהְיֶ֜ה הַ֤ר בֵּית־ה’ בְּרֹ֣אשׁ הֶהָרִ֔ים וְנִשָּׂ֖א מִגְּבָע֑וֹת וְנָהֲר֥וּ אֵלָ֖יו כָּל־הַגּוֹיִֽם׃
“In the days to come, The Mount of the LORD’s House Shall stand firm above the mountains And tower above the hills; And all the nations Shall gaze on it with joy.”
“וְֽהָלְכ֞וּ עַמִּ֣ים רַבִּ֗ים וְאָמְרוּ֙ לְכ֣וּ ׀ וְנַעֲלֶ֣ה אֶל־הַר־ה’ אֶל־בֵּית֙ אֱלֹקי יַעֲקֹ֔ב וְיֹרֵ֙נוּ֙ מִדְּרָכָ֔יו וְנֵלְכָ֖ה בְּאֹרְחֹתָ֑יו כִּ֤י מִצִּיּוֹן֙ תֵּצֵ֣א תוֹרָ֔ה וּדְבַר־ה’ מִירוּשָׁלִָֽם׃
“And the many peoples shall go and say: “Come, Let us go up to the Mount of the LORD, To the House of the God of Jacob; That He may instruct us in His ways, And that we may walk in His paths.” For instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”
“וְשָׁפַט֙ בֵּ֣ין הַגּוֹיִ֔ם וְהוֹכִ֖יחַ לְעַמִּ֣ים רַבִּ֑ים וְכִתְּת֨וּ חַרְבוֹתָ֜ם לְאִתִּ֗ים וַחֲנִיתֽוֹתֵיהֶם֙ לְמַזְמֵר֔וֹת לֹא־יִשָּׂ֨א ג֤וֹי אֶל־גּוֹי֙ חֶ֔רֶב וְלֹא־יִלְמְד֥וּ ע֖וֹד מִלְחָמָֽה׃ (פ)
“Thus He will judge among the nations And arbitrate for the many peoples, And they shall beat their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not take up Sword against nation; They shall never again know war.”
When we are in Yerushalayim there will finally be eternal peace. We can hang up our weapons and forget about them and these fast days completely. But only when we are a model to the world from Yerushalayim.
I hope we live to see this day soon, a day of peace, a day of hope and a day of happiness for all mankind.
Have a meaningful fast!
Leshana ha’baa Be’Yerushalyim ha’benuya!