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been subject to spiritual and physical persecution. During the Three
‫ בס"ד‬Weeks, our behavior reflects the sadness of this time period, the
“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list
subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for
members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (Editor: Arieh Yarden)
Dedicated to the loving memory of Avi Mori
Moshe Reuven ben Yaakov z”l
Please respect the Holiness of these pages
These pages are also sent out weekly via the internet in MS Word
format. Anyone interested in receiving them, please feel feee to
contact me at the following email address: [email protected] Arieh.
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YOMTOV, vol. VI # 5
We are now in the final days of the Three Weeks, the period of
time between the fasts of the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av. These
three weeks are spent in a state of mourning. We do not conduct
weddings, we do not cut our hair, and we refrain from enjoying music.
During the last nine days, we do not eat meat, drink wine, nor do we
bathe. The sorrow of our exile surrounds us at every moment during
this time of the year. While we are to mourn the loss of the Holy
Temple, the Bais HaMikdosh and the destruction of Jerusalem, and
pray for the end of this lengthy exile, we must remember that
Hashem is with us, watching us, ready to lift the burden of exile from
upon us at the proper time.
R' Avrohom Pam writes that we see in the Torah how G-d
watches out for us. In Bereshis, we read how the sons of Yaakov
disliked their brother Yosef. When the opportunity presented itself,
the brothers took Yosef and sold him as a slave to peddlers, who
eventually sold him into slavery in Egypt. Before the Torah continues
relating the travails of Yosef, the Torah tells us how Yehudah left his
brothers, married, and had children. Yehudah's wife died, and
subsequent to that, his oldest son died as well. Yehudah's second
son married his brother's widow, and he died as well. Yehudah was
worried that if his third son married this woman (as the laws of Yibum
[Devarim 25:5] dictate) he might perish as well, and therefore
Yehudah did not permit the marriage to occur. Tamar, Yehudah's
daughter-in-law, devised a plan that resulted in her bearing the
children of Yehudah himself. The dynasty of kings beginning with
David came from this union, and therefore Moshiach, the Messiah,
was descended from this union as well.
The question that arises upon beginning this relation of events is
its position in the Torah. Why was this "story" juxtaposed with the
sale of Yosef as a slave? The Medrash Rabbah (85:1) writes: " 'And it
came to pass at that time,' R. Shmuel b. Nachman commenced with
this: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the L-rd,
thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."
(Yirmiyah 29: 11). The tribes were engaged in selling Yosef, Yaakov
was taken up with his sackcloth and fasting, and Yehudah was busy
taking a wife, while the Holy One, blessed be He, was creating the
light of Messiah: thus, 'And it came to pass at that time...' 'Before she
labored, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered
of a son. (Yishaya 66: 7). Before the last who shall enslave [Israel]
was born, the first redeemer was born."
Yosef's sale as a slave in Egypt was the first link in a long chain
of events that culminated with the entire nation of Israel being
enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. Yet, even as the seeds of our exile
were planted, the seeds of redemption were being sowed. The
ancestor of Moshiach was born. The Torah wanted to illustrate that
even at the moment when we believe we are beginning our downfall,
that we will suffer, Hashem is preparing our redemption and
salvation. Therefore, the story of Yehudah and Tamar was placed
amidst the relation of the events surrounding Yosef's enslavement
Rav Pam notes that we see another instance of G-d's preparing
for redemption even before the exile occurs. Before his death,
Yaakov called for his son Yosef. Before blessing the children of
Yosef, Yaakov explained something to Yosef (Bereshis 48:7): "And
as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of
Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way to come to
Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath; which is BethLechem." The commentator Rashi explains that Yaakov wanted
Yosef to understand why Rachel was buried where she was. Yaakov
wanted Yosef to know that even though he wanted Rachel to be
buried in a more fitting location. However, Hashem decreed that
Rachel be buried along the road to Bais Lechem so that she could
come to the aid of her children. When the nation would be exiled in
the time of Nevuzradan, trudging along the path near her grave,
Rachel would see the pain of her people. She would cry and plead to
G-d for mercy for her children. Therefore, Yaakov explained, Rachel
had to be buried where she was, so that she would later come to the
effective aid of her children.
G-d knew that the nation of Israel would be exiled. Yet, he
prepared for Rachel to be there to intercede on behalf of the nation of
Israel during their time of need. G-d remembers His children at all
times. Even prior to the plan for our exile being set in motion, G-d
prepared for redemption and salvation. G-d is truly with us always.
Yaakov had to be sure that before he died, Yosef understood that
Rachel's burial place carried with it long standing significance.
We have been in exile for a long time. Our families have
recognition of the great suffering which we still endure. Although we
mourn and lament, we must still keep in mind that Hashem is
watching over us. He has already put in place the mechanisms for
our redemption. We cannot allow that spark of hope within us to be
extinguished. We must recognize that the exile will end. That end has
been planned for and provided for by G-d. With our striving to be
better people, with our repenting, our studying of the Torah, the
redemption, our light at the end of the tunnel, is clearly within sight.
Virtual Beit Midrash, Alon Shevut, Gush Etzion 90433 e-mail: [email protected],
Home Page:
By Rav Avi Baumol
(Based on a lecture by Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt"l, 1979)
On Tisha Be-av, two seemingly contradictory halakhic categories
confront each other. On the one hand, Tisha Be-av is first and
foremost a day of mourning. It is the epitome of aveilut yeshana,
"old mourning" which relates to a historical tragedy, as opposed to
aveilut chadasha, "new mourning" which relates to a recent personal
loss. Our mourning over the destruction of the Beit Ha-mikdash
leads us to think of this day as one of remembrance of something
which once was, and is no longer. On this day of grief-stricken
sadness, the overarching theme is one of passivity - after all, what
is mourning if not acceptance of the news of one's bitter loss? On
such a day, Chazal tell the mourner, "Shev ve-al ta'aseh" - don't
act, rather sit and be acted upon.
The laws of aveilut (mourning) are filled with don'ts: don't
work, talk, wear tefillin, learn Torah, cut your hair, shave, etc. On
Tisha Be-av, according to the Ramban, even the acts which one
would normally perform in order to demonstrate his mourning tearing, covering of the head, turning the bed over - do not apply,
seemingly because in this type of aveilut no remnant of activity
should exist. There is, however, one exception to this rule, as we
shall soon see. But, first, let us look at the second, contradictory
aspect of the day.
Aside from being a day of mourning, Tisha Be-av is also a
public fast day, a ta'anit tzibbur. It is not just any ta'anit tzibbur, but
perhaps the archetype of them all (on par with Yom Kippur). On this
day we not only refrain from eating and drinking (as on most other
fast days), but, similar to Yom Kippur, we observe four other
elements of suffering: no washing, wearing of leather shoes,
anointing, or sexual relations. As on other fasts, the passage "Vayechal Moshe" is recited at Mincha, and a typical spirit of teshuva
pervades the day. This spirit is apparent in the Torah portion we read
on the morning of Tisha Be-av, "Ki tolid banim," where the theme is
that of returning to God.
What symbolizes a public fast day? On the one hand, we refrain
from physical pleasures. However, this is not the goal of the day, but
rather a means of achieving the ultimate end of coming closer to
God. Prayer and mitzvot are the most salient activities of a typical
ta'anit tzibbur. On Tisha Be-av, the paradigmatic fast day, we would
assume that activity would be the major focus. Yet, due to its
aspect of mourning, this is certainly not the case, and therefore we
will see that there are exceptions to the general rules of fast days
on Tisha Be- av.
In sum, two "spirits of the day" seem to coincide on Tisha Be-av.
The day of mourning, which invokes passivity, confronts the
public fast day, which elicits action. How can we reconcile these
two motifs, melding them into one on this day? The answer may be
found by analyzing the exceptions to the rule.
There is one halakha which resembles a "kum ve-aseh"
(mandated action) on Tisha Be-av, and that is the recital of kinot.
While we are usually told to sit quietly and refrain from prayer, here
we are enjoined to wail and weep as we recite a book full of
dirges on the destruction of the Temple. Since the kinot represent
the essence of day, they must be recited, despite our proclivity
towards silence. What are kinot? In a word, a hesped, a eulogy.
But whereas in personal aveilut, one describes a person, the lost
one, on Tisha Be-av, the "met ha-mutal lefanenu" (the deceased in
front of us) is a composite of many things.
First and foremost, the "deceased lying before us" is the
Mikdash (Holy Temple). We mourn the loss of the glory of God
(Shekhina) which was centered within the community. We mourn
the erection of a barrier which has separated God from His people.
We mourn the severing of the special connection each Jew had
with God, and the great tragedy which manifested the severance
of that connection.
This mourning is so intense, that the kinot, which describe the
destruction of Jerusalem and convey our sense of sadness and
loss, also have an added dimension - they unleash the question of
"Eikha," How? We cry out: How can it be that God allowed this to
take place?
How did He let His beautiful Temple be defiled?
These are questions which, when asking them, have one treading
on thin theological ice. How do we dare challenge God with such a
Halakha states that man's reaction to calamity should be
submission: "Just as we bless God in times of joy, we bless Him
upon hearing of misery and grief." Did not Job ask these questions
in his moment of suffering and receive this reply: "Where were you
when I created the heavens and the earth? Declare to me if you
have understanding of these great events. ... Shall he who
reproves contend with the Almighty?" Job responds humbly,
"Behold, I am of no account; what can I answer you? Once I have
spoken but I will not again."
How then can we come along and raise these questions before
God? The answer is that were it not for Jeremiah who uttered the
lines first, we would never have had the audacity to say such words.
Jeremiah acts as a "matir" - he grants halakhic permission for man
to recite kinot. The mourning on this day is so intense and so allencompassing, that we are able to take the cue from Jeremiah
and recite kinot, uttering words that should not normally be said.
Tisha Be-av, then, is a day of mourning, focusing on the hesped
of the Beit Ha-mikdash and of Jerusalem. There is one more focal
point to this mourning which we shall explain shortly. First, let us
analyze the exceptions to the general rule of ta'anit tzibbur.
There are a few things glaringly missing in our tefilot on Tisha
Be-av. The first is selichot. How could we conjure up a fast day
without the concept of saying selichot? How can we pray
suitably without reciting the thirteen attributes of mercy?
Secondly, why do we skip certain parts of "U-va Le- tzion?"
Additionally, our formulaic Kaddish is incomplete - we skip the
line which asks God to accept the prayers and supplication of the
Jewish nation. Finally, we are missing a crucial component of fast
days - the additional ne'ila prayer (which is not exclusive to Yom
The common denominator of all of these factors is that they, in
some way, ask God to accept our prayers. They remind God of His
unceasing relationship with His people, and that is very much part
of our fast day teshuva process. We fast, pray, perform mitzvot,
and remind God of the promise He made to our forefathers, so that
when He hears our prayers He will have mercy on us and forgive
our sin. All this is appropriate on a regular fast day; however,
Tisha Be-av is different. It is not just a ta'anit tzibbur - it is a ta'anit
tzibbur of aveilut. Sadly enough, today God does NOT accept our
We read in Eikha various verses outlining God's resilience
against listening to our cries for mercy: "You have covered yourself
in your clouds so as not to accept our prayer (3:44) ... Even as I cry
and pray to you, my prayer is sealed (satam tefilati) (3:8) ... You
have slaughtered, you have not taken pity (3:43)."
The most
poignant testimony to this idea is found in the Book of Jeremiah:
God says to Jeremiah, the messenger of Israel, "Do not pray on
behalf of this nation and do not raise up to Me a cry or prayer for
them, for I will not listen to you (Jeremiah 11:14)."
Why does God choose not to lito our prayers on this day?
Perhaps it is to tell us that although this day is a public fast day, it is
NOT a day of teshuva. On this day, we cannot expect God to listen
to our requests for forgiveness, or our attempts at reconciliation.
Another way to put it is that on this day the teshuva aspect, too, is
enwrapped and shrouded in mourning.
Here lies the melding of the two concepts, and the final segment
of the variegated mourning. We mourn the Beit Ha-mikdash and the
loss of the Shekhina within the nation; but most of all we mourn the
motivation behind the severance of contact between God and His
people, i.e., our sin. The prophets are explicit in warning that the
destruction will come about only due to the nation's iniquity. This
generation of the first churban thought that they were doing well, or
at least better than the previous generation (when Menasheh was
king). It was sin which brought about the first (and second)
destructions and it is sin (and the lack of total teshuva) which has
prevented Tisha Be-av from becoming, in the words of the prophet
Zekharia, "a day of happiness, joy, and good times."
Chazal's declaration that every Tisha Be-av that continues to
be a day of mourning is equivalent to our destroying the Temple
ourselves, is quite poignant. It forces us to re-evaluate our own
lives during this day. Any teshuva which we might endeavor to
undertake on this day is too late! It should have taken place
beforehand, during the previous year, heightened in the last three
weeks, and even more so in the last nine days. The fact that we are
sitting on the floor today is testimony that we are not worthy of the
rebuilding of the Mikdash, and in such a case, our prayers our not
worthy of God's acceptance. This, then, is the true aveilut on this
The sense of our own unworthiness is the driving force behind
our recital of kinot. Our prayers will not be answered, so we must
fully understand the gravity of our situation. We must give the
ultimate hesped; we cry for what we had, what we lost, and most
importantly, for the reason we lost it.
In the morning prayer, we read from the Torah about teshuva.
Immediately following that, we read a haftara from Jeremiah,
reminding us of the aveilut of the day. The two together, by dint of
their proximity in time, remind us that the teshuva element is
intricately linked with the mourning. It is no wonder that we can not
begin to utilize the formulaic passages asking for mercy from God
on this fast day (i.e Selichot).
When can we recite "Va-yechal?" When do we ask for mercy
from God? Only after midday (and some say after all kinot are
recited). Why can we suddenly recite "Nachem" at Mincha?
Because at this late hour in the day, the ta'anit tzibbur element of the
day comes to the fore, and the aveilut aspect submerges into the
background. Why does this happen at all on Tisha Be-av, in light of
what we have said? Perhaps to say that while we have no chance
of affecting this Tisha Be-av, and all we have left to do is cry bitter
tears of mourning, it is not too early to try to alter next year's plans.
After midday, when all of the mourning has drained our souls,
the component of teshuva takes center stage, in the hope that this
Tisha Be-av will be our last to be marked by aveilut.
occupies a prominent position within the liturgy, there are only three
occasions on which we read from the Torah during Mincha Shabbat, Yom Kippur, and general fasts. Quite probably, the
afternoon reading during Yom Kippur stems either from its nature
as a fast or from its identity as a form of Shabbat (Yom Kippur is
referred to as Shabbat Shabbaton). Hence, we can reduce our
discussion to two different forms of Torah reading during Mincha –
Shabbat and ta'anit (fast days). The source for Torah reading during
Mincha on Shabbat can be located in the gemara Bava Kama
(82a): After witnessing the deleterious effects of spending three
days without Torah study, Moshe instituted public reading of the
Torah every Monday, Thursday and Shabbat afternoon. What,
however, is the source and essence of the mitzva to read from the
Torah during Mincha of a ta'anit tzibbur?
To help locate a source, we will begin by assessing the nature of
keriat ha-Torah on fasts in GENERAL. We will then question the
unique character of fasts in that the Torah is read during Mincha as
Possibly the most appropriate starting point is a gemara in
Megilla (22a) which questions the number of people who are called
to read from the Torah during a ta'anit (both Shacharit and Mincha).
The gemara weighs two positions. Instinctively, we would say
that we should not call more than three, since a ta'anit does not
obligate an extra korban Mussaf. In the Mikdash an extra korban
Mussaf was sacrificed on Yom Tov, Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh.
This extra sacrifice, and the unique sanctity of the day which it
reflects, should understandably mandate an extra "aliya." A ta'anit,
which does not enjoy this extra korban, is ostensibly not more holy
than a regular day and thus does not warrant an extra aliya.
However, the gemara also considers a possibility that a ta'anit
deserves an extra aliya since it has a "Mussaf tefilla" – an extra
prayer. There exists some debate regarding the identity of this
extra tefilla. According to Rashi, it refers to the addition of "Aneinu" in
Shemoneh Esrei (an extra passage added during the berakha of
"Shema Koleinu" petitioning God to accept our prayers).
Ramban (Ta'anit 15) disagrees, claiming that the gemara refers to
the tefilla of Ne'ila - an extra prayer service which was added on a
ta'anit tzibbur in the afternoon. In the days of the Mikdash, authentic
ta'aniyot tzibbur were far more common than they are in our day.
A true ta'anit tzibbur might include prohibitions which extend
beyond merely eating and drinking, and requires an extra tefilla
during the afternoon. The only contemporary incidence of tefillat
Ne'ila occurs on Yom Kippur.
Whether we accept Rashi's view or the Ramban's, the same
question emerges: Why should the additional tefilla obligate an extra
aliya? An extra korban logically obligates an extra aliya (or several
extra aliyot on Yom Tov) since it mirrors a higher level of kedusha
on those days. This kedusha is expressed partially through the
extra korban and partially through the prohibition of working.
Hence, it makes sense to augment the number of aliyot. However,
ta'anit tzibbur seemingly has no extra halakhic level of kedusha,
does not obligate an extra korban, nor does any prohibition from
work apply.
Why should the presence of an extra tefilla (or,
according to Rashi, an addition to the tefilla) possibly obligate an
extra aliya?
The answer to this question quite possibly lies in understanding a
gemara in Megilla (22b). The gemara says that any day which is
"more" than its counterpart receives an additional aliya. For
example, the kedusha of Yom Kippur is qualitatively different from
that of Yom Tov and hence the number of aliyot on Yom Kippur is
increased from five to six. Does this formula apply only to days
which enjoy increased kedusha? Does the formula merely suggest
that the number of aliyot reflects the hierarchy of days in terms of
kedusha? If this were true, then ta'anit tzibbur would be left out in
the cold, since it has no increased kedusha and is excluded from
the hierarchy. Alternatively, is the gemara suggesting that any day
which contains ANY special, extended status deserves an extra
aliya to reflect that unique experience? Generally, the special
status takes the form of higher kedusha. On fasts, however, no
kedusha exists, but certainly the day has a unique status which might
be reflected by an extra aliya. If this latter interpretation is
accepted, we have grounds to add an aliya on a ta'anit. All that
remains is to identify that unique cor facet of ta'anit.
Day of Teshuva
The Rambam (Hilkhot Ta'anit 1:1-2) highlights a fast day as one
of teshuva. The constraint upon eating is intended to focus
attention upon our behavior and the resulting crisis. (Keep in mind
that, ideally, a ta'anit is called in response to an actual crisis –
famine, war, plague etc; our ta'aniyot based upon past tragedies are
extensions of those original fast days.)
Rav Soloveitchik
claimed that not only is the day dedicated to teshuva but the
Nechemia (9:1-3) describes a public fast day called immediately
upon the return from
Bavel addressing
intermarriage which had occurred. After confessing their sins,
the public gathered for a general recital from the Torah.
Evidently, the reading from the Torah forms an integrated part of the
ta'anit/teshuva experience.
That keriat ha-Torah on fasts participates in teshuva can be
witnessed in the choice of what is read. Though the mishna in
Megilla (30b) lists the blessings and curses (the tokhacha in
parashat Bechukotai), the beraita (31a) substitutes "Va-yechal
Moshe" (from parashat Ki Tisa) as the selected reading. Though
the tokhacha graphically describes our penchant for errant behavior
and the tragedies which will ensue, parashat Ki Tisa actually
describes the first teshuva process. It might be more suitable to
promote the process of teshuva.
By Rav Moshe Taragin
The role of keriat ha-Torah within teshuva can also be deduced
[Note: The following shiur is loosely based on ideas expressed by
from a fascinating dispute between the Tana'im about the number of
Rav Soloveitchik in a shiur on keriat ha- Torah.]
aliyot. The gemara cited earlier considers ADDING an aliya
Although keriat ha-Torah (the reading of the Torah)
due to the extra tefilla. There exists a dispute among the Tana'im
(22b) even about the minimum number of three aliyot. According to
Rav Yosi, the minimum three are called on every ta'anit.
According to the Tana Kama, however, three are called only if a
ta'anit occurs on Monday or Thursday – since they would be called
even if it were not a ta'anit. If, however, a ta'anit occurs on another
weekday, only one person is called to read from the Torah. How
might we define keriat ha-Torah on fasts in a manner which would
justify calling LESS than three people?
Quite possibly, this position reflects the unique nature of
reading from the Torah on a ta'anit. Standard keriat ha-Torah is an
exercise in learning Torah in public. Reading from the Torah on a
ta'anit, however, is meant to catalyze the process of teshuva. As
such, the reading of the haftara may be seen as more effective in
this aim and hence more central to the day. Unlike the portion from
the Torah which describes our historical sins, and records the first
public teshuva, the chapters from Nevi'im actually exhort us to
perform teshuva. In fact, one of the basic features of Nevi'im is
the constant chastising which we receive from the prophets as they
admonish us and urge us to repent. If teshuva is the order of the
day and the purpose of reading from Scripture, we might accent the
reading of the haftara in place of reading from the Torah. This
might be the position of the Tana Kama. Essentially, the reading
from the Torah is merely the prelude to the more crucial reading
from Nevi'im. Halakha still demands that every reading from Nevi'im
be preceded by a reading from the Torah (see the gemara, 23a).
Since the Torah reading is only a preamble, one aliya suffices.
Even Rav Yosi, who required the standard three aliyot, might
have viewed teshuva as the ultimate goal of our public reading. In
addition, he might also have highlighted the reading of the Nevi'im
over reading from the Torah. However, the basic structure of Torah
reading must be retained even if that reading merely introduces the
reading of Nevi'im and therefore three aliyot must be called.
We have suggested that Torah reading on fasts contributes
the environment of
which constitutes the true
purpose of the day. This might be reflected by the section which is
read, as well as by the number of aliyot. Ironically, the same
concept - that the reading should promote teshuva - might
mandate an extra aliya (given the added role which teshuva plays) or
might tolerate a reduction in the number of aliyot (the position of the
Tana Kama).
This concept might also be reflected in a famous question
raised by R. Akiva Eiger. Can someone who is not fasting (even for
legitimate reasons) be called to an aliya on a ta'anit? Why should
such a restraint be placed? Someone who flaunts the community
by rejecting the ta'anit certainly does not deserve an aliya; but what
about someone who has a valid heter (permission not to fast – for
example a health issue)?
If we view the reading as part of the teshuva process, we
might better understand this halakha. The teshuva of a ta'anit is
performed through fasting, and the Torah reading is integrated into
that experience. Though we might not blame someone who is
excused from the fast, he might not be best suited to broker the
teshuva by representing the tzibbur in reading from the Torah. Had
keriat ha-Torah on fasts been merely incidental to the day, we would
not adopt such a limitation.
Recognizing a ta'anit as a day dedicated to teshuva and the
keriat ha-Torah as an integral part of that repentance, we might
better understand the extra aliya. If extra aliyot are not merely the
product of EXTRA KEDUSHA but also of EXTRA OR EXTENDED
EXPERIENCES, fasts (as well as Yom Tov) might enjoy an extra
aliya. In general, keriat ha-Torah is merely an opportunity to
study Torah in a public setting. For this experience, three aliyot
suffice. However, on fasts the reading from the Torah plays an
additional role - it prompts the teshuva process. The gemara itself,
when questioning the number of aliyot on a ta'anit, might have
been questioning the criteria for adding aliyot. Does only Yom Tov
receive extra aliyot due to its ascending levels of kedusha indicated
by korban Mussaf? Or does any day with unique experiences and
SUPPLEMENTARY or EXTENDED roles for keriat ha-Torah receive
extra aliyot to reflect the transformed experience? If the latter were
true, then fasts would easily qualify for extra aliyot. [The fact that
today we do not add an aliya on a ta'anit does not disprove our
understanding of an extended function of keriat ha-Torah on ta'anit; it
merely implies that this extended role is possibly not enough to
require extra aliyot.]
Having determined the unique element of keriat ha- Torah on
ta'anit, we can return to our original question: Why does ta'anit
warrant reading from the Torah during Mincha? In general, we
recognize Mincha-time as the critical moments of teshuva during a
ta'anit. The verse in Ezra (9:5) declares this when Ezra writes,
"During the Mincha time I arose from my ta'anit, tore my clothing,
bowed on my knees, spread my hands upward to Hashem my
God." After all, the extra tefilla of Ne'ila can only be recited in the
afternoon, further confirming the afternoon as the crucial period for
tefilla and teshuva. If keriat ha-Torah were truly part of the
teshuva process, it should certainly be performed in the
afternoon as well.
In fact, according to some positions, keriat ha- Torah of ta'anit
is performed ONLY during Mincha. The gemara in Megilla (30b)
describes the schedule for ta'anit: "Half the day was designated for
public moral inventory, the next quarter for reading from the Torah
and Nevi'im, and the final quarter for pleading for mercy." The
impression from the gemara is that keriat ha- Torah was performed
only in the afternoon and not in the morning during Shacharit. Of
course, Halakha does not accept this ruling [see, for example, the
Lechem Mishneh in his comments to the Rambam, Hilkhot Ta'anit
1:17]. However, some vestige of this gemara remains in that
we recite a haftara only during Mincha and not during Shacharit.
If indeed the haftara from Nevi'im plays a more crucial role in
promoting teshuva, it might be better recited in the afternoon - the
period of the day designated for teshuva.
In conclusion, although we do not accept the opinion of adding
an aliya on a ta'anit, the principle which motivated that posistill
holds true: The day is one devoted to teshuva. Keriat ha-Torah
on ta'anit gives expression to this theme of promoting teshuva. It
is thus logical that we read not only the Torah, but the haftara too,
at Mincha, which is the height of the teshuva aspect of the day.
(C) 1999 Aish HaTorah International - All rights reserved. Email: [email protected] Home Page:
MAYANOT (by Rabbi Noson Weisz)
-The renewal of the Jewish Nation in our time gives us an
unprecedented chance for unity
* * *
It is Tisha B’av today. I just came back from the Kotel, the
Western Wall, where I recited the afternoon prayer, Mincha, with
thousands of other Jews.. Over the course of the entire day,
hundreds of thousands of Jews must have come to visit the site of
our destroyed Holy Temple, expressing their fervent prayers for its
reconstruction. They cannot attend the Holy Temple itself at present,
but they are unable to stay away from its ruins.
We sit here a mere two generations away from the greatest
destruction our people ever experienced. Besides the systematic
annihilation of six million of our people, all our institutions were totally
destroyed. Not a single Yeshiva, not a single congregation survived.
Never in our people’s long history has there been anything to equal
it. At the same time, considering the size of the crowd I witnessed, it
is difficult to imagine how broken we were such a short time ago.
One cannot associate the vibrant people I witnessed today with the
pathetically forlorn holocaust images with which we are all so
familiar. In fact looking at my own mother, a holocaust survivor, and
glancing at the same time at my children, her own grandchildren, is
an incredible experience. There is just no rational continuity to these
generations. It is incredible that such self confidence and pride could
have emerged from such unbelievable persecution and loss.
In the scant space of a mere two generations the Jewish people
have recovered their numbers, have rebuilt their Yeshivas, have
reestablished their congregations. They have built themselves a
modern booming state on their ancient homeland, and have
successfully defended it several times in major wars with the first
Jewish army seen in the world for over two thousand years. They
have established vibrant communities all over the world, where once
again their power and influence is out of all proportion to their
numbers in all areas of life. These are all scenes out of a fairy tale.
Such phenomena simply do not occur in the real world.
It is in the nature of the human mind to look for reasons when
confronted with such incredible events. God is well aware of this
human tendency that He Himself planted in our souls. What kind of
thoughts might He have wanted to inspire in Jews through the
infliction of such incredible destruction and the granting of such
unbelievable recovery?
When I look back on the world that the Jewish people found
themselves in before the two world wars and I compare it with the
world we are in now I cannot help but find some very striking
contrasts. For the past two thousand years since the destruction of
the second Temple, the Jewish people has lived scattered among
the nations, largely in a state of persecution devoid of human rights.
Except for brief periods of respite we were driven from place to
place, mercilessly slaughtered periodically, living on the fickle good
will of well disposed despots in between.
Look at us now in the new world. Our civil rights are enshrined in
the constitutions of nearly every country in which we live, we have
our own state on our ancient homeland, and face no foreseeable
threat of annihilation anywhere in the world. We are not the
continuation of the same people. This is quite literally true. All our
public institutions were mercilessly and systematically destroyed by
the Nazis. No synagogue is the continuation of an old world
synagogue except in name, no yeshiva is an offshoot of a parent
institution except in name, all our public institutions are brand new.
As individuals we survived, as a people we were totally destroyed
and rebuilt ourselves from scratch.
In this respect the destruction of European Jewry closely
resembles the destruction of our Temples. The destruction of each
Temple brought a period of Jewish history to an end and ushered in
a new era. Thus the destruction was never totally negative. Each
time, the Jewish people reinvented themselves and busily set off on
a brand new mission. Perhaps it would clarify our own situation if we
looked at the changes that the previous destructions wrought.
The Rabbis taught us (Yoma 9b) that the destruction of the first
Temple was caused by idolatry, licentiousness, and bloodshed,
whereas the destruction of the second Temple was caused by the
idle hatred between fellow Jews. But what caused these sins? To
what were they a reaction?
Perhaps we can find the key in idolatry. The Torah is replete with
admonitions against idolatry. To us this is incomprehensible for we
feel not the slightest desire to serve idols. The Talmud (Sanhedrin,
102b) recounts a story about Rav Ashi, one of the authors of the
Babylonian Talmud. He was teaching his students the book of Kings.
When he came to the end of his lecture, he announced that
tomorrow he would teach them about Menashe, Chizkiyahu’s son,
who was perhaps the most evil king in the first Temple period and a
great idol worshipper. Rav Ashi referred to him as an ordinary
person, as he did not want to show respect to such a great evildoer.
That night, Menashe appeared to Rav Ashi in a dream and asked
him a question in Torah law, which Rav Ashi was unable to
answer. Menashe told him the answer and then demanded the
respect due a great Torah scholar. Rav Ashi then asked him in his
dream why had he been such a great worshipper of idols if he was
such a great Torah scholar. Menashe answered him that if he would
have been alive when Menashe lived, he, Rav Ashi, would have run
to serve idols.
The first Temple period could be likened to childhood. We were
at God’s table then. We had prophets who taught us God’s message
and the presence of God was manifest among us. All normal
children love their parents dearly, but all children want to rebel when
they reach their adolescence. The parental home is wonderful but
stifling. The child wants to gain his independence and make his own
decisions. Distance from God is obtained by inserting a middle man
between myself and God. This is the temptation of idol worship.
The destruction of the first Temple was the end of childhood for
the Jewish people. No longer was the guiding hand of God manifest.
No longer did He send messages to them through His prophets.
The second Temple was destroyed by idle hatred. The second
Temple stood on the strength of a united Jewish people. When the
Jews speak with one voice, they automatically find God. Unity was
achieved by Jews only at Mt.Sinai. The acceptance of the Torah is
the only idea around which we can unify. This Temple represents
early adulthood when one’s social life is everything. We are already
free of the parental home, we are away at school. Our parents still
support us financially but their presence is no longer oppressive. It is
with our friends that we now have our conflicts. The lessons in this
stage of a person’s life teach him the value of society.
But eventually, we find even this oppressive. As we grow older,
we want to be all on our own. We want to try our own strength
against the world. We want to establish our own home and conquer
the world by our own efforts.
The second Temple was destroyed, and the Jewish people broke
down into little pockets of settlement scattered across the face of a
hostile world. By dint of much effort and ingenuity, we succeeded in
demonstrating to the world throughout our incredibly difficult two
thousand year exile the strength of our endurance. We showed our
stubborn ability to overcome all hardships to hold on to what is
dearest to us: our God, our Torah, our sense of selves.
This period represents our adulthood. Looking back on this part
of our history, we can only tip our hats to our grandparents who
managed to bring us through it so successfully against such
incredible odds.
We are too old for this now. The immature rebellion of
adolescence is behind us now, as is the competitive turmoil of youth.
We have survived the tribulations of a difficult adulthood and arrived
at our old age. We are preparing for the end of our history now,
gathering the force to sum up our life and put ourselves in order
before the end.
Now is the time for spiritual reckoning. What has our life been
about, what have we accomplished, what are we taking with us to
face our maker?
We must reach out now with our remaining strength and recover
our scattered parts. We have a lot of brains out there, a lot of heart,
much talent and idealism. People are not afraid of being Jewish
anymore. The terrible travails of our adulthood that scared so many
of our number to leave in the hope of escaping pain and suffering
are no longer our lot. We are no longer such a tight knit community
that anyone need fear losing their identity by rejoining.
All the negatives that drove Jews out are gone, while the positive
force of being able to unite behind the idea of accepting the Torah is
still very much present.
It seems to me, that in this golden autumn of our life as a people,
there is a great opportunity to rebuild our strength. Abraham has
many children out there in the world. Imagine the immense spiritual
power they could unleash if we could rejoin them with their Jewish
This is our historic task now, this is the task that faces the Jewish
People in this era. We must teach ourselves to stop being on the
defensive, we must abandon our protective crouch. We must reach
out to our fellow Jews with love and confidence and with a prayer to
God: Do not cast us away in old age; when our strength gives out do
not forsake us. (Psalms 71:9)