Tishah B’Av, without question, is a very taxing day. But even for those who have a relatively easy time fasting, there is another challenge to the day that is unique. Other mo’adim (Tishah B’Av is referred to as a mo’ed) are easier to connect to emotionally, through the joy of Yom Tov on Sukkos, the exultation of Yetzias Mitzrayim on Pesach and the gratitude for the Torah on Shavuos.
But many people ask a question about Tishah B’Av, one that is so prevalent that hardly a year goes by without a public lecture on this topic: How can we, today (in 5774), truly mourn the Churban Habayis?
The first time I was in a sleep-away camp over Tishah B’Av was as a young bachur about to begin mesivta. Before Maariv, Harav Yaakov Landau, shlita, addressed us and, in order to give us some appreciation of this special day and help us achieve a measure of sadness over the galus, he told us this mashal.
“A young child and his father got lost in a forest. For many days they traveled, searching for a way out, but to no avail. They survived on water from a stream and some wild berries and herbs they found along the way. Day after day, the young boy would cry to his father that the food he was given to eat was causing him severe stomach pains.
“One day, the boy came to his father with a big smile on his face. ‘Father,’ he exclaimed, ‘I have great news! My stomach doesn’t hurt anymore! There’s nothing for me to cry about any longer.’
“The father then began to cry bitter tears. ‘My child,’ he wept, ‘if your stomach no longer hurts from eating these unhealthy herbs, it’s a sign that you are sick. And that, my son, is the greatest reason to cry.’”
The point is an obvious one. If we can’t bring ourselves to mourn, it’s a sign that there is something wrong with us. That, of course, is the greatest reason to mourn.
With all that is going on in the world, all the challenges that galus presents us, how can one not bring himself to mourn the fact that we are in galus?
But therein lies the second half of this question. Crying over the Churban, one might say, is one thing. But how can we justify crying over personal tzaros, or even communal troubles, as though we are mourning the Churban Habayis?
Yet we know that there is no contradiction. There are kinnos in memory of the massacres of Tach V’Tat, as well as kinnos written by Gedolim to commemorate the horrors of the Holocaust. But what is the reasoning behind this?
Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, in his sefer Taamah D’Krah, shares an insight that goes a long way toward addressing this question. Megillas Eichah, he points out, speaks at length about the awful occurrences that took place at the time of Churban Habayis, yet the Churban itself is not afforded the same lengthy treatment. Why is that?
To answer, he brings a Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 42:3) that says that the Churban itself actually had some good to it. By pouring out His wrath on the wood and stones of the Beis Hamikdash, Chazal say, Hakadosh Baruch Hu spared His children from the punishment they really deserved for all their sins.
As it turns out, says Rav Chaim, the Churban itself is not what we are concentrating on as much as the tzaros that came as a result of it, for while the Churban served a positive purpose, the tzaros simply are a manifestation of the galus. Since there is no inherent positive aspect to those tzaros, they are purely tragic. Eichah concentrates on them because suffering that came as an effect of the Churban has no explicit redeeming value of its own.
According to this, we can understand why we concentrate on all the suffering we have endured throughout this long and bitter galus. Those hardships and tragedies are what make the Churban what it was and galus what it is.
When we see that the nations of the world feel animus toward us because we are the Chosen People of Hashem, we need to remember that we are only subject to their rule because we are in galus. When we remember the horrors that befell our parents and grandparents in Europe, we need to remind ourselves that it would not have been possible if we were not in galus and living during a period of hester panim. And when we think of personal disputes that people have with each other, we need to remember that sinas chinam was what put us into this awful position.
But we are not the only ones in galus. Hakadosh Baruch Hu and the Torah are in galus as well. When we think of how the Torah and those who learn it are ridiculed, we should remember that that, too, is an effect of Churban Habayis.
By recognizing that, we can properly mourn over Yerushalayim, and ultimately merit to see it b’vinyanah. (Taanis 30b)