It was a particularly moving chuppah for the two mechutanim, as both the chassan and kallah were the youngest in their families, born relatively late in life to their parents. As per local custom, a lengthy break was planned before the actual meal would begin, during which the young friends of the chassan and kallah would dance, waiting for the new couple to reenter the hall.
One mechutan, feeling his age a bit, turned to the other. “I think I will lie down and take a nap until the meal begins,” he said.
“Good idea,” the other father responded. “I think I will do the same.”
According to the age-old Jewish custom, the two families, both of whom were considerably wealthy, had invited several tables of impoverished guests to the simchah so that they could enjoy a festive meal and gladden their own spirits. One of the poor invitees, who was sitting around waiting for the seudah to begin, overheard the conversation.
“We are also tired,” he remarked to his friend. “We have no interest in dancing now. Why don’t we do the same, and get some sleep until the food is served?”
The other poor man rejected the idea out of hand. “You want to imitate the mechutanim? They know that they will certainly be woken when the seudah starts, as the wedding meal won’t take place without them. We, on the other hand — if we are present we will receive our portion, but who will wake us if we sleep?”
The sefer Kehilas Yitzchak quotes Harav Zev Wolf, zt”l, a Dayan in Vilna, as using this parable to answer a question he posed.
Chazal (Sanhedrin 98b) tells us that the saintly Amora Ulla said that because of the great suffering Am Yisrael will endure immediately preceding the coming of Moshiach, they would prefer not to be actually present on this temporal world when he arrives.
“May he come, but may I not see him,” Ulla says, as did the Amora’im Rabbah and Rabi Yochanan.
In that case, why do we plead three times a day in Shemoneh Esrei, “May our eyes behold Your return to Tzion in compassion…”? Why should we wish to witness something that Amora’im didn’t?
Harav Zev Wolf explains that Ulla, Rabbah and Rabi Yochanan were like the wealthy mechutanim. They knew that even if they wouldn’t be physically alive during the coming of Moshiach, these spiritual giants would be “awakened” to partake in the lofty seudah that will be held when Moshiach arrives. But for lesser mortals, there is no such guarantee, so being present in the world is a great advantage.
* * *
As we prepare to usher in Shabbos Nachamu, we have exited a period of mourning and usher in a time of consolation and happiness. In some communities, there is even a custom to seek to make a siyum at the conclusion of the fast on Motzoei Tishah B’Av and therefore be permitted to eat a meat seudah at a time when ordinarily it would still be prohibited until the following midday.
Why, indeed, should we allow our souls to be gladdened, when the Beis Hamikdash still hasn’t been rebuilt?
The first Rebbe of Vorka, zy”a, teaches that it is precisely the fact that after all these years of galus we still mourn the Beis Hamikdash that serves as the reason for our joy.
Yaakov Avinu refused to accept consolation for the “death” of Yosef Hatzaddik, because he was alive. Hakadosh Baruch Hu placed in the hearts of mankind the ability to accept consolation — but only for a niftar, not for the living.
The fact that we still mourn, the fact that we still cry, is proof that the notion of Geulah is still very much “alive” — and therefore we rejoice.
However, in this light, the words of this week’s haftarah, “Nachamu, nachamu, ami…,” would seem perplexing. Since we don’t perceive the Beis Hamikdash as something we lost forever, how is it possible for us to accept consolation over something that is still “alive”?
The Chasam Sofer explains that what we are accepting consolation for is the two Batei Mikdash that were built by man, for these will never be rebuilt. The third Beis Hamikdash will be something the likes of which had never been on this temporal world — a Beis Hamikdash that will descend from Shamayim, built, so to speak, by Hakadosh Baruch Hu Himself.
The Chasam Sofer uses this concept to explain pesukim in this week’s haftarah.
The Navi states: “The Voice says, ‘Proclaim!’ and he says, ‘What shall I proclaim? All flesh is grass and its kindness is like the flower of the field. … The grass shall whither, the flower shall fade, but the word of our G-d shall stand forever’” (Yeshayah 40:6, 8).
The Navi has been told to proclaim a consolation for Klal Yisrael, and so he asks how it is possible to console about a living thing, something that hasn’t been lost forever.
The answer is that like the grass that withers and the flower that fades, the Batei Mikdash built by Klal Yisrael will never return; instead, the third Beis Hamikdash will be built through the word of Hashem and will last for eternity.
May we merit to behold it with our own eyes very soon.