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Shabbat Nachamu
Tu B’Av: Jewish Valentine’s Day? Print E-mail
Monday, 23 July 2018

Now that Tisha B’Av is behind us, stores throughout Israel are selling fancy chocolates, teddy bears and heart shaped gifts that look like they belong to Valentine’s Day. How was Tu B’Av (the 15th of the month of Av) originally celebrated and how was it revived to become Israel’s national day of love?

In the last Mishna in Masechet Ta’anit (4:8), we read: Rabban Shimon ben Gamiliel said: Israel had no days as festive as Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur, when the maidens of Jerusalem would go out dressed in white garments that were borrowed, so as not to embarrass one who had none…The maidens of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vineyards. And what would they say? Young man, raise your eyes and see what you chose for yourself. Do not pay attention to beauty, pay attention to family. As it says in Eshet Chayil (Proverbs 31:30) “Grace is false and beauty is vain, a woman who fears God shall be praised, give her the fruits of her hands, and let her be praised in the cities with her deeds.”

The Talmud, Ta’anit 31a elaborates:

A Tanna taught:

Whoever lacked a wife would turn there to find one.

The rabbis taught in a Braita:

What did the beautiful maidens say? Pay attention to beauty.

What did the maidens of distinguished lineage say? Pay attention to family.

What did the unattractive maidens say? Acquire your purchase for the sake of heaven, but only on condition that after marriage you adorn us with gold jewelry and beautiful clothing.

Rav Steinsaltz comments: Once you buy us beautiful jewelry and clothing then we will also be beautiful.

In the Mishna, Masechet Nedarim 9:10, Rabbi Yishmael said: The daughters of Israel are beautiful but poverty makes them ugly. Once a woman who at first seems ugly is adorned, she becomes beautiful.

This reminds me of the before and after makeover pictures that you find in magazines. Once they put on tasteful makeup, a new hairstyle and fancy clothing and jewelry, the woman who at first may have looked plain now looks much more attractive.

We see from here that once you can afford a good makeover, the beauty issue is solved. It is better to focus on what is inside, her midot (good attributes).

When we sing Eshet Chayil each Friday night, we are really singing about a wonder woman (actually, the original Hebrew translation for Wonder Woman was Eshet Chayil). She works really hard both inside and outside of her home to provide for her family, she is dressed like royalty, gives Tzedaka (charity), does Chesed (acts of loving kindness), speaks words of Torah and is appreciated by her family. Although she may have grace and beauty, the end of the day, what is not important is that she is a God fearing person.

Tu B’Av is a serious Jewish holiday which originated way before Valentine’s Day. On Tu B’Av, the Tachnun prayer is not recited and brides and grooms do not fast. In order to ensure that there will be more weddings, when looking for a mate, singles should keep in mind that beauty is only skin deep, what really counts is inside.

 
Why The “Nachem” (Consolation) Prayer is Unfortunately Still Relevant Print E-mail
Friday, 08 August 2014

In Honor of Sharona Halickman’s 10th Aliya Anniversary!

This past Tuesday was the tenth Tisha B’Av in a row that I have commemorated in Jerusalem. Tisha B’Av this year was totally different as it was commemorated during Tsuk Eitan, a war in which Jerusalem was targeted along with most of the State of Israel.

 

On Monday morning, Erev Tisha B’Av, Arab-Israelis rioted on the Temple Mount injuring five policemen. Next, an Arab-Israeli resident of Jabel el Mukabar (an Arab village a “stone’s throw” away from my home) used the construction vehicle that he was working with as a weapon to overturn a bus killing Rabbi Avrohom Vales z”l, a 29 year old pedestrian. Later that day, an Arab motorcyclist fired at an Israeli soldier, Chen Schwartz leaving him in critical condition.

 

Monday night, after the reading of Eicha on Jerusalem’s Tayelet (the promenade that overlooks the Old City of Jerusalem) fireworks and worse were once again thrown by residents of the Arab villages in the direction of Jewish homes in Armon HaNatziv.

 

On Tuesday morning, right before the “cease fire” rockets were shot all over Israel from Gaza. One rocket was targeted at Jerusalem. The rocket hit a house of an Arab family in Bethlehem and a giant piece of debris from the rocket fell on Derech Hevron, just a few blocks away from my home.

 

Later that day, a security guard was stabbed at the entrance of Maaleh Adumim. The Arab who stabbed the security guard escaped into one of the surrounding Arab villages.

 

On Tisha B’Av, the Mincha prayer for Rebuilding of Jerusalem is different. The following words are added:

 

Nachem- Console O Lord our God,

The mourners of Zion

The mourners of Jerusalem,

And the city that is in sorrow, laid waste,

Scorned and desolate;

That grieves for the loss of its children,

That is laid waste of its dwellings,

Robbed of its glory, desolate without inhabitants.

She sits with her head covered like a barren childless woman.

Legions have devoured her;

Idolaters have taken possession of her;

They have put your people Israel to the sword

and deliberately killed the devoted followers of the Most High.

Therefore Zion weeps bitterly,

And Jerusalem raises her voice.

My heart, my heart grieves for those they killed;

I am in anguish for those they killed.

For you, O Lord, consumed it with fire

And with fire you will rebuild it in the future,

As I said (Zecharia 2:9) “And I myself will be a wall of fire around it says the Lord and I will be its glory within.”

Blessed are you HaShem who consoles Zion and rebuilds Jerusalem.

 

Since 1967, there have been opinions that the Nachem prayer is no longer relevant since the city of Jerusalem is now in Jewish hands.

 

However, I have to disagree with them. We have the Kotel yet Jews are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. Just two weeks ago, instead of respecting our holiest place, Arab-Israelis burned the police station on the Temple Mount. Jews are not free to live or even walk in every neighborhood of Jerusalem yet the Arab Israelis are free to take driving lessons on my street and shop in my neighborhood. Much of the Eastern side of Jerusalem is poorly maintained including the Temple Mount itself where garbage is dumped.

 

Some believe that we should no longer say that “Jerusalem is desolate without inhabitants” when in fact there are almost 500,000 Jews living in Jerusalem.

 

There may be a lot of Jews living in Jerusalem but there could be a lot more. Since 1967, the Jews who have retuned to the Old City of Jerusalem have rebuilt the Jewish Quarter and the Kotel Plaza. There are some Jewish families in the Muslim Quarter who unfortunately need 24 hour security guards (set up by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon). There are also small Jewish communities on Har Hazeitim (Mt. of Olives), also with full time security. However, for the most part Jews are excluded from the much less expensive Arab neighborhoods and villages. The price of housing in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem is very high which unfortunately keeps young families from being able to remain in Jerusalem. Many are afraid that the Arab population in Jerusalem may eventually exceed the Jewish population.

 

The words “That grieves for the loss of its children” unfortunately ring true today. Our hearts grieve for all of the soldiers who have been killed during this war. Jerusalem lost eleven amazing soldiers. I, along with thousands of others attended the heartbreaking funeral of Barkai Shor z”l. Barkai was a graduate of the same school which my son attends. I didn’t know Barkai personally but from the eulogies it is clear that he was a young man full of loving kindness whose life was cut short.

 

Just as the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed by fire, we have unfortunately seen many fires in Jerusalem over the past few months: forest fires, the burning down the light rail system and the burning of cars with Israeli flags on them.

Today we still have a lot to cry for in Jerusalem yet the prayer is called “Nachem”, “console” just us the upcoming Shabbat is called “Shabbat Nachamu”, “the Shabbat of consolation.”

 

If so many horrible prophecies have been fulfilled then it is time for the second part of the prophecies to come to fruition as well.

 

As it says in Zecharia 8:4-5: “Thus said Hashem, Master of Legions: Old men and old women will  once again sit in the streets of Jerusalem each with his staff in hand because of advanced age; and the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in the streets.”

 

In Zecharia 8:7-8 we read “Thus said HaShem, Master of Legions: Behold I am saving My people from the land of the east and from the land where the sun sets; and I will bring them and they will dwell within Jerusalem. They will be a people unto Me and I will be a God unto them in truth and in righteousness.”

 

Despite everything that has been going on, these prophecies are coming true. Jews from all over the world continue to make aliya. This summer alone there are a few thousand people making aliya from all over the world including over 100 lone soldiers who will be arriving this week ready to join the IDF.

 

We have to do our part to continue fulfilling the prophecy of bringing Jewish families to the Land of Israel and filling the streets with people of all ages and backgrounds.

 

On this Shabbat Nachamu, the eve of my tenth Aliya anniversary, may God answer the prayer that we recited at Mincha on Tisha B’Av and console Zion and rebuild Jerusalem.


 
Will There Be Korbanot (Animal Sacrifices) in the Third Beit HaMikdash? Print E-mail
Wednesday, 17 July 2013

In this week’s Haftara we read the words from Yishayahu 40:1-2: “Comfort, comfort My people says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her time (of exile) has been fulfilled...”

 

After a difficult day of mourning for both the First and Second Beit HaMikdash (Temple) we are told that the exile will come to an end. At that point the Third Beit HaMikdash will be built.

 

Will there be kornabot at the time of the Third Beit HaMikdash?

 

The Rambam (Maimonides) in The Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Beit HaBechira opens with the words: “It is a positive commandment to make a house for God where we can bring sacrifices.”

 

Each day, in the Shmoneh Esrei we ask God to restore the sacrifices to the Beit HaMikdash when we recite the words in the 17th Bracha : Retzei- “Be favorable, God towards Your people Israel and their prayer and restore the service to the Holy of Holies of your Temple. The fire-offerings of Israel and their prayer accept with love and favor and may the service of Your people Israel always be favorable to You.”

 

Rabbi Munk explains that since we don’t have the Beit HaMikdash today, studying about the Korbanot and praying about the Korbanot takes the place of bringing the offerings. However, these are only temporary substitutes and once the Beit HaMikdash is built we will go back to the act itself, we will once again bring the Korbanot.

 

Ramban (Nachmanides) explains that animal sacrifice is the most meaningful form of Divine service since the transgressor designates an animal, brings it to the Temple, leans on his head and declares: “My intellect failed to control my impulse and I behaved like a senseless beast, not a Godly human being. When I sinned, I resembled the animal upon which I am leaning. I will therefore slaughter this animal to symbolize that in the future I will overcome and slay the animal impulse that attacks me.”

 

In Moreh Nevuchim, Rambam rationalizes why there are Korbanot in order to help those estranged from Judaism understand their purpose. He explains that the different nations brought sacrifices to different Gods wherever and whenever they wanted while the Jewish people were only commanded to bring them at certain times and in certain places with the supervision of the Kohanim and Leviim. Once the Beit HaMikdash stood, they were only allowed to bring the sacrifices there and the “bamot”, private places where people brought sacrifices were no longer allowed to be used. Rambam explains that the sacrifices are important. However, prayer is more important. He also explains that God does not want sacrifices from people who do not believe in one God and who bring sacrifices to other Gods (a major problem during the time of the prophets). He describes the fact that when B’nai Yisrael left Egypt, they were given the first commandments at Marah- Shabbat and civil laws.  The laws of the Korbanot were only given later and therefore they were of secondary importance.

 

We see from here that the sacrifices will be restored when we rebuild the Third Beit HaMikdash but prayer will still be more important.

 

May the Third Beit HaMikdash be rebuilt speedily in our days.

 

 
In Order to Know God, We Must Walk in God’s Ways Print E-mail
Friday, 31 July 2009

In the Haftorah for Tisha B’Av we read from the book of Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) Chapters 8-9, about why we lost the Land of Israel when the First Beit HaMikdash was destroyed. The reason was that God gave us laws that the Jewish people transgressed.

 

Yirmiyahu, Chapter 9 opens with a description of the Jewish people as adulterers and a company of traitors: “They have directed their tongue treacherously as their bows and they have grown strong in the Land not for the sake of truth; for they proceed from evil to evil and they do not know Me says the Lord. Let each one beware of his neighbor, and do not trust any brother; for each brother forges plans and every neighbor spreads slander. Indeed they deceive one another and do not speak the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies, they commit iniquity until they are weary. Your habitation is in the midst of deceit; because of deceit they refuse to know Me says the Lord.” (Yirmiyahu 9:2-5)

 

In Chapter 9 sentence 23 we read: “But let him that boasts exult in this, that he understands and knows me, for I am God who practices Chesed, Mishpat U’Tzdaka, kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth for in these things I delight, says the Lord”.

 

According to Radak, knowing God consists of going in God’s ways, to practice kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth (with the inhabitants of the earth). One who follows God’s ways is said to know God.

 

Unfortunately there have been too many Jewish people in the media over the last week who did not practice kindness, justice or righteousness and although the may claim to be observant Jews, they were not following God’s ways and were not at the level as described above of following God and knowing God. Their involvement in money laundering and other immoral behavior has brought about a tremendous Chilul HaShem, desecration of God’s name. Unfortunately, it is instances like this that make us understand why the Beit HaMikdash has not yet been rebuilt.

 

We must do our best both in Israel and throughout the world to follow the laws both Bein Adam L’Makom (between a person and God) and Bein Adam L’Chavero (between a person and their fellow person) in order to bring about the final redemption- the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash as well as serve as an Or LaGoyim, a light to the nations.

 
 
The Shabbat of Comfort Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 August 2006

Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of comfort is named after the Haftarah reading from the book of Yishayau which begins with the words "Nachamu nachamu ami", "Comfort comfort my people".

This Shabbat is the first of the seven weeks of consolation after the destruction of the Beit Ha Mikdash.

The root of the Hebrew word for comfort "Nachem", nun-chet-mem can refer to comforting the nation after the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash as well as to comforting an individual after the death of a loved one.

When we visit a person who is sitting shiva, we say that we are going to be "Menachem Avel", comforting the bereaved. Starting today, the month is no longer called "Av", rather it is called "Menachem Av", the comforted month of Av.

When we leave a house of mourning, we console the mourner by saying "HaMakom yinachem etchem betoch shaar avlei Tzion V'Yerushalayim", "May God console you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem". We actually link the mourner with the larger Jewish community as well as the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash.

Too often, we are faced with a communal state of mourning. These past few days and weeks, each time an Israeli soldier or civilian was kidnapped or killed the entire community of Israel was in a state of mourning. The personal loss became a communal loss.

There are many similarities in the way that we mourn for a loved one and in the way that we mourn for the Beit HaMikdash.

On Tisha B'Av we are restricted in all of the same ways that a person sitting shiva is restricted including sitting on a low stool, not wearing leather shoes and not greeting people.

The seven weeks of comfort following Tisha B'Av are similar to the shiva period, the seven days of comfort.

This weeks Haftarah begins with the words "Comfort, comfort my people says God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem".

Eben Ezra comments: Speak nicely, remove sorrow and worry and proclaim to her that her time has been fulfilled.

There is a limit to how much suffering we must endure.

Let's hope and pray that the prophecies of comfort from the upcoming haftarot will be fulfilled speedily in our day and that peace will return to the Land of Israel.