Sadly, this year, Tish’ah B’Av was again a day of mourning. Baruch Hashem, we live in a community steeped in Torah, with organizations like Chazaq that are spreading the light of Torah to our community and throughout the world.
The Tish’ah B’Av Marathon program began Monday night at Beth Gavriel Center with the dynamic Charlie Harary, and then continued there throughout the entire day with one incredible speaker after another.
R’ Yaniv Meirov, Operations Manager of Chazaq, greeted everyone and shared important announcements. TAG (Technology Awareness Group) was on hand all day to help install filters in people’s electronic devices and phones. Also, Chazaq offered free shaatnez testing all day. In addition, the son of the Kalever Rebbe, Rav Yissacher Dov Taub shlita, visited in the afternoon to offer advice and blessings to individuals on behalf of the Kaliver Rebbe.
This was such an incredible inspiration-filled program. Though everyone was fasting and mourning for the Temple, they were filled with hope and inspiration and practical life-changing tools that will surely hasten the coming of Mashiach. Below is a summary of a few of the life-changing speeches. All of them can be seen on TorahAnytime and Hidabrut. The star-studded program included the following: Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein via video, Rabbi Akiva Rutenberg, Rabbi Benzion Klatzko, Rabbi Ari Ben Shushan, Rabbi Bentzion Shafier, Rabbi Israel Itshakov, Rabbi Yaakov Weitman, Rabbi Daniel Gladstein, Rabbi Yitzchok Oelbaum, Rabbi Yitzchok Feldheim, Rabbi Mordechai Kraft, Rabbi Dovid Lefkowitz, Rabbi Ilan Meirov, Rabbi Yitzhak Israeli, and Rabbi Yigal Haimoff. Wow!
The first speaker in the morning was Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, via video. Rabbi Wallerstein quoted a passage in the Gemara that says that the Mashiach will come during the last 2,000 years of the world. This is the seventh year before Sh’mitah. He spoke about saying tehillim from our inner fiber with our heart and eyes crying. Such a cry brings an immediate response from Hashem. He gave examples of this from Tanach. The first was the cry that came out of Sodom and Amorah. This was the cry of the girl who performed a chesed and the people were punishing her for this act. They smeared honey on her and held her under a bees’ nest. Her cry prompted an immediate reaction from Hashem.
The same Hebrew word for a cry was used when Eisav realized that Yaakov had taken the blessing of the first born. We see one thousand years later, even though he was a rasha, the same word is used to describe the cry of Mordechai when he heard of the decree against the Jews. Again, a cry is described in the same words when a new king arose in Sefer Sh’mos. B’nei Yisrael cried out and it says that Hashem remembered his bris (covenant) with Avraham Avinu. There was a response right away from Hashem. Rabbi Wallerstein urged the audience members to talk to Hashem using their own words from the heart.
He then taught that the cry of klal Yisrael allowed them to leave Egypt, but it didn’t help them to cross the Yam Suf. In order to cross the sea, it meant we had to break nature for Him so that He would break nature for us. Nachshon ben Aminadav fearlessly entered the water up to his neck. He broke nature for Hashem.
Rabbi Wallerstein implored: “You want a miracle? You want to bring Mashiach? You need to do a miracle.” He explained that Eisav is blocking the door because Jews are doing what other nations are doing. We’re on social media, etc. What is the difference between them and us? We are stuck at the door and Mashiach can’t enter. We need to take on something to break our nature so that Hashem will change nature for us.
He quoted a mishnah in Pirkei Avos that if you make G-d’s will your will, He will make your will His will. We have to each individually break our nature. Take what is the hardest thing for you to change and work on changing it. He used the analogy of eyes and the I. Eyes can’t see each other literally. Figuratively, “I”s can’t see each other. In a family, we need to see each other. So, we need to work on this.
The Shechinah has nowhere to go, so we need to bring the Shechinah into ourselves and into our homes. He explained that the kodesh ha’kodashim in our home is our bedroom. What do we have there? Is there filth from the outside that must be cleaned out? We need to remove things in our home that are not the will of G-d. The Maccabees cleaned out the Beis HaMikdash before they lit the Menorah inside. It’s the same idea for us if we want to bring Hashem into our home. Rabbi Wallenberg concluded with the hope and prayer, “Let there be tears of joy on Tish’ah B’Av.
Next, Rabbi Akiva Rutenberg, Director of Emet, spoke. He shared the mishnah in Pirkei Avos that says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” He explained that this teaches us that a person must take care of himself. It’s important to have a healthy sense of self. With this healthy sense of self, we can then give to others. He explained that so much of Torah is about balance. We need to find balance between ourselves and others. The greatest sense of self is taking care of another. He continued with this idea: Rav Nachman of Breslov taught that the whole world is a narrow bridge. We must find balance and move forward. That’s the last part of the mishnah, which says, “if not now, when?”
He taught that in Eichah we read that Yerushalayim is a city of connection. You stand at the Kosel and you feel a connection. When we had the Beis HaMikdash, we were connected to Hashem. Today we lack that tremendous level of connection.
Rabbi Rutenberg then spoke about the sin of baseless hatred, which has its roots in the brothers selling Yosef. How can a brother sell his bother into slavery? This is only possible when we don’t feel a connection – when we don’t realize we are all connected. This happens when we focus on differences and become very restricted.
Rav Shlomo Freifeld zt”l taught how to end sin’as chinam. Counteract it with ahavas chinam (causeless love). The greatest causeless love is when I am willing to give up myself for you. This is only possible when I have a healthy sense of self. Yehudah did this. He said, I am willing to give myself up for my brother Binyamin. This was the beginning of fixing the sin of the sale of Yosef. Rabbi Rutenberg pointed out that we as Jews are all responsible for one another.
We live in a world that focuses on differences. So, how can we fix this sin’as chinam in our lives? We have to work on feeling connection and responsibility for others. We must respect others with different approaches and perspectives.
Eisav and the Nazis were all about extreme restriction. There was no soul, just rules. He mentioned how Henry Ford was responsible for sending the anti-Semitic fictional book, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, all over, and this book helped fuel the Nazis.
We need to look into ourselves. In what areas are we restricted and need to become more open and connected? How can I become the kind of person who looks at every Jew as if he is my brother? If he is my brother, then I will treat him with acceptance. Yosef’s brothers stopped seeing each other as brothers. The way to fix this is that we see each other as brothers. Let’s care about each other. Let’s connect to each other and appreciate how special we are.
By Susie Garber