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Shabbat Parashat Devarim| 5770

Parashat Hashavuah: Tisha BAv- A National Yahrtzeit?

This week our practice of national mourning for the destroyed Temples reaches its height, with the observance of Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning, which has many similarities to the mourning of an individual for his deceased relative. To what extent is it like a day of yahrtzeit for a deceased parent?

There seem to be two elements of mourning that are practiced for family members. The shiva (seven day period of mourning) and shloshim (thirty days) seem to have a great element of dealing with and channeling the feelings that are normally expected to be there. The Sefer Hachinuch (#265) goes in the direction of seeing the pain as a correct punishment for the mourner that can bring him to repentance. The Gesher Hachayim (19:2) prefers the explanation that mourning death heightens our appreciation of life. In any case, the practices do not so much create the feelings of sadness but channel them. However, the second element is to extend the practices when feelings have greatly subsided. Thus, the full year that one observes for his parents (whereas there are only thirty days for a spouse, which is generally a harder loss), is due to the obligation to honor one’s parents. We do not allow the feeling of loss to slip away but do things to prolong it.

Regarding the national mourning, the matter may have changed over history. The gemara (Ketubot 62a) tells the following interesting story. Amoraim said that sad news that makes one sigh significantly weakens the body and that it is particularly so regarding thinking about the destroyed Beit Hamikdash. A non-Jew was having trouble keeping up walking with a Jew and therefore tried to use the technique the gemara referred to by reminding him of the Beit Hamikdash. While the Jew responded with a sigh, he did not slow down because, explains the gemara, the destruction was too long ago. In our days, you can add another 1,500 years to the distance. With other reasons to not feel the depths of the exile so strongly, we are not in the mode of naturally feeling the pain. Rather, our acts of mourning are a planned exercise in reliving as fully as possible a feeling of loss. In this way, it is like a yahrtzeit where one makes a point of remembering the day of the death so as to commemorate it appropriately.

Interestingly, there are sources that indicate that the yearly anniversary is not just a convenient time to remember but that it is a day that can bring harsh realities, according to some, to the deceased and according to others to the live child. Reciting Kaddish and for some, fasting, are ways to deal with these dangers. The national mourning is similar, as the month of Av is not just sad but contains difficult times, and it pays to stay away from danger and dealings with non-Jews (Ta’anit 29b). The way we deal with it is to focus on what went wrong and on our desire to renew our relationship with Hashem, which we lost with the loss of the Temple (see Siftei Chayim, Moadim III, pp. 294-299). May we be successful in that attempt.

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Hemdat Yamim of this week is dedicated
 in memory of

Yitzchak Eizik Ben Yehuda Leib a"h,
whose Yahrtzeit is the 29th of Av


This week’s Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R' Meir ben
Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld


Hemdat Yamim is endowed by
Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker and
Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.




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