Tisha BAv: The War During the Three Weeks

We’re friendly with a divorced woman here whose son is currently serving in the Armored Corp in Gaza. He’s been there for two weeks now with little to no contact with his mother, for obvious security reasons. She told my wife that she does not watch the news, so as not to worry herself too much, and she cannot sleep, because she’s already too worried.

Just the other day, he was granted the day off, but because he’s all the way in the south and we’re all the way in the north, he had only a few hours to visit. Hearing that he was coming back, my kids all drew pictures and made cards for him and his friends in his unit. When my wife gave the cards to her to give to her son, she asked, “Do you know what they do with pictures and cards like these? They paste them on their tanks right before they go in!” So, as we speak, my kids’ cards are pasted on some tank in Gaza. If you happen to see a photo of a tank with cards cut in the shape of a teddy bear head… well… you know where it came from….

My wife asked for her sons name so we can daven for him, and she, who’s completely secular, replied, “You know, the davening is the most important thing you can do. That’s the best, most important thing in this war. Just keep davening!”

I received a talk from Rav Yaakov Leonard this morning. As usual, it was pretty powerful.

The Marsha writes that the 21 days between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av corresponds to the 21 days between Rosh Hashanah and Simchas Torah. Just as we can reach unbelievable heights from Rosh Hashanah to Simchas Torah, so too, can we reach unbelievable heights during the three weeks of mourning. Just like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, and Simchas Torah have their own particular avodah (thing to work on), so too do the three weeks, culminating in Tisha B’Av, which is crying and feeling the pain of exile.

He quoted the Gemara (Moed Katon 25a) which states that when an “Adam Kasher” (a ben Torah, for example) dies, a person should cry over him, and all his (the person’s) sins will be forgiven. If a person fails to cry, then he and his children will die.

Rav Yisroel Salanter explains this Gemara as follows: When a person dies, we can look at it from a logical point of view, and say, “There is a G-d, this person has earned his Olam Habah (Next World), it’s all for the best…,” and that’s it. But, that’s not what Hashem wants from us. Yes, it’s true, he will have a great Olam Habah; yes, it’s true, that Hashem runs the world; and yes, it's true, that all is for the best. But we have an obligation to treat every “Adam Kasher” as if he were part of our own family and to be emotionally connected to what’s going on around us.

Rav Leonard continued to explain, that while many of the 61 soldiers killed were not religious, they died simply because they were Jewish. That, in and of itself, makes them worthy of Olam Habah, and gives them the title of “Adam Kasher.” More than sixty-one families have been sitting shiva throughout the country. Mothers, fathers, wives, sons, daughters… We have an obligation to feel it, to be connected, and to understand that 61 Jews were killed just for being Jewish.

Rav Leonard than told a story of what happened 12 years ago on the night of Tisha B’Av. He was in the hospital with his wife who was in labor. Things were not going well and at one point they rushed her into the operating room, leaving him outside. After a while, a nurse ran out crying, completely ignoring him. He ran up to her and asked her what happened. She looked at him with tears in her eyes and said, “Oh… right… I’m sorry… Baruch Hashem… your wife and child are fine… it was a miracle in there….”

“It’s funny,” he continued, “The same tears we cry when we’re sad are no different than the tears we cry when we’re happy.”

Those tears that we’ve cried over the past two thousand years, and that we continue to cry today, will be turned to tears of joy sometime soon, when the end comes.

End Rav Leonard. Begin Mr. Winner:

Is this “the” end? Who knows? But the coming of Moshiach is compared to the birth of a child. With every painful contraction, we get closer and closer to the end. To be able to live in such times, which everybody agrees is now, is an unbelievable thing. But in order for one to be part of it, he has to BE PART OF IT. He cannot sit by idly, and think, “Okay, it’s all in Hashem’s hands.” He needs to be emotionally connected to what is happening, to understand that Hamas, the UN, Europe, Obama, etc… are NOT the root cause of our problems… but are tools of Hashem to prod us to move to the right direction.

The number of open miracles that have taken place here, confirmed stories of the strange behavior of the missiles and rockets, the stories coming back from Gaza of what soldiers have experienced… The amount of chesed being done… You have no idea. When was the last war Americans had to face on their own ground with an 85% approval rating? I believe never. Not even the Revolutionary War. Yet here, in a traditionally … argumentative… society, people are going to the war zones to help soldiers and civilians alike. Many yeshivos have out-right cancelled or changed the traditional post-Tisha B’Av break in order to continue to learn on behalf of all who are in danger. In fact, just last week, in the biggest building of Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, the Rosh Yeshivah gave a bang, and told all 5000 people learning to close their Gemaras, and to start tying tzitzis, because there has been such a high demand from soldiers (both religious and secular), that the army doesn’t have enough.

You have no idea.

Every time Hashem sends us these tragic events, we have two options: 1) sit back and be disconnected, or 2) be part of it via teshuvah, chesed, Torah, davening, tears… and be part of Moshiach’s arrival.

For each contraction we’ve endured, we might not have seen some en masse movement of teshuvah, but we have seen bits and pieces here and there. And slowly, but surely, those pieces add up.

Rav Leonard finished off the talk with a story he heard from Rebbetzin Mizrachi, a big speaker for women here in Eretz Yisroel. When the three boys were kidnapped, she went to visit the families of each one. When she came to the home of the Yifrachs, the family asked her to speak to Mrs. Yifrach who had been sitting by the door the whole time, not willing even to go to bed. When Rebbetzin Mizrachi approached Mrs. Yifrach and asked her why she’s sitting there, Mrs. Yifrach replied, “I’m waiting for my son…”

A few days later, when the terrible news was revealed, Rebbetzin Mizrachi returned to the home of the Yifrachs to make a shiva call. And lo and behold, Mrs. Yifrach was sitting at the door, not willing to budge. Again, Rebbetzin Mizrachi asked why she’s sitting by the door, and Mrs. Yifrach answered, “I’m waiting for Moshiach…”