The Three Weeks: It’s not as bad as we thought

The three weeks are upon us, and many of us are looking for ways to be inspired by this tragic period in Jewish history. Some read articles about Churban, destruction, and others perform more good deeds than they are accustomed to performing throughout the year. Yet, there are those who wonder what all the fuss is about, as every year we commemorate the tragic events that the Jewish People have suffered throughout our long and bitter exile, and redemption does not appear to be any closer on the horizon than it was last year.

The Mabit in his Sefer Bais Elokim addresses this issue, focusing on the purpose of praying for the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash and the arrival of Moshiach. The Mabit writes in Shaar HaTefillah (17) that for the final redemption to occur, the Jewish People are required to offer many prayers, and there are two reasons why it is easier for the later generations to have their prayers answered. One reason is that the earlier generations were further away from the redemption, whereas the current generation is much closer to the redemption. Secondly, since the final redemption is such a great matter, in order for us to merit the final redemption, we are required to offer many prayers. When HaShem decides that the quota of prayers has been fulfilled, then HaShem will surely bring the redemption. At that time all the prayers that have been offered throughout the generations will be deemed to have functioned as a vehicle to effect the final redemption.

Furthermore, since all the earlier generations were anticipating the final redemption, they will be rewarded for their efforts with the final redemption. Those who anticipated the redemption are those who will merit witnessing the final redemption. The Mabit concludes that even prior to meriting the final redemption, HaShem answers our prayers in every generation, and He saves us from our troubles. These salvations are also effected through our prayers for the redemption. This, then, is akin to salvation in every generation.

Based on the words of the Mabit, we have gained a new perspective on our mourning. When the three weeks begin and we begin to feel depressed regarding our situation, we must be inspired by the fact that our prayers until now have effected redemption in various aspects of our lives. Thus, redemption is not merely the arrival of Moshiach and the building of the third Bais HaMikdash. Redemption is a personal and a communal salvation on a daily basis. The three weeks, the nine days, and the culminating day of Tisha Baav should not function as a time period when we are depressed about our situation. Rather, we should use this time to reflect on the salvations that HaShem has performed for us in every second of our lives, whether it is in matters of domestic harmony, sustenance, child-rearing, or Torah study and mitzvah performance.

The commentators write that when we recite the words motzi asirim, HaShem releases those in bondage, we also refer to a fetus inside its mother’s womb. Thus, our entrance into this world is deemed to be redemption. When on is stuck in a traffic jam and then the traffic clears, he has just experienced Divine Redemption. There is nothing in our lives that is not considered redemption. A successful business deal, a birthday, waking up in the morning, and the functioning of our bodies are all deemed to be redemption. Although the period of the three weeks is a somber time for the Jewish People, we certainly have much cause for joy and elation, as we can acknowledge more than anyone else in the world how HaShem is constantly redeeming us.

I recently read what to me was an eye-opener, as there are certain verses that seem to only have a negative interpretation. Yet, regarding this verse, the commentators were able to find a positive explanation. Rabbi Shlomo Katz on writes: “The period between the Fast of the 17th of Tamuz and Tishah B’Av is known in halacha as “Bein Hametzarim,” “Between the Troubles.” During this period, we mourn the destruction of both the First and Second Temples. However, writes Rabbi Eliezer Zev Rosenbaum z”l hy”d (the Nadvorner-Kretchnif Rebbe in Sighet; killed in the Holocaust), Chassidic works teach that there is also a reason for optimism during this period. We read in Eichah (1:3), “Kol rodfehah hiseeguhah bein hametzarim, all her pursuers overtook her in dire straits.” The word “rodfehah”, “her pursuers,” can be read “rodfei-Kah”, “those who pursue G-d.” Those who pursue G-d during the period can “overtake” him. Also, “hiseeguhah” can mean “grasped it,” in the sense of grasping a deep concept. Those who pursue G-d during this period can grasp deep spiritual levels. How can this be? How can a period of such sorrow be an opportunity for such joyful attainments?

Rav Rosenbaum explains with two parables. First, when is it easier for the common man to approach a king-when he is in his palace or when he is traveling? Presumably, when he is traveling. Similarly, it is easier for us to approach G-d when He is in exile from His home, the Temple, so-to-speak. Also, imagine a father who, G-d forbid, lost many of his children. Whenever the father recalls that tragedy, he will feel closer to his surviving offspring. Similarly, when G-d mourns, so-to-speak, over the Destruction, He brings Himself closer to us. (Raza De’Uvda p.144)

Using this interpretation as an example, we should seek to find the positive in all the mourning, as all our prayers, tears, and sighs that we have experienced throughout the exile will add up to a happy and momentous event, in the final redemption. Let us take comfort from the fact that Reb Yaakov Emden writes in his siddur that the greatest miracle of all time is that the Jewish People have survived all the persecutions and pogroms, and we are still able to study Torah, pray and perform mitzvos, which is ultimately what HaShem really desires of us. When we pray, we should feel that we are bringing the redemption closer with every word of prayer, and when we study Torah, we should feel that every word of Torah study will bring the redemption closer. Similarly, when we perform mitzvos, we should be cognizant of the fact that every mitzvah will bring the redemption closer.

With this reflection, HaShem should allow us to merit, this year, during the three weeks, the ultimate and final redemption, when Hashem will gather in the exiles, bring us Moshiach Tzidkeinu, build the Third Bais HaMikdash, and then HaShem and His Great Name will be one for eternity. Amen.

This entry was posted in Mabit, Reb Yaakov Emden, rodfehah, Rosenbaum, three weeks, Tisha B'Av. Bookmark the permalink.

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