Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Former Rosh Kollel in Detroit
Parshat Devarim is always read during the Shabbat preceding Tisha B’Av. Fittingly, the parsha describes the “bechiya shel chinam” (the “gratuitous crying”) of chet hameraglim (the sin of the spies), which occurred on Tisha B’Av and led to the “bechiya lidorot” (the “crying throughout the generations”) caused by the destruction of the Batei HaMikdash – also on Tisha B’Av.
Yet, although Tisha B’Av is the saddest day of the year, it is nevertheless referred to as a “mo’ed” (a “festival”), as in the pasuk(Eichah 1:15):
“He summoned a mo’ed (literally, a “set time”) against me.”
Tisha B’Av’s categorization as a mo’ed is not simply a homiletic device; this classification has halachic consequences as well. For instance, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 559:4) rules that since Tisha B’Av is defined as a mo’ed, Tachanun is not recited on Tisha B’Av.
How can such a tragic day – five calamities, culminating in the Churban itself, took place on this date – be called a mo’ed?
A simple answer is that Tisha B’Av is called a mo’ed based on the future – when the Beit HaMikdash will be rebuilt and the fast days will become days of joys. As Zechariya HaNavi said (Zechariya 8:19):
“The fast of the fourth [month], the fast of the fifth [month], the fast of the seventh [month], and the fast of the tenth [month] shall be for the house of Yehuda for joy and for happiness and for good mo’adim.”
Thus, Tisha B’Av is referred to as a mo’ed in order to hearten and encourage us. Despite our current sadness and grief, we must recall that eventually, the fast will be nullified and transformed into a yom tov.
But there is a deeper answer.
The kruvim (literally, cherubs) – which served as a gauge of Yisrael’s relationship with their Father in Heaven – were located in theBeit HaMikdash, above the Aron HaKodesh. One kruv symbolized, kivyachol (as it were), HKB”H, and the other one representedAm Yisrael. When Yisrael would act in accordance with Hashem’s wishes, the kruvim would face each other and embrace. As the Gemara (BT Yoma 54a) describes:
“Rav Ketina said, ‘When Yisrael would ascend [to the Beit HaMikdash] on the festival, [the kohanim] would roll up the parochet for them and show them the kruvim which were intertwined, and they would tell them: “Behold your fondness before the Makom is like the fondness of a male and a female.”’”
In contrast, when Yisrael did not fulfill Hashem’s will, the kruvim would face the wall.
We would naturally assume that during the Churban, the kruvim did not embrace. After all, Am Yisrael was being punished cataclysmically because they had not fulfilled Hashem’s will. However, astonishingly, we find that the Gemara (BT Yoma 54b) continues:
“Reish Lakish said, ‘When the foreigners entered the Heichal, they saw the kruvim were intertwined.’”
How is this possible?!
Actually, the Gemara’s statement is based on a profound insight, which explains why Tisha B’Av is called a mo’ed.
HKB”H is teaching us – exactly at the moment when His anger seems to be at its peak and when the rift between Hashem and Am Yisrael appears to be insurmountable – that His love for Am Yisrael is eternal. Even the terrible Churban was a result of this great love and Hashem’s desire for rectification. Contrary to other religions’ claims, the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash was not, chas vichalila, the end of our relationship with HKB”H. In fact, the reverse is true. The Churban was a painful but necessary operation, which HKB”H performed on Am Yisrael in order to fortify the relationship and even to launch a better, more secure, and more indestructible connection.
The destruction of the Beit HaMikdash was not the “end of the story”; it was just the beginning: the start of a long road that leads from the Churban through the long exile and ends with the founding of the State of Israel, the establishment of malchut Beit David (the kingdom of the House of David), and the building of the Third Beit HaMikdash, speedily and in our days. Amen.