From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)
Tisha B’Av - A Day of Mourning or a Moed - Festival?
This year Tisha B’Av will fall on Sunday and as such the fast will commence on Motzei Shabbat concluding Monday evening at night. We will observe all of the five restrictions (lit. afflictions) which are not eating or drinking, not rubbing oils into our bodies, not washing, not wearing leather footwear and no marital intimacy. This fast will mark 1,953 years since the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash.
We find an interesting idea and an enlightening point about this day in the halachot in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 559:4), “We do not recite tachanun on Tisha B’Av or fall on our faces [in prayer] because it is called a Moed - Festival.” This is based on the verse in Eicha (1:15), “Hashem has trampled all my heroes in my midst; He proclaimed a set time (lit. a Moed - Festival) against me to crush my young men”.
The question is asked, How? How is it possible to associate with this very sad day for Am Yisrael, a day when the Bet HaMikdash was destroyed, a day that everyone fasts and sits on the ground and cry for the destruction that occurred, and yet still call it a “Moed”? This isn’t simply a superficial term but a term that reflects a deep sense of practical meaning of the day in that we don’t recite tachanun, as if it were Rosh Chodesh or Chol HaMoed. How may this be explained?
In order to understand this we need to preface the words of the Midrash Rabba (4:14) on the passuk in Tehillim (79:1-2) “Mizmor (a song) of Asaf: Oh Hashem! The nations have entered into your inheritance, they have defiled the Sanctuary of Your Holiness, they have turned Yerushalayim into heaps of rubble. They have given the corpse of Your servants as food for the birds of the sky.”
This chapter of Tehillim deals with the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash. So our chachamim ask in the Midrash why does it state “Mizmor LeAsaf” - “A song of Asaf”? since this chapter deals with the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash and the murder of tzaddikim, therefore it would have been more appropriate to state “Kina LeAsaf” - “A Lamentation of Asaf”, or “Bechi LeAsaf” - “A cry or Asaf”, or “Nehi LeAsaf” - “A wail of Asaf”, what is this expression “Mizmor LeAsaf” - “A song of Asaf”, which is an expression of song?
Our chachamim explain this in the Midrash with a parable. A king made a wedding for his son the prince, the crown prince. He built for him a unique and beautiful hall, he painted it, and engaged the best artisans to decorate it. He ordered exquisite tables and chairs, unique curtains from distance countries and he built a splendid chuppah as befits the king’s son.
On the day prior to the wedding, the son went off the tracks! He rebelled against his father and refused to come to the wedding. The king hurried and went to the hall that he had built and with his own hands smashed everything that he could see. He ripped the splendid chuppah and threw down the fine embroidery. He brough a tractor and a bulldozer to smash up the wonderful and unique hall’s foundations that he had built for his son.
All the royal family and the ministers were crying and sad. But one of the ministers was happy, he sat playing a cheerful melody. They said to him, “Why are you happy? Can you not see the demolition and destruction that has been done because of the king’s son?” He replied to them, “This is why I am happy! That the king poured out his anger on the hall, on the furniture and equipment but he did not harm the actual king’s son! This indicates that the king is still waiting for his son, that he will still return to him.”
The analogy is that on the day of Tish B’Av, Hashem was angry with Am Yisrael for them having forsaken the Torah and for all their bad deeds. But he spilt his wrath and anger on wood and stone, on the Bet HaMikdash and didn’t harm Am Yisrael themselves who are his beloved children. With this He indicated to us that He anticipates us speedily returning to Him as indeed we conclude Megillat Eicha with the passuk “Bring us back to you, Hashem, and we shall return; renew our days as they were in the past”. It is for this reason that it states “Mizmor” (song) of Asaf and not “Kinah” (lament) of Asaf.
This is the hidden secret in the words “He proclaimed a set time (lit. a Moed - Festival)”, this is the reason why we don’t recite tachanun on Tisha B’Av, since through this we remember that after all the destruction, the sadness and the mourning, we still have the element of “Moed” (Festival), which tells us “For Hashem will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His heritage!” (Tehillim 94:14). Although the Bet HaMikdash is destroyed, wood and stones burnt, but Am Yisrael remains close to Hashem, for He eagerly awaits for us every day to completely redeem us, therefore we must be mindful that the pre-condition for this is, “Bring us back to you, Hashem, and we shall return; renew our days as they were in the past”.