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Up, Down and Mashiach on Tisha B’Av

Photo: Keter Torah by Baruch Nachshon

The sages say that the Mashiach is born on Tisha B’Av (the 9th day of the month of Av). It is written that every new soul that is born descends after a tzaddik (pious person) leaves this world. The tzaddik leaving this world is called “ha’ala’at ma”n” (ascent of feminine waters to God) in the terminology of Kabbalah. This is the ascent of our human efforts toward God, in order to serve Him. The soul that descends to this world as a result of the “ha’ala’at ma”n” is called hamshachat ma”d, the drawing down of masculine waters. This is the blessing and abundance that descends from Heaven in response to the awakening of the feminine waters. For example, the 18th of Elul is the day of the passing of the Maharal of Prague. After a number of years, the Ba’al Shem Tov was born on this very same day and a number of years later, the Alter Rebbe was born on this day, as well. There is an ascent of a soul to heaven and then a new soul comes down to this earth.

The same is true of the Mashiach. The Mashiach was born on Tisha B’Av, as a result of the ascent of the feminine waters. We can say that the soul that ascended was that of the Holy Ari, who passed away on the 5th of Av. But on the very day of Tisha B’Av, a very great tzaddik passed away: The Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin, who passed away on the 9th day of Av in the year 5575 (August 15, 1815).

The Code of Jewish Law says that we do not learn most parts of the Torah on Tisha B’Av. Parts of the Torah, however, are permissible to learn. Every Jew is obligated to learn Torah on Tisha B’Av, and we also make the blessings for learning Torah on this day. The Rebbe also emphasizes that on Tisha B’Av we must learn Torah at every moment, as we do every day – just that the Torah being learned must be appropriate for Tisha B’Av. Chassidim learn Chassidut on Tisha B’Av (as is known in the name of Rebbe Hillel of Paritch). As the 9th of Av is the day of passing of one of the great masters of Chassidut, the Chozeh of Lublin, it is very appropriate to study his writings on this day. He ascended to heaven on Tisha B’Av and apparently, his ha’ala’at ma”n brings the Mashiach down on Tisha B’Av.

There is an explicit example of something ascending to heaven before something new is drawn down: The destruction of the Temple, as the sages say, “The lion (aryeh) ascended in the mazal of the aryeh and destroyed Ariel (from the root of aryeh) so that the aryeh would ascend in the mazal of the (the month of Av) aryeh and build Ariel.” The aryeh of the impure husks is Nevuchadnetzar, the king of Babylon who destroyed the First Temple. He is called ‘aryeh’ in the verse in Jeremiah 4:7 “The aryeh has gone up from his thicket.” Nevuchadnetzar ascended to Jerusalem in the month of Av, the mazal of aryeh, and destroyed Ariel, the Temple. But this was also an act of Divine Providence, like demolishing an old building in order to build a much better building in its place – a true and eternal building that will never be destroyed. The very fact that “an aryeh ascended in the mazal of aryeh and destroyed Ariel” is to pave the way for the aryeh of holiness- God is depicted as a lion in the Book of Amos, “When a lion roars who is not fearful” – in the mazal of aryeh and will build Ariel, the Third Temple, which will be an everlasting building.

Thus, the fiery ascent of the two Holy Temples to heaven on Tisha B’Av is a sort of “clearing of the stage” that precedes a new drawing down from above. What is drawn down is the Mashiach, who, according to the sages was born on Tisha B’Av afternoon, at the time when the restrictions of Tisha B’Av are partially eased.

In honor of the Chozeh of Lublin, we will relate two of his Torah thoughts:

What to do When Prayer Doesn't Help

Sometimes we feel like our prayers are not answered. The truth is that every time that someone prays from the heart, he is certainly answered. He may not see it, but God listens and answers his prayers. But what do we do when we pray and we don’t feel that God has heard and answered us? There is a Chassidic answer, typical of the Polish tzaddikim, on the words of the verse that Lot said to the people of Sodom: “Please my brothers, do not do evil” (  "אל נא אחי תריעו"”Al na achai tare’u”).

The Chozeh of Lublin has an unexpected explanation: The word ‘na’, ‘please’ is a request, such as prayer, according to the Chozeh. If you are in a situation of ‘al na’ (“Please not”) that your request has not been answered, if you feel that you have not succeeded in really praying from your heart, what do you do? The Chozeh answers with the second part of this phrase, “my brothers do evil” (”achai tare’u.”) Instead of the more obvious meaning of this verse, in which the word tare’u means ‘do evil,’ the Chozeh explains it as ‘be friends,’ which is another meaning of tare’u. In other words, if your prayers are not answered, “my brothers, be friends.” What you need is more friendship and brotherhood. What you need is a Chassidic farbrengen. When you open your heart to your brothers, you will effect what you could not achieve with your prayers. This is similar to the saying in Chabad that what the angel Michael, the advocate of Israel, cannot accomplish, we can accomplish with a farbrengen. With joining our hearts together.

Three Levels of Service of God

The Chozeh explains a verse in the Megillah of Eichah, which we read on Tisha B’Av: “It is good that a man should silently wait for God’s salvation.” "טוֹב וְיָחִיל וְדוּמָם לִתְשׁוּעַת ה'" ”Tov veyachil vedumam litshuat Havayah.” Rashi explains that this verse seems to have an extra vav, which means “and”, in the word ‘veyachil’/ וְיָחִיל .  In the above Torah thought of the Chozeh, he explained that sometimes it is better to join hearts together with friends than to pray. There are other Chassidic books that write that sometimes one should not pray. For example, that is how the “Mei Hashiloach” explains the verse, “God will fight for you and you should be silent (Exodus 14:14).” This is apparently the meaning in our verse, “: “It is good that a man should silently wait for God’s salvation.” However, the extra vav of veyachil does not fit with this meaning of the verse.

The Chozeh explains this verse in a completely different manner, which also explains why the ‘extra’ vav is necessary. According to the Chozeh, tov, veyachil vedumam are three levels of service of God. Tov (good) is an abundance of good deeds. The ultimate purpose of everything that we do is to bring it all down into action. In Poland, they called the tzaddik “a guter Yid,” “a good Jew.” The Rebbe also said that today, everyone has to be ‘a good Jew,” a Rebbe in his own right. To be a Rebbe, the first step is to be good.

The second trait (and thus the vav/”and, as this word is the second in a list)  is ‘veyachil.’ The Chozeh explains that veyachil is from the root of chil, trembling and fear. The positive fear that we seek is fear of Heaven. First we must be good and then, through that, we merit pure fear of Heaven, veyachil.

The third trait is ‘vedumam,’ literally, ‘silent.’ The Chozeh explains that this is the trait of modesty – that nobody should see what you are doing – including your good deeds and fear of Heaven –as if you are an inanimate object (domem). Dumam, according to the Chozeh, parallels the Torah directive, “Walk modestly with Havayah your God” (Hatzne’ah lechet im Havayah Elokecha). This is the ultimate purpose of these three character traits.

Rebbe Zusha said that the word תשובה (teshuvah, return to God) is an acronym for five verses which are five components of repentance:

תמים תהיה עם ה' אלוקיך – Walk simply with God

שויתי הוי' לנגדי תמיד – I place God in front of me always

ואהבת לרעך כמוך – Love your neighbor as yourself

בכל דרכיך דעהו- Know Him in all your ways

הצנע לכת עם הוי' אלהיך – Walk modestly with Havayah your God, which is the trait of vedumam.

We must be good and God fearing and modest – literally not seen. A person who merits to attain these three traits also attains “God’s salvation,” the continuation of this verse. The Chozeh writes that this does not refer to personal salvation, but to the redemption of the entire Nation of Israel through Mashiach, who is born on Tisha B’Av.


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