Shabbos Chazon Part II #3Weeks

There are two pieces of mourning that enter Shul on Shabbos Chazon in Ashkenazi shuls:

  • Lecha Dodi is sung to the tune of “Eli Tzion”, the concluding Kinah of Tisha B’Av morning.
  • The Haftora is read to the trop tune of Eicha.


These two exceptions make some poskim uncomfortable with the premise I stated, that there is no churban on Shabbos.  But I think there is value to these two minhagim in particular, and we should not extend them to other parts of Shabbos.

Why these two? Because both Lecha Dodi and the minhag of Haftora are already Golus-emphasizing practices.  Read a certain way, Lecha Dodi is practically a Tisha B’Av Kina already! Read it again if you don’t believe me.

And a quick read of the brochos after the Haftora reveals that it too is a Golus-minded mitzvah.  It was founded at a time of persecution, when oppressors forbade reading the Torah in public. And as such, it is placed in a context of asking Hashem to bring the Geula, Eliyahu Hanavi and Moshiach ben David.  So it’s also a pseudo-Kina as well.

I surmise that minhag Yisrael allowed for these two musical choices to allow us to be aware of Golus because they make us aware, non-verbally, of how there is a form of Golus even on Shabbos.

Shabbos Chazon Part I #3Weeks

When the fast falls out during the week, the meal right before the fast is a mourning meal known as the Seuda Hamafsekes. Sitting on the floor, bread and ash, hard-boiled egg.  When the fast begins on Shabbos, we do stop eating at shkia (sunset), but all the other elements of Tisha B’Av only begin when Shabbos ends.   So that last meal before the fast is a Shabbos meal, Shalosh Seudos basically.  And what kind of meal is it?

The Shulchan Aruch says it’s “K’Seudas Shlomo B’Shaato.” Like a meal at King Solomon’s table during the height of his power, while the first Beis Hamikdash stood in all its glory.  The Halacha could have been phrased “There is no Seuda Hamafsekes on Shabbos. One eats his Shabbos meal as usual.”

This rather more extreme phrasing is saying something else: On Shabbos there is no Churban.

Ashkenazi practice has allowed for some minhagim (customs) of Aveilus (mourning) to be introduced to this Shabbos.  But besides for the fact that many  Ashkenazi poskim object to those introductions, even those who keep them make sure that none of them interfere with the Kedusha of Shabbos.

(I have presumed that Tisha B’Av is different from other fasts in this regard because it is not merely a fast day; it is a day of Aveilus, and Halacha has always recognized that Aveilus does exist in subdued form on Shabbos.)

When I was a Yeshiva Bochur in Montreal, I got to know Mr George Jacobovits, a very impressive and special Jew in his own right, who was also the brother of Rabbi Lord Jacobovits, then the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom.  Mr George Jacobovits was kind enough to learn with me on Shabbos afternoons. We learned Gemara Beiya.  That year, Tisha B’Av fell out on Shabbos, and I asked him if we would still be learning, as I had learned that we only learn topics appropriate to Tisha B’Av on the afternoon of Erev Tisha B’av.  He look at me with narrowed eyes and said “Chas V’Shalom. My rebbe (Rav Elya Lopian ZT”L, a talmid of Kelm and one of the preeminent tsaddikim of that era, who lived first in England before moving to Israel) insisted that Shabbos is Shabbos, and that nothing of the nature of Tisha B’Av should be allowed to intrude into Shabbos.  We will learn what we always learn.”

Shechina Part I. #3Weeks

Any appreciation of Tisha B’Av requires some sort of understanding of the word “shechina”.

This word, “Shechina” has been long misunderstood. Especially in English. Especially among the non-Observant. All sorts of weird descriptions show up, such as “The feminine aspect of God”, and all sorts of stranger new-age explanations about what that even means.

The word’s origins are found in the first order given to build a Sanctuary, with the very term “Mishkan”.

“V’Asu Li Mikdash V’Shachanti B’socham.”
And they will make me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst.

Shochein means to dwell. Shechina means God in His attribute of dwelling in this World. As Melech means God in His attribute of ruling humanity or making decrees.

What does it mean that God dwells in a place, among specific people? “Ayei Mekom Kevodo?” Where is the place of His Glory?

That’s the question.

The Siyum. #3Weeks

In our self-indulgent times, telling people to diminish their Simcha is quite a challenge.  Religion is too frequently accused of being a fear that someone, somewhere, is enjoying himself.  Asking people to be unhappy for three weeks or ten days might be too much, regardless of the good reasons for it.

Because of this, I think that something suggested by the Lubavitcher Rebbe long ago has a resonance in our times.  He asked that a siyum be made every day of the nine days, even on Tisha B’Av (on Masechta Moed Katan)!

Background: The minhag (custom) is to refrain from consuming meat and wine from Rosh Chodesh Av until the day after the fast.  The exception to this rule is Shabbos, and any valid celebratory meal. Included in this category is a Bris, Pidyon Haben, and a Siyum.

A Siyum is the conclusion of the study of a Masechta of Talmud or Seder of Mishnayos.

With this background, we see that a Siyum is the only event that can be legitimately scheduled ahead of time. Yet it’s still acceptable. It sounds like a loophole.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe asked people to make Siyumim during the Nine Days. He took what people thought of as a loophole; and transformed it into a lesson in what true Simcha (Joy) is.

Yes, this time of year is set aside for mourning. Yet, he felt that even during this time and frame of mind, one should actively seek (halachically acceptable) ways of finding our simcha in those kinds of moments.


Exile. #3Weeks

When Jewish literature speaks of exile, it is not only the Exile of Jews from their homeland that is meant.

An Aramaic phrase “Shechinta B’Galusa” means that the Divine Presence, God as it were, is also in Exile.  As the Medrash puts it, when God returns us to our land, He will be returning with us as well.

An accurate sense of this concept can be found in the story of World War II.  When the Germans invaded Europe, many of its monarchs and heads of state headed to safer places, either England or Canada.  In fact, one future European Queen was born in Canada, which was nice enough (of course) to give the place where she was to be born diplomatic status as an embassy of her home country.  That way, she could be said to be born in her homeland.

During the war, this meant that those people on the run were the true lawful rulers of their nations that were currently under the domination of a foreign power.  Those countries were populated by their own citizens, but the countries were still exile-countries.  This is how one can understand the current State of Israel, with its many advantages, as still being in a state of Golus.

Every shul is an Embassy of the Beis Hamikdash, of God in Exile.

Haftora. #3Weeks

“Had Israel not sinned, none of the writings of the Prophets would have been necessary. We would only have needed the Torah (Five Books of Moses) and the Book of Joshua (to inform us about the borders.)”

This line from the Talmud is what I start with every time the Haftora is read in shul.  Every passage in Neviim (Prophetic books of the Bible) is part of a rebuke of how we as a nation fell short of the ideals expressed in Chumash.

The Haftora readings during the Three Weeks only accentuate that point.

That’s why I plan to pay even more attention to the Haftora tomorrow.

If any members of a Kiddush Club read this, I would tell them to forgo their Haftora snacktime tomorrow.

Good Shabbos

The month of Av. #3Weeks

(Just so you get why we extend the feelings of Tisha B’Av back to the start of Av.)

Sometimes the nature of a feast day or fast day ends up defining the entire month in which it occurs.

We have:

משנכנס אדר מרבים בשמחה: When Adar enters, we increase in Joy.

משנכנס אב ממעטים בשמחה. When Av enters, we decrease in joy.

Pesach plays a role in giving the entire month of Nissan a festive character, in that we don’t give eulogies or fast or say certain sadness-inducing prayers the whole month.

Why are those months singled out?

I have a theory that it is the sources in Tanach that tell us to treat the whole month as special.

“Shamor es Chodesh HaAviv”. Observe the Month of Aviv.  I.e. Pesach is observed (in a way) during the whole month, even though Pesach is only one week long.

כ  וַיִּכְתֹּב מָרְדֳּכַי, אֶת-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה; וַיִּשְׁלַח סְפָרִים אֶל-כָּל-הַיְּהוּדִים, אֲשֶׁר בְּכָל-מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ–הַקְּרוֹבִים, וְהָרְחוֹקִים. 20 And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both nigh and far,
כא  לְקַיֵּם, עֲלֵיהֶם–לִהְיוֹת עֹשִׂים אֵת יוֹם אַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר לְחֹדֶשׁ אֲדָר, וְאֵת יוֹם-חֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר בּוֹ:  בְּכָל-שָׁנָה, וְשָׁנָה. 21 to enjoin them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly,
כב  כַּיָּמִים, אֲשֶׁר-נָחוּ בָהֶם הַיְּהוּדִים מֵאֹיְבֵיהֶם, וְהַחֹדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר נֶהְפַּךְ לָהֶם מִיָּגוֹן לְשִׂמְחָה, וּמֵאֵבֶל לְיוֹם טוֹב; לַעֲשׂוֹת אוֹתָם, יְמֵי מִשְׁתֶּה וְשִׂמְחָה, וּמִשְׁלֹחַ מָנוֹת אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ, וּמַתָּנוֹת לָאֶבְיֹנִים. 22 the days wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning into a good day; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.


So the Megillah clearly says that all of Adar has this Joy.

And then there is Tisha B’Av.  One thing you may not have realized is that nowhere in Tanach is there a verse that says the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed on the 9th of Av.  Both in Melachim (II Kings) and Yirmiahu (Jeremiah), the month is the time it was destroyed.

Now while the entire months of Adar and Nissan are imbued with this Simcha, we can thank someone in the Jewish Calendar department for not pasting Tisha B’Av’s attitude onto the entire month. But it does start with Rosh Chodesh, and extends to the day after Tisha B’av.

I think that is the deeper meaning of the Hagada’s phrase “Yachol Mei’Rosh Chodesh”.  One can reasonably assume that the presence of a notable day in a month can be felt at the start of that month, due to the nature of anticipation; and can spread throughout the whole month.

Just Stand and Watch. #3Weeks

In Parshas Pinchas, we are told about the Korban Tamid, the twice-daily public offering that was offered every single day in the Beis Hamikdash. When I say public, I mean that it was offered by the Cohanim on behalf of the Jewish Nation as a whole.

When the Torah phrases this command, it uses a rather flowery expression
“Tishmeru L’Hakriv Li B’Moado”, you (plural) shall be careful to offer it to me at its proper time. What is the nature of this “shemira”, this caring? Rashi cites the Talmud’s opinion that this is the basis for something called Maamados.

תשמרו – שיהיו כהנים ולוים וישראלים עומדין על גביו מכאן למדו ותקנו מעמדות:
“Tishmeru”, this means that Cohanim, Leviim and Yisraelim “stand over” [the daily Tamid]. From here they learned and instituted the practice of Maamados.

What were the Maamados? It refers to the practice of having Jews come from communities all over Israel and stand and watch as the offering was brought on their behalf. The Cohanim were doing the work, but the non-Cohanim who attended were watching, acting as spectators as this atonement was offered on their behalf.

We know that Cohanim worked in rotations of twenty-four one week shifts. They were acting on behalf of the whole Nation. It would be unseemly for the people they were working for to not even show up to appreciate the work they did. But it would not be possible for the entire Klal Yisrael to show up in Jerusalem every morning and afternoon. So the Holy Land was divided into regions, and regular Jews from communities all over the country would represent their fellow Jews in the Beis Hamikdash.

Now they didn’t only watch. There was a form of prayer service and Torah reading they did as well. However, it seems that this was done to supplement and use words to explain the meaning of their presence.

Just watching is meaningful. And we should appreciate that far more. Because without that awareness, it can be hard to understand why the Torah limits Serving Hashem for the Cohanim only, leaving the vast majority with nothing to do in that regard. These Maamados are the response to that; they were doing something; watching!

We all intuitively understand this in other areas of public life; the entire nature of sporting and entertainment events in our era points to this. Everyone who goes to a stadium or arena to watch a game knows that they could see the game more clearly on a screen. Why do they go to the stadium or arena? Because there is meaning, such as it is, in being part of the crowd. The crowd of spectators gives power to an event. Why attend a concert when you can listen to the music more clearly in your own home? Because an audience is a very real participant.

People spend hours and hours on Yom Kippur in an effort to receive a clean slate. The Machzor has hundreds of pages of prayers asking for forgiveness. Yet somehow all of this was done with one Cohen Gadol doing all the work, with the people just watching and praying silently that he do a good job. They weren’t doing nothing. They were standing and watching.

“Ulam”: The Hall. #3Weeks

When studying aspects of the Beis Hamikdash, I have been intrigued by the differences between the Beis Hamikdash in Jerusalem, either first or second, and the Mishkan mentioned in the Torah. On one level, the differences were only a matter of scale; the Beis Hamikdash was a much larger structure. But both the Mishkan and the Mikdash had an outer Mizbeach (Altar); a Kodesh room that had a Bread Table, a Menorah and an incense altar; a Kodesh HaKodoshim (Holy of Holies) that the Cohen Gadol entered on Yom Kippur.

There was one big difference between the two, and that is a room called the Ulam, in Hebrew, really just a large Hall, that precedes the entrance into the Kodesh. Functionally it added nothing. Instead of the Torah’s Mishkan building which had two chambers, the Beis Hamikdash had three chambers; the previous two, and the Ulam, the Entrance Hall, with huge doors leading from the outside, and huge doors opening into the Kodesh.

The Ulam is considered such an integral part of the Mikdash structure that the Rambam lists it as a part of the Mitzvah to build a Beis Hamikdash. Also, there is a prohibition against building a structure with the same dimensions as the Beis Hamikdash, and those dimensions include a Kodesh Hakodoshim, a Kodesh, and an Ulam. It is a fascinating that there is this addition which is considered the essential component though it was absent in the original prototype.

I have researched this and found no sources that address my fascination. However, I have drawn my own tentative conclusions about the meaning to be gleaned from this added feature. I share them with you.

The core difference between the Mishkan and the Mikdash is this: The Mishkan was in its very purpose a temporary and movable structure; while the Mikdash possessed by definition the grandeur of permanence and fixed location. The Mishkan has Hashem going with us on the road. The Mikdash has us approaching Hashem in His Palace. The Mikdash has a holiness of Location that exists even without the presence of the Aron.

That higher Kedusha of the Permanent Mikdash requires a greater measure of Hachana, preparation. And when dealing with location, preparation requires a preparatory space. In the numerous levels of Kedusha that existed in the Mikdash, the Ulam didn’t even have its own distinct level of kedusha separate from the Kodesh. Yet it existed a separate space that in its grandeur prepared one to enter the Sanctum.

The relevance of this setup to the Holiness in our own lives is that we contemplate adding a layer of that Ulam to our holy endeavors. We can do this on Friday afternoons, on Erev YomTov, before we see our children in the afternoons, before we see our spouses for the first time of the day since the morning…

Food Prep. #3Weeks

When a Beis Yaakov hosts a convention for other Beis Yaakov students from across North America, the students all take responsibility for different parts of the convention.  When my wife was in High School, and the Convention came to her city, she was responsible for Food Prep.  They were catering a Shabbos for hundreds of girls, so it was an important job.  The ovens had to be empty and clean before being turned on. The food had to be ordered, delivered and heated.

I bring this up because as I think of the Beis Hamikdash, it’s hard to avoid the impression that it was one giant kitchen and dining hall.  Understanding this detail is a key to understanding the entire nature of Avodah, Service.

The Principle that God is not physical and has no physical needs does not affect the reality that the main task of the Cohanim was to serve in God’s house, and the Mizbeiach was the equivalent of the Dining Room Table.

Why serve God food if he doesn’t need food?  Because when one does something for someone else, it has an effect on the giver more than it does on the recipient.  When a child gets his mother a glass of water, it strengthens his bond to his mother even if the mother isn’t thirsty.

The principle of the Beis Hamikdash was the sense that preparing food and serving food to someone we respect are acts of love and respect.  We extended that principle to God, even though the metaphor fails when applied literally.

This the ROOT idea of Korbanos, food offerings on the altar.  If you understand how taking someone to a restaurant is romantic, then you understand korbanos. 

It’s the affection of food prep.