Shabbat Parashat Vaetchanan| 5766
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Two Faces of Tu B’Av - Part I - From Harabbanut V’hamedinah, pp. 305-307
[This talk was given on Tu B’Av, which fell on Shabbat Nachamu, as this year, but in the grim year of 5698 (1938).]
The traditional period of national mourning has passed, and we have reached two markers of happier times, Tu B’Av and Shabbat Nachamu. Yet it is hard to greet these happy days, as we are in the midst of years, not just weeks, of mourning. The Jewish community [of Palestine] has lost lives, and the Jews of the Diaspora are shaking in pain. But let us focus on two of the reasons given for the significance of Tu B’Av, highlighting very different times and circumstances (see Ta’anit 26b, 31a).
One goes back to a time of glory, when our nation shook off the chains of slavery and, after 40 years in the desert, was poised to enter the Promised Land. Despite the presence in the Land of strong nations, our forefathers were confident that their foes would be chased from the Land the nations had defiled and which Hashem had promised to the patriachs . The generation that had left Egypt and had failed to appreciate the opportunity to live in the Land had died out. The new generation was not afraid that their belief in the Torah would pale against the cultures of the Land’s inhabitants or that they would be unable to apply it effectively there. They did not wish to continue as a nation that subsisted on manna bread. The Divine Torah was their guide and their elixir. Finally, this new generation was rid of the residual darkness of the Egyptian period and was ready to carry out its mission. On that momentous Tu B’Av, the nation became aware that the last of the deaths that had to precede entry to the Land had taken place. They went out to dance with exhilaration as they opened a glorious chapter in Jewish history. Indeed, “there were no holidays for Israel like Tu B’Av.”
As time passed, so did the picture. Eretz Yisrael’s cities were in ruins, with slain Jews strewn all over. In frozen shock, the survivors did their work among the corpses, digging graves for the defeated defenders of Betar. The last of the rebellions against the Romans was over and along with the dead, the remaining hope for independence seemed to be buried as well. But amazingly, when they were able to bury the dead and the bodies had not rotted, they made the blessing of “Hatov V’hameitiv” (Hashem is good and does good). They too danced by a full moon with a confident belief that there would be better days in the future. “There were no holidays for Israel like Tu B’Av.”
As different as these two periods were, they have common ideas. The participants shared a pure belief in the power of Divine Providence. The generation that came out of Egypt and the one that fell to the Romans each made mistakes and paid for them, but each was able to learn from those mistakes. The former mistake was the sin of the spies. They thought that the Torah did not have a chance in Eretz Yisrael. While being concerned for the Torah, they were unaware of the power of the Land. They were forced to bury their dead in the sands of the desert, instead of those people entering Eretz Yisrael. The latter’s mistake was Bar Kochva’s, who thought that he could succeed without Hashem’s help and fell when Hashem indeed withdrew His help (see Gittin 57a). Bar Kochva thought that the nation’s salvation did not have to do with the Torah. His dream was also finished with the burying of the dead in graves in Eretz Yisrael.
We continue next week to apply the lessons of the historical mistakes to the hope and turmoil of the 20th century.
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