Torah Portion

Tisha B’Av

The Way Home

Just like it is impossible to harvest a hazelnut before it has gone through twenty-one days of ripening, so to it is impossible to reach the redemption without being in distress. In order to obtain something good- you need to go through a painful journey. First you need to mourn every aspect, there needs to be sadness and pain and destruction.

Bet Hamikdash

Harav Israel Asulin

Tuesday, 5th of Av, 5775

It is possible to find a lot of comparisons for the twenty-one days between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av). Throughout history, many terrible and bitter events happened to the Jews during these days, on a national level and on a personal level. These are dark and melancholy days; days of mourning and destruction, days of calamity and blood. Days where demons are given strength and according to Halacha one needs to be very careful during this time to guard oneself from misery and damage.

However, when Rebbe Nachman speaks about these twenty-one days (Likutei Moharan Tanina, Torah 85), he doesn’t compare them to blood or destruction or annihilation. From all of the things in the world, Rebbe Nachman chooses to compare these days to nuts and to eggs.

Just as during these three weeks, we have twenty-one days, so to says Rebbe Nachman are the amount of days it takes for the hazelnut to ripen and for the egg inside a hen to mature.

In other words, twenty-one days are the time it takes for something to ripen and mature. It is the time in which hazelnuts ripen and eggs mature, and apparently something else comes to fruition during these three weeks. What is this thing that comes to fruition at the end of the twenty-one days of mourning?

Consolation.

The mourning during the three weeks becomes stronger and intensifies during the nine days, and becomes more stringent during the week in which Tisha B’Av falls, and comes to its climax on Tisha B’Av. Then the screen changes and the melody is of ‘be comforted, be comforted, my people’[1] and of closeness and amazing love of Hashem that envelopes us during the seven weeks of consolation.

How does this happen? How does comfort replace the mourning, and even more so when the mourning is at its’ peak? What is the connection between the hazelnuts and the eggs and these days of mourning? Is it just a matter of counting the days or are there additional meanings we can find?

The answer is that there is very great fundamental point that Rebbe Nachman teaches us in a five word headline: “Through Luz (לוז) we enter Bet El.”

The simple meaning is that ‘Bet El’ was a city from the time of Yehoshua[2], which was surrounded by a wall and the only entrance into it was hidden inside the trunk of an enormous nut tree.

However, in the deeper understanding, Bet El was not a city; rather it is the dwelling place of the Divine presence. It is the Holy Temple and it is my private home. If we merit, the Divine presence dwells amongst us. In my heart- if I will make for the Divine presence a tabernacle, it will dwell inside of me.

Rebbe Nachman asks- You feel destruction? You feel distant from holiness? You’re standing in front of the great wall and can’t find the opening and there is no gate to reach Bet El? You really want to find Hashem in your life, with your spouse, in your parenthood? You are longing for the great and holy house of Hashem? You yearn for the private temple inside of you, your holy of holies? Do you want me to reveal to you the path to enter Bet El?

Listen to me well- “Through Luz you will enter Bet El.”

As mentioned earlier, the hazelnut (luz) is the type of nut whose time to ripen is twenty-one days. However, the word’ luz’ has an additional meaning- in every person there is a bone called the ‘essential bone (etzem ha’luz) .’[3] “This is the essential bone which is in a person’s back, which will remain after the body decays, and from it the body will be rebuilt at the time of the resurrection of the dead; and this is our main comfort…” (Likutei Moharan Tanina, Torah 85) The ‘essential bone’ is the only bone which remains after the body decays in the grave, and from it the body will be rebuilt at the time of the resurrection of the dead. That is to say this is actually our hope for resurrection and life.

On the other hand, the placement of the essential bone is in our back, and the back represents hiddenness and distance, just like the meaning of the phrase ‘turning your back.’ Furthermore, עורף (back) if the letters are changed around becomes פרעה (Pharoah), who represents the difficulty of the exile and the distress of slavery.

We find therefore that the word ‘luz’ has two sides to it, exile or comfort, hiddenness or redemption. That is exactly the meaning of the eggs which grow inside the chicken for twenty-one days.

Rebbe Natan explains that a kosher egg has two sides, one side is like a jug- rounded, and the other side is sharpened. Rebbe Natan says: “A jug- this eludes to mourning and sorrow, the aspect of the cycle of life, and for this reason we eat eggs and lentils at the time of mourning…” The circular shape tells us of the cycle of life, about the fact that life progresses to the end. Therefore an egg is the food of mourners and therefore we also have the custom of eating an egg at the final meal before Tisha B’Av.

In contrast, Rebbe Natan continues: “Sharpness- this is the aspect of boldness and happiness, the aspect of making the mouth like a sharp sword, the opposite of a mourner who doesn’t have a mouth. This hints to the resurrection and the days of redemption, when the children of Israel will stand sharp and strong.” If so, like the hazelnut so to the egg, its’ meaning is sorrow and also happiness, mourning with resurrection and redemption.

“This teaches a person that it’s impossible for any person to have good hope without sorrow and difficulties and tremendous bitterness, which is the aspect of our mourning and sorrow over the destruction of the Holy Temple… as our Sages of blessed memory said ‘He who mourns for Jerusalem will merit it see its’ joy…’, and this is true for every person and in every time regarding his exile and pain and the difficulties he goes through.” (Likutei Halachot, Laws of Eggs, Halachah 5)

Just as it is impossible to build a building before digging deep for the foundation, just as it is impossible to plant a tree before it rots deep within the sand, just as it is impossible to eat a nut before it ripens for three weeks- so to it is impossible to get to the redemption before being in distress and watering the ground with our tears.

Why?

There is a law in creation, that in order to get to the good and the hope, one needs to go through a path of bitterness and hiddenness. Just like the thesis which states ‘necessity is the mother of invention’- if we don’t need something, if it is not difficult for us, or if it is not painful, than why would we search for the good? Why would we want to change? Why would we want to move from our place and begin to move upward?

The pain is our fuel, it is the power that motivates us and causes all good things to grow.

On the way to ‘Bet El’ and during ‘the three weeks’, when you get stuck amongst the bumps and the nuts, you should understand that they are only labor pains. This is the path. First you need to mourn every aspect. There needs to be sadness and pain and destruction. We need these three weeks, by way of ‘Luz’ with tribulations, in order to arrive at the consolation that awaits us at the peak of the three weeks.

May it be that very soon we will be enveloped in the hug of “rejoice with her a rejoicing, all who mourn over her…” (Yeshayahu[4] Chapter 66, Verse 10).

[1] During the Shabbat following the fast of Tishah B’Av, the passage “Nachamu” (Yeshayahu 40:1) is read for the Haftorah

[2] Joshua

[3] עצם הלוז Some opinions say it is the top of the spine, others say it is the tailbone

[4] Isaiah

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