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                               A Distant Holiday

                                              Rabbi Dovid Horwitz

Although it is difficult for us to comprehend, the Sages deemed Tisha B’av to be a holiday, and thus, as on all other holidays the Tachanun prayer is not recited. What kind of holiday is Tisha B’av anyway? If anything, it is the farthest day from a holiday. Rather, it is a day of personal and national mourning. Indeed, the Sages instruct us to mourn over the Temple as if we were mourning over a loved one who just passed away and is yet before our eyes!

Rav Shlomo Wolbe explains that the mindset of the Sages in regarding Tisha B’av  as a holiday can be better understood by means of a Midrash. The Torah tells us that after Adam and Chava sinned, Hashem cursed the snake who had deceived them. He removed the snake’s legs causing him to spend the rest of his existence slithering on the ground next to the dirt, and  gave him the dust as his food. The question is asked, why is this considered a curse? The snake will never want for food since dirt is always plentiful. He literally lives on a lifetime’s supply of food!

The answer is that Hashem was telling the snake that He did not wish to have any further relationship with him whatsoever. He never wanted the snake to have to come to Him with a request for food, since He despises him totally. Never lacking anything, going through life without needing anyone’s help, especially Hashem’s is the greatest form of distance there can be. Similarly, a person who lacks nothing, never experiencing even the slightest difficulty, must ask himself whether Hashem has G-d forbid, abandoned him like the snake.

Tisha B’av is a holiday unlike any other. Most holidays symbolize the closeness that exists between the Jewish people and G-d, whereas Tisha B’av symbolizes the distance that exists between us. Although it is difficult to realize that our relationship is strained, often leaving Hashem angry and vengeful, it is nevertheless comforting to know that nevertheless the relationship still exists. The fact that Hashem took His anger out on sticks and stones and did not destroy us entirely shows His love for us even in the most difficult of times. In this sense, realizing that the connection is still there should be a source of great inspiration to us to improve our ways, thereby rebuilding the relationship with Hashem.

As the shoemaker told R’ Yisrael Salanter, “As long as the candle still burns, we can still work.” As long as the relationship is still there, there is hope for a better tomorrow.
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