Two Sides of the Same Coin

Rabbi Wagensberg
Tisha B'Av
Two Sides of the Same Coin


The Levush (Orach Chaim, 428:4; Rabbi Mordechai Yoffe, b. 1530 Prague d. 1612, Poland) writes that Parshas Devarim falls out on the Shabbos right before Tisha B'Av, every single year, without exception, because the rebuke of Moshe Rabbenu in Parshas Devarim is meant to help us improve on ourselves, even more, so that we can fix the problems which caused the destruction of our Batei Mikdash (Temples) that happened on Tisha B'Av.

However, there seems to be a contradiction concerning Tisha B'Av. On the one hand, Tisha B'Av appears to be a sad day because we mourn the destruction of our Temples, we afflict ourselves by not eating and not drinking, we do not wash ourselves or shmear our bodies with ointments (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 554:1), we may not study the majority of Torah because Torah study makes a person happy (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 554:1; Tehillim, 19:9), and we sit on low chairs like mourners (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 559:3).

On the other hand, Tisha B'Av is called a moed (holiday; Eicha, 1:15) which is why we do not say Tachanun (a sad prayer in which we demonstrate our embarrassment about the sins we committed, and we ask Hashem for forgiveness) on Tisha B'Av, just like we do not say this prayer on other holidays, so as not to disrupt the festive atmosphere of the day (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 559:4).

The Imrei Pinchas (Tisha B'Av, chap. 384, Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, b. 1728 d. 1790, Russia) says that one reason why we are so happy on Tisha B'Av is because the Yerushalmi in Berachos (pg. 17b) says that Moshiach is born on Tisha B'Av.

Herein lies the contradiction. What is Tisha B'Av? Is it a sad day or a happy one? Will the real Tisha B'Av please stand up! One answer to this query is based on the following amazing chiddush (novel idea).

The Tzvi Latzaddik (Tammuz-Av, 2:2; Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech from Blushov) says that the 22 days of the Bein Hametzarim (lit. in dire straits; Eicha, 1;3; a term used to refer to the Three Weeks, from the 17th of Tammuz, including the 17th day of Tammuz, until the 9th of Av, including the 9th of Av), correspond to the first 22 days of Tishrei, from Rosh Hashana until Shmini Atzeres (including Rosh Hashana and including Shmini Atzeres).

According to this formula, the 22nd day of the Bein Hametzarim is Tisha B'Av, and the 22nd day of Tishrei is Shmini Atzeres. This teaches us that these two days are intimately connected.

One hint which supports this connection can be found in the Ohr Malei (Tisha B'Av section, citing Rav Yosef from Kasani) who makes the following observation. In Eretz Yisrael, Shmini Atzeres is celebrated on the same day as Simchas Torah. On Simchas Torah, we do "Hakafos" (we dance with the Torah Scrolls). The Hakafos ceremony begins with a paragraph called "Atah Horeisa." "Atah Horeisa" is a verse taken from Parshas Vaeschanan (4:35). The full verse reads, "You have been shown in order to know that Hashem, He is the God, there is none beside Him."

Interestingly, the Torah reading on Tisha B'Av contains within it this very verse from Parshas Vaeschanan. This is not coincidental. On the contrary, it shows us that these two days are deeply connected.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that not only are these two days connected, but, Shmini Atzeres serves as a tikkun (fixing) for the damage that was done on Tisha B'Av.

Rashi (Parshas Pinchas, 29:35, citing Succah, chap. 5, "Hachalil", Rebbi Elazar), says that the reason why we bring only one bull as an offering on Shmini Atzeres is because throughout Succos we brought 70 bulls for the 70 nations of the world. After we finished taking care of the nations, we began packing our bags to go home. At that point, Hashem said to the Jewish people, "I beg of you, make a small meal for me so that I can receive pleasure from you."

On Shmini Atzeres, Hashem says to the Jewish people that He just wants to spend some time alone with us. This is an expression of endearment. Just like when children are about to take leave of their father, he says to them, "Kashe Alai Pridaschem" (Your departure is hard for me), similarly, Hashem says that same thing to us on Shmini Atzeres.

We see from this that there is such a closeness between the Jewish people and God on Shmini Atzeres. In this way, Shmini Atzeres repairs the damage that was caused on Tisha B'Av. On Tisha B'Av both Temples were destroyed, exile ensued, and such a distance had been created between Hashem and His people. Therefore, the closeness that we have with Hashem on Shmini Atzeres mends the damage of distance from God that was generated on Tisha B'Av.

Not only that, but, the distance that Tisha B'Av caused was hinted to, by Hashem, on Shmini Atzeres. We mentioned earlier that when Hashem said to the Jewish people (on Shmini Atzeres) "Kasheh Alai Pridaschem," it meant that when the Jewish people were packing their bags to return home on Shmini Atzeres, after bringing offerings on behalf of the nations throughout Succos, Hashem said that this distance that is going to happen now, after Shmini Atzeres, is difficult for Him. Therefore, Hashem requested them to stay just one more day so that they could be together.

However, on a deeper level, Hashem (Who was talking to them on Shmini Atzeres) meant to say something else. Hashem meant to say that the distance that was created on Tisha B'Av was very hard for Him. Therefore, Hashem asked for special day of closeness on Shmini Atzeres to make up for the distance that occurred on Tisha B'Av, because Shmini Atzeres (the 22nd day of its set of days) is meant to fix the damage that was done on Tisha B'Av (the 22nd day of its set of days).

There is even a hint in God's words which supports this idea that, with the words "Kesheh Alai Pridaschem," Hashem was indeed referring to Tisha B'Av, even though He said those words on Shmini Atzeres. In the phrase, "Kashe Alai Pridaschem," the word "Alai" is spelled with three Hebrew letters: ayin, lamed, and yud. These three letters serve as an acronym for the verse, "Einecha Linochach Yabitu" (let your eyes look to the opposite; Mishlei, 4:25). Hashem was hinting to us on Shmini Atzeres that we should look (Yabitu) to the opposite (Linochach) day which parallels Shmini Atzeres. That day is Tisha B'Av. On Tisha B'Av our departure (Pridaschem) from God was hard (Kasheh) for Hashem (Shvilei Pinchas).

The Ahavas Shalom (Parshas Emor) uncovers two other meanings behind Hashem's words. The first message is that Hashem told the Jewish people, "Do you know what is really "Kasheh Alai" (hard for Me)? The answer is, 'Pridaschem,' your departure from each other. Hashem cannot stand when we separate ourselves from each other. Just like a parent cannot bear to watch his children constantly fighting with each other, neither can Hashem.

The second message contained in these words is that sometimes we argue about how to perform a mitzva. One person says that it must be done specifically in this way while another person says that it must be done in a different way. Then, some people start to take these differences personally. About such situations, Hashem says, "Do you know what is 'Kasheh' (hard) for me? It is 'Pridaschem,' when you depart from each other because of 'Alai,' meaning, because of 'Me' and 'My' mitzvos." How ironic. The very thing that should bind us together (the Torah), rips us apart.

Hashem is telling us that we have issues. Hashem is saying to us that we suffer from an illness called "Sinas Chinam" (baseless hatred). This Sinas Chinum got out of hand on Tisha B'Av. The sooner we admit that we have a problem, the sooner we can begin to take the necessary steps to cure ourselves from it. Hashem conveys this problem of ours to us on Shmini Atzeres (with the words "Kasheh Alai Pridaschem) to teach us that Shmini Atzeres is a tikkun for Tisha B'Av. On Shmini Atzeres, Hashem wants us to have a meal with Him. All of us together. Under one roof, without fighting. Hashem just wants us to be one big cohesive family unit.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that not only is Hashem speaking to us on Shmini Atzeres about Tisha B'Av, He is also speaking to us on Tisha B'Av about Shmini Atzeres. This can be seen in the Book of Eicha where it says, "Kara Alai Moed" (he, Yirmiyahu Hanavi, called me, Tisha B'Av, a holiday). What is so festive about Tisha B'Av that it should be called a holiday? The answer is that there is nothing festive about Tisha B'Av. However, since Tisha B'Av is connected to Shmini Atzeres, like two sides of the same coin, it is the aspect of Shmini Atzeres that is hidden underneath Tisha B'Av which is called a holiday.

This too is hinted in the words, "Kara Alai Moed." The word "Alai" is spelled: ayin, lamed, and yud, which still serves as an acronym for, "Einecha Linochach Yabitu." If you want to see where the holiday of Tisha B'Av is, you will have to look to the opposite day which is connected to Tisha B'Av (the 22nd day of its set of days). That day is Shmini Atzeres (the 22nd day of its set of days).

The Shvilei Pinchas says that this answers the apparent contradiction that we mentioned above, is Tisha B'Av a sad day or a happy day? The answer is yes! The sad component of Tisha B'Av comes from the Tisha B'Av side of the coin. However, the holiday aspect of Tisha B'Av comes from the Shmini Atzeres side of the coin.

This approach will also address an answer to a famous question. The verse says, "Vihayisa Ach Sameach" (and you will just be happy; Parshas Re'eh, 16:15). The Gemara (Succa, chap. 4, "Lulav Va'arava", pg. 48a) derives from this verse that Shmini Atzeres is included in simcha (happiness). This means to say that we must also be happy on Shmini Atzeres (not just on Succos).

Many commentaries ask how the word "Ach" (just) comes to include, if everywhere else the word "Ach" comes to exclude? The Shvilei Pinchas suggests that the word "Ach" does indeed come to exclude, just like it does in all other instances. The word "Ach" comes to exclude simcha on Tisha B'Av. By inference, we can deduce that Tisha B'Av's opposite day, Shmini Atzeres, is included in simcha.

There is yet another way in which Shmini Atzeres repairs that damage that was done on Tisha B'Av. The Gemara (Berachos, chap. 5, "Ein Omdin", pg. 32b; Rebbi Elazar) says that from the day the Temple was destroyed, the gates of prayer have been sealed. This is supported by the verses which say, "Though I would cry out and plead, He shut out my prayer" (Eicha, 3:8), and, "You wrapped Yourself in a cloud that prayer cannot penetrate" (Eicha, 3:44). Since the Temples were destroyed on Tisha B'Av, Tisha B'Av represents the day that the gates of prayer were locked.

However, the Sar Shalom of Belz (Rabbi Shalom Rokeach, the first Belzer Rebbe, 1781-1855, Galicia) said, "Although I cannot quantify specifically what the dancing on Simchas Torah accomplishes, nonetheless, this much I can tell you. All the prayers that could not ascend throughout the year, do ascend because of the dancing on Simchas Torah."

Again, we find that Shmini Atzeres, which is the same day as Simchas Torah in Eretz Yisrael, fixes the damage that was created on Tisha B'Av.

The second Belzer Rebbe (Rabbi Yehoshua, 1825-1894, Galicia) claimed to have found a support to the Sar Shalom of Belz from a Gemara (Chagiga, chap. 2, "Ein Dorshin", pg. 17a) which says that Shmini Atzeres is a holiday unto itself with respect to "Pazer Kashev." The simplistic understanding of "Pazer Kashev" is that these are two acronyms, spelled with six letters which represent six laws in which Shmini Atzeres is considered distinct from Succos (See Rashi, ibid, for an explanation of this mnemonic).

However, Rebbi Yehoshua of Belz suggests that this mnemonic can actually be read as words. "Pazer" means that all the prayers throughout the entire year "Shehitpazru" (that were scattered and shattered) when they hit the heavenly brick wall that rejected them, will be accepted on Shmini Atzeres, because on that day, "Kashev," Hashem is "Makshiv" (listens) to them all simultaneously. Once again, Shmini Atzeres mends the harm that was done on Tisha B'Av.

This approach will answer another difficulty. The Gemara (Yoma, chap. 5, "Hotziyu Lo", pg. 54b; Reish Lakish) says that when the enemies broke into the Beis Hamikdash to destroy it, they entered into the Holy of Holies and noticed that the Keruvim (statue like figures on top of the Aron Hakodesh - Holy Ark) were embracing each other. The Shita Mikubetzes (Baba Basra, pg. 93b) cites the Ri Migash (Rabbi Yosef Migash, 1077-1141, Spain) who asks that the Keruvim should have been facing away from each other. This is because there are two seemingly contradictory verses concerning the Keruvim. One verse says that the Keruvim were facing each other (Parshas Terumah, 25:20). The other verse says that they were facing away from each other (Divrei Hayamim, 2, 3:13).



The Gemara in Baba Basra (chap. 6, "Hamocher Pairos", pg. 99a, Rebbi Yochanan and Rebbi Elazar) says that there is no contradiction whatsoever. It depends. When the Jewish people were doing the will of God, the Keruvim faced each other, like the verse says in Parshas Teruma. This is because one Keruv represented Hashem, as it were, and the other Keruv represented the Jewish people. The Keruvim served as a barometer as to the relationship between the Jews and God. When we did God's will, the Keruvim were looking into each other's eyes, representing a very close and healthy relationship.

However, when we did not fulfill God's will, and when we turned our faces away from Hashem, the Keruvim faced away from each other like the verse says in Divrei Hayamim 2. This represented a relationship that was on the rocks.

Therefore, the Ri Migash asks, how could it be that the enemies found the Keruvim embracing each other when they entered the Kodesh Hakadashim? The Temple was about to be destroyed. That means that we were clearly not doing God's will. As such, the Keruvim should have been facing away from each other. How could they have been hugging each other?

Several answers have been given to address this difficulty (See the Pri Tzaddik, Parshas Bamidbar, #3; the Maggid of Mezeritch, cited in the B'nei Yissaschar, Tammuz-Av, 3:1). However, the Imrei Noam (Rabbi Meir Horowitz, the Dzikover Rebbe, 1819-1877, Poland) says that the Temple was destroyed because of the Tisha B'Av aspect of that day. But, don't forget, that Tisha B'Av is connected to Shmini Atzeres. Therefore, the hugging of the Keruvim happened because of the Shmini Atzeres aspect of that day. By having the Keruvim hugging each other on that day, Hashem was telling us that Shmini Atzeres is the tikkun of Tisha B'Av.

So far, we have found that Tisha B'Av caused there to be a distance between ourselves and God. We have also found that Tisha B'Av caused our prayers to be rejected by God. Therefore, the closeness that Shmini Atzeres generates repairs the damage of distance, and the dancing of Simchas Torah (which is Shmini Atzeres in Eretz Yisrael) breaks the gates of prayer wide open which fixes the rejection of Tisha B'Av. Yet, there is still another way in which Shmini Atzeres fixes Tisha B'Av.

The whole point of having a Beis Hamikdash is so that there would be Shechina (Divine Presence) on Earth, like it says, "V'asu Li Mikdash, V'shachanti Bisocham" (They must make a Sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them; Parshas Teruma, 25:8). The whole point of having Shechina is so that we can get close to Hashem. It's all about relationships, closeness, and intimacy with God.

When the Temple was destroyed on Tisha B'Av, the Shechina left this world (See Meseches Rosh Hashanah, chap. 4, "Yom Tov", pg. 31a; Rebbi Yochanan, who says that the Shechina traveled to ten different stations, slowly moving further away from us; Hoshea, 5:15). Being so far away from Hashem is what makes us sad on Tisha B'Av.

Therefore, the way to repair this situation is to bring the Shechina back down to us so that we can be close again. One of the best ways to bring the Shechina down is to study Torah. The Gemara in Berachos (chap. 1, "M'eimasai", pg. 8a; Rav Chiya bar Ami in the name of UIa) says that from the day that the Temple was destroyed, Hashem can only be found in the four cubits of where Torah is being learned.

In Pirkei Avos (3:6) it says that the Divine Presence descends, not only to 10, 5, 3, or 2 people learning Torah, but, even onto one person who studies Torah (see Parshas Yisro, 20:21). This is what the celebration of Simchas Torah is. We have completed a cycle of communal Torah study, and we commit ourselves to begin a new cycle, delving into the Torah even deeper. This Torah study, coupled with the simcha, brings the Shechina back. This return of Shechina takes place on Simchas Torah, which is Shmini Atzeres in Eretz Yisrael. Once again, Shmini Atzeres repairs the damage that was done on Tisha B'Av.

Practically speaking, let's not wait until Simchas Torah to bring the Shechina back down. Let's do it right now by making a commitment to increase our daily Torah study for just two more minutes a day. Right before the Torah session, let us pray, "Dear God, with this Torah study, please return Your Shechina to the world and to me, and deliver us from exile, and build Your Temple so that everybody can benefit from Your Presence."

So, may we all be blessed during these 22 days by taking the rebuke of Moshe Rabbenu to heart, and strengthen our commitment to the study of Torah, and thereby cause the Shechina to return to us, in order that this year we will be able to celebrate the first 22 days of Tishrei in the Succas Dovid Hanofales, from which our simcha will reverberate throughout the entire world, and from which will generate a unified love, represented by the two Keruvim embracing each other.