I’m typing this d’var Torah on Sunday afternoon, Tisha b’Av, with the knowledge that by the time you read this, Tisha b’Av will be somewhat of a distant memory. However, while the sadness and mourning of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash will be in the past, the consolation for the destruction will only be starting. Indeed, this Shabbat is known as “Shabbat Nachamu” – Shabbos of consolation. The haftorah for this week begins with the words of Isaiah, “Console, console My people,” conveying how G-d wants His prophets to comfort the Jewish people.
In fact, consolation began already on Tisha b’Av afternoon itself, indicated by the insertion of a prayer of comfort, “Nachaim” into the Mincha service, and reflected by the easing of some of the Tisha b’Av restrictions after midday.
On this point, the question is asked as to how there’s able to be consolation on Tisha b’Av afternoon and the easing of some restrictions, when the Talmud (Taanis 29a) teaches how both Temples were actually set aflame toward the end of the day on Tisha b’Av and burned through the night into the following day? If anything, the end Tisha b’Av would seem to be a sadder time?
The Rebbe cites Rabbi Chaim Vital, who quotes the Midrash Rabah on Psalms Chapter 79, with a seemingly unusual, yet uplifting explanation. The remnants of the Jewish community were actually relieved when seeing the Beit HaMikdash burning. With the Babylonians ready to take down Jerusalem, the Jews feared that all of them, including Judaism itself, would be destroyed, G-d forbid. When seeing the Temple in flames, they realized that G-d was allowing the physical structure to bear the brunt of the destruction, but the remnants of the Jews and Judaism itself were going to survive. This then is the reason how we can have a form of consolation on Tisha b’Av itself, specifically when the worst of the destruction occurred.
There are a few important messages here. First, in a small way, we’re all like the prophet Isaiah, charged with the responsibility of providing comfort to those who need it. Secondly, when experiencing difficult challenges, we need to internalize our sense of mission to find comfort and inspiration even within those difficulties. Third, that the ultimate comfort Isaiah is conveying is that the loss of the Temple is temporary and we believe that G-d will answer our prayers with the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash. This explains why the Book of Eichah (Lamentations) refers to Tisha b’Av as a “Moed,” a holiday. Ultimately, it is.
Rabbi Levi Andrusier is the executive director of Chabad at The Ohio State University in Columbus.