How should I feel on Tisha B’Av? Sad? Happy? Both?
It’s a good question, but it’s not really the right question, because regardless of the answer, it won’t change how you feel. Our emotions rarely follow instructions, not because they are rebellious or stubborn. It’s just that they don’t understand that language.
Our emotions are responsive and can be changed — if we talk to them by thinking and learning.
Let’s answer the question anyway; on second thought it is a good question.
Because even though the answer won’t directly reach our heart, it will reach our brain. The brain does understand the language of discipline and instructions and will translate the directions into thoughts which the heart can be affected by.
The answer, sorry for keeping you waiting, is both.
We need to feel sad because we still don’t have the Beis HaMikdash and we’re still in Galus. There is an old Chasidishe vort from the Holy Berditchever, that “On Yom Kippur — who wants to eat, on Tisha B’Av — who can eat?”
The lack of the Beis Hamikdash should be saddening and sickening, at least that much.
We need to be happy too. Firstly, because it’s a mitzvah to always serve Hashem with joy. Also, Moshiach was born on Tisha B’Av; and mainly because in our generation, particularly since so many signs show that Higia Zman Geulaschem, we are getting to see, sense, and feel the beginning of the Geulah.
In the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s words: “In this generation, it is appropriate that we look at the period of the Three Weeks not as a time associated with exile, but rather as part of the preparatory stages leading to Moshiach’s coming!” (Parshas Balak, 17 Tammuz 5751)
And if words aren’t enough, in 5750, Shnas Nissim, the Rebbe began encouraging the singing as he came into his shul during the Nine Days. The next year it got even more joyous, when the Rebbe burst into joyful song, Simchas Torah style, on Motzei Tisha B’Av (Nidche) after a surprise talk followed by handing out dollars for Tzedakah.
But way before that, there is an intriguing story that has interestingly made it into the Chabad Sefer HaMinhagim, implying it to be related to action in some form:
The Holy Ruzhiner would not tolerate any melancholy nor even bitterness — with the result that his Chassidim became playful. One Tisha B’Av, they decided to clamber on to the roof of the beis midrash, and whoever walked in the door was lassoed and promptly hoisted on to the roof. The prank succeeded until the Ruzhiner walked in…
Chassidim believe that even the mitzvah of being sad and mournful on Tisha B’Av must be done b’simcha, and these kinds of pranks just do the trick.
Are these two emotions a contradiction? Apparently, these two emotions can somehow coexist. There is the famous tale of Reb Shmuel Munkes tossing thorny berelach (burrs) Tisha B’av night and then being found crying in the woods the next day saying Kinnos. My guess is that Reb Shmuel Munkes was sad as he threw the berelach and happy even as he cried.
There is a famous aphorism that comes from Chovos Halevavos. “The Chassid displays joy on his face, and mourns in his heart.” He’s not a double-faced person; he just has what to rejoice about, and has what to mourn over.
Ever since Jewish people began to take notice of the “inside story” of things, they realized that the sad day of Tisha B’Av has a silver lining. It is a cause of joy as much as it a cause for sorrow.
But now things have progressed even more.
Until the onset of the Geulah (in its clear halachic definition), all the practical laws of the Shulchan Aruch remain in effect. However, we must prepare our hearts for the time that those who “mourned over Yerushalayim” begin “to see her in her joy.”
The Rebbe teaches us, that as we rapidly approach the Geulah, the joyous aspects of the day get stronger and stronger.
It’s like almost — to paraphrase the aphorism from Chovos Halevavos — that the Chassid in this generation on Tisha B’Av “has his mourning on his face and joy in his heart.” Around the Rebbe in 770, it feels like there is so much joy in the heart, that some spills over onto the mourning face…
What does this all have to do with maturity, the title of this piece?
The term in Chassidus for maturity is Gadlus HaMochin. It means that a person’s brain becomes developed and thus figuratively “enlarged.” You learn to appreciate greate things (and stop being bothered by trivialities), and your mind becomes large enough to contain contradictory ideas.
Moshiach and Geulah are about maturity, Gadlus Hamochin. Chassidus teaches how Moshiach is a revelation of Hashem in the physical world.
Since time immemorial, the greatest foe of spirituality was materialism; they got along as much as fire gets along with water… But they are destined to become one, and it requires maturity to accept and appreciate that.
Maturity is needed to get ourselves ready for that too. Chassidus, a taste of Moshiach’s Torah, was the first step towards bringing Yiddishkeit from its “infancy” stage to its “matured” state. Chassidus emphasizes not so much the abhorrent nature of materialism, neither does it promote the superiority of spirituality. It’s about harmonizing. It teaches “the unique quality of the matter when it is purified” (Hayom Yom 7 Kislev).
We know that Moshiach can arrive before the Geulah, and while only the Geulah will signal the end of the mourning, the coming of Moshiach can mark the beginning of the joy.
This is now the case, and while we wish things went quicker than they are going, let’s look at this time as a “training period” for the much-needed maturity of Yemos HaMoshiach:
Challenge your heart and mind to contain joy and mourning simultaneously.
And don’t forget, the recipe now calls for a little more joy than bitterness. ■