The month of Av is known for being one of the most difficult due to the fact that up until the 9th day we are in the most restricting part of the 3 weeks. Most people associate Av with a bad month, and there’s plenty of reason for that. Besides many tragedies having occurred during this month, the Shulchan Aruch says a Jew should not go to court on Av, since our mazal is not good.
However, upon closer analysis, we find that the month of Av has many great qualities. One of the reasons is because we have the great and happiest, albeit largely unnoticed, holiday of the 15th of Av called Tu B’Av.
So, seeing that we have both the saddest and happiest days of the year in the same month of Av, what can we learn from it?
Rebuilding the Temple
There’s a stark difference between mourning in Jewish Tradition and in secular psychology. Secular psychology teaches people mourn in order to “let go” of the person being mourned. They don’t want to think about him because it’s too painful, so they cry and try to never think about him again. In contrast, our rabbis teach that, when dealing with a person we mourn him in order to help him ascend to his celestial place and also beseech compassion from Hashem. His memory stays with us and we can even feel his presence from the afterlife.
Tisha B’Av is among the last festivals of the year. It’s the day when Mashiach is supposed to be born, andthe Beit HaMikdash is supposed to be rebuilt. Since everything we are hoping for in Redemption depends on the rebuilding of the temple, we should take stock as a nation for not succeeding in this yearly cycle. The Cheshbon Nefesh (accounting of the soul) is an essential practice in Jewish tradition, and Rebbe Nachman of Breslov writes that many great Tzadikim revealed that they only reached their exalted level by constantly judging their actions through that. This is also brought in the Zohar by the term Mara D’Chushbena (master of accounting).
But perhaps the most important idea comes when understanding why we mourn for the Beit HaMikdash. It’s striking that there are no special kavanot (mystical intentions) from the Arizal or Rashas’h for Tisha B’Av: we don’t need anything in order to speed up its rebuilding, except cry for our loss! When we cry, we are expressing our longing for the Holy Temple in a very visceral way, and effectively rebuilding it in our consciousness so it can soon be rebuilt.
Kabbalistic teachings from Av
The sages teach us in the Talmud (Ta’anit) that there are no happier days for the Jewish People than Yom Kippur and the 15th of Av. We can readily understand Yom Kippur since all our sins are forgiven, but why is the 15th of Av such a special day and what is its Kabbalistic significance?
In Tractate Ta’anit, the sages teach that in the future, the Holy One Blessed Be He will sit in a dance circle and all the righteous people will point to Him in outstanding joy. The circle is a reminder of the renewal of the world, in which darkness precedes light, as evidenced by the fact that Tisha B’Av precedes Tu B’Av.
As we spoke before in the article on Tammuz, each month has a specific Tikkun (rectification) for an aspect of Hashem’s providence, and also a corresponding Tetragrammaton and associatedאהיהpermutation that is associated with it. The month of Av has the name הויה and היהא, and is associated with the left eye of the feminine aspect of Divine Providence, and the Sephira of Hod (splendor). It’s noteworthy that the left eye is also associated with Gevurah (stern judgment) and this is very remarkablein a variety of aspects. Many rabbis teach we have one eye to see the good in others (the right one) and one eye to judge ourselves (the left one).
Seeing that the month of Av is associated with the left eye, we must learn to judge not only ourselves, but also Creation as a whole favorably. This is a problem many good people have: they think they are lacking in all areas and can never be content with themselves.That’s a mistake we must fix. The world is good, and people can also be good, if we believe in them (and ourselves).
Like Tammuz, which at first sight is not a very welcoming month, Av invites us to transform darkness into light by keeping an eye (our left eye!) towards the future, seeing that beneath the chaos of the world lies the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. Darkness always precedes light, and keeping that in mind is a great source of strength for whatever we are going through. And the month of Av teaches us that, in doing this, not only do we draw down salvation for the world but we also help bring the Redemption closer.