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Availus (mourning) on Tisha B'Av

(based on an address by HaRav Mattisyahu Solomon, Gateshead, England)

Even though at this time of the year one's thoughts ought to be focused on mourning over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, doing this is in fact very difficult. In order to really understand the idea of mourning, we need to focus on the idea of Simcha. (joy)

Today, what do we have to complain about. We have unlimited opportunities for learning Torah, to do mitzvos, to live in Eretz Yisrael. What do we really need? A little more Siyata deShmaya (divine assistance) that we'll be able to learn better or to serve Hashem more faithfully? Is something really missing that would justify our sitting on the floor and crying over it?

In Parshas Ki Tavo we find the most incredible and atrocious curses that are destined to come upon the Jewish people. War, plunder, agricultural disaster, famine so severe that mothers eat their children. Commentators tell us that these curses are referring to the time of the Second Temple. A student of Jewish history knows that these and more have befallen the Jewish people since the end of the Temple; the beginning of our current exile.

One must ask, "Why did all this happen to us?" The Torah, in the same location, (Deut. 28:45-47) gives a very simple answer. "And all these curses will have come upon you, pursuing you and catching you to destroy you, because you didn't obey Hashem and didn't keep his laws and statutes which he commanded. It will be a sign and proof to you and to your children forever. Because when you had everything, you did not serve Hashem with happiness and with a joyous heart."

Chazal say that the Second Temple was destroyed because of "Sinas Chinam", senseless hatred. There was a lack of harmony, people were jealous over each others's good fortune or accomplishments. If a lack of Simcha when doing mitzvos and Sinas Chinam seem like independent reasons, they are not. For the performance of mitzvos without Simcha causes a person to become jealous, greedy and ungracious.

What is so important about doing mitzvohs with simcha? Wouldn't it be enough to do the mitzvohs as a perfect servant with absolute dedication, even while at the same time privately wishing for a little more freedom? Why do we need to be joyous while doing our mitzvohs?

Asking this question means that we don't appreciate what a mitzvoh is.

A Mitzvoh is an opportunity. It is a chance to appreciate what we are living for. It is the opportunity to come closer to Hashem.

In the beginning of the classic guide to Avodas Hashem, "The Path of the Just", the author, R' Moshe Chayim Luzzato, explains that a Jew needs to know HIS duty in the world. That means that each person has his own special job in the scheme of things and no one else can do it for him. When one knows what his purpose is in the world, it brings an incredible joy. Then a Jew can achieve the greatest pleasure that life has to offer. As Chazal have taught, that joy is growing ever closer to Hashem and to bask in the light of the Divine Presence.

In order to begin to grasp the idea of spiritual pleasure, one must start with something which is tangible.

If you could imagine that your teacher or Rebbe, invited you to come to live in his presence. You would eat together, learn together, be together in every situation. You would learn to decipher your teacher's every nuance and every glance. Whenever you would have a question about which path in life to take, your teacher would be there to answer you and guide you. You could learn from your teacher as he guided others. You could climb spiritual heights without fear of falling. What greater pleasure could their be in Life than this? This is the feeling that one has when Mitzvohs are done with Simcha. This is the feeling of purpose and closeness to Hashem.

Then one day you do something that is inappropriate for the closest student of the teacher to do. You are asked to leave; for behavior such as that is not acceptable in the home of your teacher. Can you imagine any deeper feelings of regret and remorse?

This is the aveilus. (mourning) It is the loss of the feeling of closeness to Hashem in all that we do. We no longer experience Simcha in the performance of the mitzvohs. We are not claiming the spiritual pleasure that is our inheritance. We don't appreciate the opportunity for closeness to Hashem that every Mitzvoh provides. If we did, we wouldn't be able to run fast enough to do them.

Is it any wonder that we suffer from senseless hatred?

It is any wonder that it is difficult to mourn a Beis HaMikdash that we have never seen or experienced? Nevertheless, if we could feel more, we would have a better idea of what we are missing.

Therefore, the preparation for mourning of the Beis HaMikdash, is to do Mitzvohs with joy. To do Mitzvohs with Simcha is to find purpose in life, to be united with the Divine Presence, to become elevated above the level of senseless hatred.

May we learn serve Hashem with Simcha and do away with Sinas Chinam!!

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