Can we be consoled?

by Rabbi Nussbaum

July 31, 2020
Av 10, 5780
Candlelighting Time 7:56 PM

We emerge from the darkness of Tisha B’av in to the light of Shabbos Nachamu. The prophet in the Haftarah urges us to be consoled in our dire straits of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. Yet, can we find solace and what is the process?

The Midrash in Megillas Eicha that we read on Tisha B’av states that we sinned in a twofold fashion, we have been castigated in a dual manner and our consolation will be in a double mode as well. Our Sages seem to speak to us in an enigmatic approach and yet we have to grasp what is their profound message?

Rav Elchonon Wasserman, a voice from our European heritage, wrote in his seminal work referred to as a ‘Collection of Essays’, that there are two aspects to every mitzvah and every sin. First, we must be attentive and focus on fulfilling the will of Hashem when we perform a mitzvah. Secondly, every mitzvah has a benefit on a spiritual level that we merit upon its accomplishment. Corresponding to that theme is a fundamental appreciation of the destruction that occurs when we sin. Firstly, we are rebelling against the will of Hashem assuming that we intended to transgress that which is forbidden for us to do. And even if we sinned accidentally, there is also the possibility that we could have taken precautions to avoid what did take place. Additionally, every sin ravages the purity of our soul and therefore rectification is necessary to restore its original pristine state. Of course, that is the purpose of teshuva, repentance.

Perhaps we can understand what the Midrash is saying that we have sinned in a twofold fashion. Every time we transgressed Hashem’s will, we disobeyed his command at some level and also we ruined our spiritual self as well. Therefore, we have dishonored and violated our relationship with Hashem. Perhaps we can extend this theme further and suggest that the two aspects of sin correspond to the two destructions of the two Batei Mikdash. The first Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because they transgressed the three cardinal sins, idol worship, illicit relationships and murder. These three fundamental sins unravel our heightened spiritual maturity. That was the beginning of the descension process of our nation. Although we merited to build a second Beis Hamikdash, it is clear from the Talmud that it did not parallel the stature of the first. The final blow came when the second one was terminated due to unnecessary hatred. The ability to actually despise our fellow man who is created in the image of Hashem and therefore contains a sacred neshama, is because of our minimization of appreciation for that person’s prominence. And that lack of cognizance of his stature is directly caused by our deficient recognition of Hashem, the creator of the soul. Hence we crossed the fatal line of lack of obeisance to Hashem and therefore we no longer could be trusted to sustain His Beis Hamikdash.

The Talmud cites an incredibly profound dictum. Even if someone was righteous their entire life, but at the end they recant all that they have accomplished, they will bankrupt their entire savings of mitzvos. Maharsha explains that this individual who has been observing the Torah in all aspects certainly recognizes the majestic nature of Hashem, therefore his repudiation of his mitzvos is considered rebellious and his mutiny nullifies his entire life’s achievement. We know that Hashem’s ‘desire’ to benefit us far outweighs His ‘negativity’ that we encounter when we defy the Torah. Certainly it would stand to reason that if can disavow and retract, if even for a moment on Tisha B’av and the ensuing period of time afterwards our unsuitable demeanor and insolence towards the Torah, then Hashem will look favorably upon His people and grant us our most dear wish, the eventual redemption of our nation from all of its trials and tribulations.


We are admonished to care for our body carefully to maintain good health. However, the Torah refers to this as guarding one’s soul because in our desire to remain fit we cannot compromise the mitzvos and accomplish that goal in a way that is prohibited by the Torah.             CHOFETZ CHAIM