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Q&A: Tish’a B’av

August 10, 2014

Question: What will it take to finally make Tisha B’av into a day of celebration?

Answer: The Gemara uses the vague term “time of peace,” and there is much disagreement among the rishonim as to what that means. If you want to satisfy all the interpretations, then it will be when the Jewish people produce a leader who can guide them to keep all of the Torah.

Question: Weren’t the earlier generations more observant, and yet the Redemption did not come for them?

Answer: Yes, but that is because they were not led to keep the national commandments, like establishing a Sanhedrin, appointing a king, eliminating the alien threats to our existence, i.e. those who would wish to annihilate us (“Amalek”), thereby securing the peace and prosperity of the Jewish community in Israel, and building the Temple. Fortunately today, all of these are well within our reach. Imagine if the religious/traditional majority would vote for someone whose electoral program called for all of these things…

Question: Should I go see the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation video presentation?

Answer: Yes. L’shon hara is awful. It should be done away with. However, even if all the Jews were to be fully observant of the laws concerning l’shon hara, the Sabbath, kashruth, and the supremely important tzenius, It would not tip the scales in favor of the Redemption. For that to happen, the Jews need to concentrate on the national commandments, as we have written above.

Question: If not by avoiding speaking lashon hara, how are we to protect ourselves from the type of terror attack that happened today? [The questioner was referring to this.]

Answer: Just like you can avoid Arabs shooting you by not giving them weapons, you can decrease those by not allowing Arabs, whose leaders, whether in the Knesset, or in Ramallah, Gaza, Qatar, or wherever, have openly called for our destruction, to operate any large machinery in an area with Jews. I am surprised that they even let them drive family automobiles… and I spoke too soon. The Facebook people are writing about how an Arab driver in Ramle stopped at a crosswalk for Jewish children and then, when they started to cross, intentionally ran into them. I, for one, never insist on my right of way any time in this country for fear that the Arab driver is just going to use it as a ploy. 

Update (5776): Sometime after I first wrote this, the Jewish people were plagues by a wave of violent attacks whereby the enemy among us used mostly kitchen knives and automobiles.

Question: What is a kinna?

A qinna (with a q), usually translated as a lamentation, was to poetry as a eulogy was to prose. That is, a eulogy is someone’s speech bemoaning a tragic loss, sometimes prepared, sometimes off the cuff, and usually was not musical, whereas a qinna is the artistic form of that. It typically made use of rhyme and meter, and was set to music. It is a lost art form, and the most recent qinnoth to be added to the liturgy, for example, the ones that describe the Holocaust, were composed years after the fact. Both eulogies and lamentations used to be staples of funerals, but nowadays you would be hard pressed to find any funeral that features the latter. The only time I have heard of a funeral that featured any kinnoth in modern history was for, of all people, Princess Diana. Not only was she eulogized by a bunch of big shots, she also had an artist compose and perform a qinna for her. It is a shame that such honor is nowadays only received or displayed by such paragons of virtue…

Question: Sitting through all the kinnos just makes my legs hurt, and I don’t understand any of them. Why do we say them, and is there something else I can do?

Answer: For centuries, the qinnoth were used to instill the appropriate mood for Tish’a B’av in the hearts of the Jewish people; it should not surprise anyone that today, when new media for the expression of the imagination have developed, especially film, modern hearts and minds are not moved so much by the monotonous recitation by rote of the archaic qinnoth. The same can be said of the s’lihoth. Rabbi Soloveitchik pioneered the system that has become more popular, whereby the scholar shares a few words to describe the qinna and its significance before the recitation; this too can grow stale, especially for those who have good memories. I confess that for more than a decade, I have actually not participated in the complete recitation, and have found that for a while watching some good Holocaust documentaries did the trick, but the last few years I have undertaken to actually live the tragedy of the hurban by trying to visit the Temple Mount on the ninth of Av. Seeing the sad state of God’s abode in real life pales in comparison to how it was described by those who never saw it. As an added bonus, this year’s excursion was the first time in my life that an Antisemitic mob threatened me with death. There was a pack of Ishmaelites on the mount that followed my group, which contained some gentiles, mind you, and they were screaming the usual allahu akbar’s murderers intone right before they kill people, and when they got tired of that, they threw in a loud and clear itbah al yahud, Arabic for “slaughter the Jew,” in case the assembled had not gotten the message. I also got to see them set up the Al Aqsa Mosque as a sort of fort from which they attempted to pelt us and the police with rocks they had collected that morning. Now that was a Tish’a B’av! May such scenes never be repeated, and may God’s House be returned to its glory.

Question: May a Jew go on Har Habayit?

Answer: Yes. It’s a verse in next week’s parasha (Deuteronomy 12:5): “But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there, unto His habitation shall you seek, and to there shall you come.”

Question: But most Rabbis say it is asur!

Answer: Indeed they do. But think for a minute: there are many commandments of the Torah and two whole orders of the Talmud dedicated to the laws concerning the Sanctuary. How can it then be forbidden to go there? Rather, because the laws dealing with purity are so complicated and unfamiliar, many rabbis, especially those who are listened to, decided in 1967 to adopt the halachic position imposed upon us by the Arabs – NO JEWS ALLOWED. Today, more and more Rabbis and politicians are realizing that this policy is hurting us more than it helps, and are now encouraging observant Jews to ascend. For example, at YU, Rabbi Schachter has said that Rabbi Soloveitchik, if alive today, may have agreed, and Rabbi Tendler has even gone as far as to encourage ascending the mount.

Question: May I repair my tzitzis on the Tisha B’Av?

Answer: Yes. One is commanded to wear tzitzith on the 9th of Av, and therefore he may undertake the necessary preparations to fulfill that commandment, along the same lines that one may tie tzitzith for himself even during the intermediate days of the festival. However, one may not wear a new tallith for the first time on the 9th of Av, or the rest of the nine days for that matter. He may only wear it starting with the afternoon of the tenth. However, he can wear new tzitzith or newly repaired tzitzith that are tied to a non-new tallith or tallith qatan.


From → halacha

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