1. The Previous Rebbe taught, “begin with the word of the King” — the word of G-d who is called King of kings. As our sages (Shabbos 138b) have commented, “the word of G-d” refers to the coming of Mashiach, a point which is particularly relevant now that the three weeks of mourning for the Temple have passed and the reading of the seven Haftorahs of comfort has begun. The first of these Haftorahs begins with the prophecy “Comfort you, comfort you My people,” the repetition indicating a two-fold consolation. This consolation was apparent in the second Temple which, although lacking five signs of holiness present in the first Temple, possessed its own unique advantage; as our sages declared, “One who did not see the (Temple) building (constructed) by Herod never saw a beautiful building in his life.” In addition, it has been explained that the advantage of the second Temple over the first is comparable to the advantage a Baal Teshuvah has over a complete Tzaddik.
This two-fold consolation is not limited to that which has already been manifested in the second Temple, but refers primarily to the consolation which will accompany the third Temple, a building which will surpass both the first and second. For in addition to possessing all the superior qualities of both its predecessors, it will possess its own unique aspect — eternality. While the first two Temples were the work of man, the third will be constructed by G-d; and “the Sanctuary which Your hands, O L-rd have established” will be eternal, for then “the L-rd will be King forever and ever.”
Another interpretation of the phrase, “the word of G-d” is that this refers to Halachah. Since both concepts — the coming of Mashiach and Halachah — are alluded to in the same phrase, they must be connected. And, we are told, in that period the actual deed will be greater than learning; thus, at this time, it would be appropriate to connect Halachah — deed — with the fifteenth of Av. On this day, the study of the Mishnah: “There were never holidays for Israel (comparable) to the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur on which the daughters of Yerushalayim went out and danced in the vineyards” would seem to be the most appropriate. However, this Mishnah applies only to the time that the Temple is standing and hence, cannot be applied now to deed. The only application of deed which is relevant to this time is a statement made by the Alter Rebbe in Hilchos Talmud Torah that one should add to his study of Torah from the fifteenth of Av.
This law might seem superfluous, for one is obligated to study Torah at all times, during every available moment. However, the necessity for more explicit instructions is pointed out in Hilchos Talmud Torah which states, “Hillel makes liable the poor, Eliezer ben Chisma makes liable the rich.” Although Eliezer ben Chisma was rich and preoccupied with business and property concerns, he still studied Torah diligently; thereby invalidating a businessman’s excuse that matters of trade limit his time of Torah study. Similarly, Hillel demonstrated that poverty is also not an excuse for laxity.
Thus, “the word of G-d — this is Halachah” demands a specific act, an increase in Torah from the fifteenth of Av, onward; an act which brings the blessing of increase in one’s days and years. And this increase in one’s own studies, as well as influencing others to do so, should be done despite any difficulties and preoccupations. For by helping another Jew increase in Torah one takes him out of captivity; for “the only free person is one who is occupied with the study of Torah.” And this will ultimately lead to the true and complete redemption, when “a shoot will come forth from the stem of Yishai and a branch shall grow forth out of his roots,” with the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days.
2. In the times of the Temple, as noted in the aforementioned Mishnah, it was common custom (and the custom of Israel is Torah) for girls to “go out and dance in the vineyards” on the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur. Some sages, notwithstanding the importance of these dances which ultimately led to marriage — an eternal structure — maintained that the dancing only took place on the fifteenth of Av; for they could not accept the idea that such a thing could take place on Yom Kippur. Yet, the Mishnah clearly states “on them...” indicating that the dancing indeed took place on both days.
For an explanation as to how such dancing could be appropriate, we turn to the Mishnah; which goes on to state that the girls would say, “young man, lift up your eyes and see what you choose.” “Lift up your eyes...” — look in a more elevated manner; for although it is the man who guides and directs his wife — “and he shall rule over you” — on these two days the women were on a higher level. Thus, each young man had to “look up,” to look towards a higher spiritual level when making his choice.
Although it is presently impossible to carry out all the services connected with the Temple, each of these services corresponds to a service which one is able and obligated to carry out today. As our sages stated, “the prayers were instituted in place of the sacrifices.” And the custom that the “daughters of Yerushalayim would go out and dance” also corresponds to a service to be carried out in these times.
The custom teaches us how to make choices. A Jew can choose something in the physical world for many reasons: beauty, money or the sake of heaven. When choosing for the sake of heaven, to do a Mitzvah, one elevates the G-dly spark within that physical thing and unites it with its Source above; a union which corresponds to a wedding. Thus, before studying Torah or fulfilling Mitzvos, we recite the statement, “for the sake of the union of the Holy One blessed be He and His Shechinah.”
One’s approach to material things should always be “for the sake of heaven,” effecting a union between the Shechinah and G-d; and between the Jew and G-d. For when a Jew extracts a spark of holiness from the physical world, it becomes part of him, and he then unites with the Source of that spark.
Yet, the Mishnah teaches that this is not sufficient. For on the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur one is told, “lift up your eyes,” to elevate this spark even further. Also, the attribute of Malchus must be elevated as it is on Yom Kippur and the fifteenth of Av, (for then the moon, which symbolizes Malchus, is full). And the fifteenth of Av is even higher than the fifteenth of other months [as will be explained].
This is relevant to our generation in particular, which is “in the footsteps of Mashiach;” for women are now affected more readily than men. Jewish women are also symbolized by the moon and the attribute of Malchus. And this in turn causes the “Bachur” — the chosen young man of Israel — to “lift up his eyes,” raising them higher and higher.
This must be applied in deed and action. In this context, it is fitting to mention the convention of Jewish women and girls that was held in Eretz Yisrael. There, many women gathered together, “within the multitude of the nation is the glory of the King,” and made good resolutions to progress in Torah and Mitzvos; particularly in the area of Taharas HaMishpachah and the Mitzvah of “be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth,” bringing into the world sons and daughters busy with Torah and Mitzvos. May this serve as an example to others, leading to other conventions which, in turn, will lead to the acceptance of good resolutions with much success. (Although, on an individual level, it is difficult to go beyond one’s own self-interest, when many people join together, it is easier to arrive at the truth.)
The women’s activity should be focused on the three Mitzvos whose names are an acrostic for the words “Chanah” and “HaChain” (grace) — the lighting of Shabbos candles, Kashrus, and Taharas HaMishpachah. Efforts in the area of Jewish education are also particularly important, especially in the younger years when a child is “in need of his mother.” This applies to a young girl as well because she assists her mother and prepares herself to eventually carry out these activities on her own.
This is particularly timely in the month of Av, in which there occurs a great revelation of G-dliness. Av is represented by an Ari, a lion, for in this month G-d is “roaring like a lion.” The fear aroused by a lion’s roar drives away one’s consciousness of personal identity; and the G-dliness which stands openly revealed in Av, drives out all thoughts of self. And this shall lead to G-d’s construction of the Temple — “the building of Ariel.” For every Jew will rebuild his personal Yerushalayim — which literally means “perfect fear” — that lies within his soul. And we will witness the coming of Mashiach and the rebuilding of Yerushalayim.
3. The Mishnah states: “There were never festivals in Israel like the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur.” One explanation proffered as to the uniqueness of the fifteenth of Av is that the moon is full. Yet this does not explain why the fifteenth of Av is greater than the fifteenth of Nissan — Pesach, or the fifteenth of Tishrei — Sukkos.
There is a principle that each descent occurs in order to effect an ascent; since every ascent is relative to its preceding descent, the deeper the descent, the greater its following ascent. Because of the great descent which occurs on Tisha BeAv, the ascent which is actualized on the fifteenth of Av is very great indeed, higher than even Pesach and Sukkos.
This requires further clarification, for the levels of Pesach and Sukkos are very high indeed. On Pesach, the Jewish people were on the level of Tzaddikim. Pesach marks the birth of the Jewish nation; and just as “one who converts is considered as a child who has just been born,” so too the Jewish people were as unblemished as a newborn child, beginning their service of G-d as Tzaddikim. Sukkos follows the month of Elul and the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — when G-d is “close” and “to be found.” Thus, on Sukkos, one serves G-d as a Baal Teshuvah, a level which is even higher than that of a Tzaddik. How could the fifteenth of Av ever surpass these two levels?
The answer is to be found within the verse, “the lamp is a Mitzvah, and Torah is light, and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” The verse cites three things in an ascending order of holiness, implying that there is a “way of life” which is even higher than “the lamp of Mitzvos” and “the light of Torah.”
Pesach is related to “the lamp of Mitzvos.” For although it preceded the giving of the Torah the Jews differentiated themselves from the gentiles through Mitzvos. For in addition to the seven Noachide Mitzvos which had been given to Jew and gentile alike, the Jews had been given additional Mitzvos by Avraham, Yitzchok, etc. Moreover, immediately prior to the exodus, they were given the Mitzvos of the Pesach offering and sanctifying the moon. Thus, in Egypt (Pesach), the Jews distinguished themselves through “the lamp of Mitzvos.”
Sukkos is related to “the light of Torah,” for it represents the “fullness of the moon” — the culmination of the spiritual service connected with Yom Kippur. And on Yom Kippur the second tablets were given, connecting that day with Torah.
The fifteenth of Av is connected with the third and highest aspect; “the reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” This refers to p’nimiyus haTorah — the inner aspects of Torah — and the fear of G-d. This will be completely revealed by Mashiach; and glimpses of it are revealed to us on the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, making great festivals of these days. For the effect of p’nimiyus haTorah is not withheld for only the days of Mashiach, but enlightens us now, enabling “the Mitzvah to be a lamp, Torah, light; and the reproofs of instruction, a way of life.”
A similar ascension can be seen in the three Temples. The first Temple was “a place fit to offer sacrifices,” possessing five aspects of holiness that were not present in the second Temple. Notwithstanding this, the second Temple possessed an even greater quality, the transformation of darkness into light. The second Temple surpassed the first in regard to time as well, lasting 420 years rather than 410. The very fact that it lasted longer demonstrates that its effect throughout the entire 420 years was not only greater quantitatively but deeper and more powerful. Hence the verse (Chaggai 2:9) “the glory of the later Temple shall be greater than that of the former” is taken as a reference to the second Temple. And the third Temple will possess yet an even greater quality, being “the Temple of the L-rd established by Your hands,” an eternal Temple. And its eternity will be seen not only in terms of longevity but from the very first moments of its existence.
In our prayers we say “and there (implying only in the third Temple) will we offer to You our sacrifices ... in accordance with the command of Your will.” The very first sacrifice offered in the third Temple will be on this level.
The very same sacrifices that will be offered in the third Temple were offered in the previous ones, for as it is written of the previous Temples: “You shall offer one lamb in the morning and the other lamb toward evening.” In the third Temple the Tamid offering will remain the same, the first and last of the offerings. Yet, only, in the third Temple will it be “in accordance with the command of Your will,” a level which neither the offerings in the Sanctuary nor in the first Temples attained.
The parallel to this concept can be found in our service of G-d. There are certain aspects of our service, “the lamp of Mitzvos,” which are involved with the world and are, hence, limited. Every Mitzvah has a specific measure. Even the Mitzvah of Torah study is limited to each person according to his level.
However, there are other aspects of service, which are characterized by light, “the light of Torah.” This realm is not confined to Torah study alone, but can include all the Mitzvos which are categorized by our sages with “whoever studies the laws of the burnt-offering is considered as if he himself brought a burnt-offering.”
Then, there is a third manner of service, the performance of Mitzvos in a manner which transcends all limitations. For example, the Mitzvah of Tefillin (of which our sages declared “the entire Torah is equated with Tefillin”) has as its aim the subjugation of the mind and the heart. That subjugation can be either limited and restricted, or carried out “with all your might” — to an unlimited degree. In the latter case, there is a measure of eternity for its unlimited scope leaves it unbounded by the limitations of time. Thus, we can see a parallel to the three Temples in our service.
These three stages can be seen as the ascending services of Mitzvos, Torah, and Teshuvah, which are actually interrelated. A Mitzvah can be fulfilled as a Mitzvah, an expression of Torah (as explained above), while also including an element of Teshuvah. Likewise, Torah study is a Mitzvah, which is surely included in the realm of Torah; and can also be an expression of Teshuvah (note Iggeres HaTeshuvah where the Alter Rebbe writes that the higher level of Teshuvah is connected with Torah study). Similarly, Teshuvah can be interpreted as a Mitzvah, an expression of Torah, or as an approach of its own “way of life” — above Torah and Mitzvos.
The latter quality spiritually corresponds to the elevation of the Sefirah of Malchus to the realm of Atik Yomim. This level will be revealed in the Messianic age and is, at present, revealed on the fifteenth of Av and on Yom Kippur. This level represents G-d’s “marriage” with the Jewish people. Hence, on these days the girls of Yerushalayim would go out and dance in the vineyards with the intent of creating a marriage bond and afterwards, a generation of “sons and daughters occupied with Torah and Mitzvos.”
This process begins when a Jew carries out one aspect of Torah, whether in thought, speech or action; even when he acts with simple faith and commitment because he as yet lacks knowledge, or even if he does know of “deeper” intentions and yet casts them aside in favor of the simple; as the Tzemach Tzedek quotes “I pray with the intention of a child.” When a Jew acts in this manner even when immersed in the midst of great spiritual darkness, even while in the Diaspora, he attains something of eternity. In the spiritual realms, “this union is eternal,” and all that is necessary is to draw that unity down to our world. Through doing this we hasten the building of the eternal Temple and the coming of the eternal redemption led by Mashiach. May it come speedily in our days.
- (Back to text) Although in a simple sense, Yeshayahu’s prophecy refers to the redemption from the Babylonian exile, there are certain aspects of this prophecy which obviously refer to the Messianic age. The two points are interrelated for the potential for the Messianic redemption was included in the redemption from the Babylonian exile. For this reason our sages declared if the Jewish people had merited so at that time, the redemption would have been complete.
- (Back to text) Since the emphasis is on deed the Halachah that Tachanun is not recited on the fifteenth of Av is not appropriate for it involves not doing and is not a positive act.
- (Back to text) On the surface, it is strange that neither the Shulchan Aruch, the Tur, or the Rambam bring this Halachah even though it is explicitly mentioned in the Talmud (which adds the blessing that “whoever increases his study will have ‘his days and years increased’”). A second question also arises. The Alter Rebbe brings as a source for his statement: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, chapter 238. However, there is no reference to the 15th of Av in that chapter. It does speak about the importance of the study of Torah at night. The reason for the increase in Torah study from the 15th of Av is because from then on the nights become longer. Hence, there is a connection, but no explicit mention of the 15th of Av. The law is mentioned explicitly in the Magen Avraham, one of the commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch in that chapter. However, when the Alter Rebbe quotes the Magen Avraham, he refers specifically to him.
- (Back to text) The Alter Rebbe writes that one should increase one’s study “Little by little.” Why does he use the phrase “little by little?” Because in doing so he makes this Halachah applicable to everyone. Everyone can add “little by little.” (A similar concept is implied in the statement “One should always study Lo Lishmah (for one’s own sake) for through (study) Lo Lishmah, one comes to study Lishmah (for G-d’s sake).”)
- (Back to text) The author of the statement “Whoever increases his study of Torah from the 15th of Av will have his days and years increased” is Rav Yossi. The name Yossi has its source in the name Yosef which the Torah states means “The L-rd should add to me.” (The continuation of the verse is “Ben Acher” literally another son. Chassidus explains that Yosef has the potential to transform bitter into sweet, to make from acher — something which is other — outside of the realm of G-dliness — a son.)
- (Back to text) Influencing another person is of great importance. As previously noted, speech (study) is not the same as actual deed. Making an increase in one’s own Torah study involves primarily speech while influencing someone else requires a much greater effort.
- (Back to text) A statement in the Mishnah is one of the Halachah. One the saying “Whoever studies Halachos (Torah law)” Rashi comments — “Mishnah B’raisah.” Even those Mishnayos that contain two opposing opinions are nevertheless directives for action; for the Halachah can be determined by following the principles of Talmudic exegesis.
- (Back to text) In general, the Jewish people are symbolized by the moon in the context of their relationship with G-d. For that reason, their calendar follows the moon, etc. However, among the Jewish people themselves, the women symbolize the moon.
- (Back to text) The Hebrew word for young man — Bachur — has an implication “the chosen one.” For that reason it is used as a term of honor in the calling up of the ‘Chossen Torah’ and the ‘Chossen Bereishis.’ Similarly, Yaakov is called B’chir — the chosen — of the forefathers.
- (Back to text) In regard to Kashrus and Taharas HaMishpachah, a women is given special importance in Torah law. Her testimony is regarded as binding in these matters without that of a second witness.
- (Back to text) Similarly, the ingathering of the exiles will be brought about by each Jew gathering in the sparks of G-dliness that are related to his soul. Rather than having them “scattered and dispersed,” he collects them together.
- (Back to text) Also, at the encampment at Marah even though it was before the giving of the Torah, the Jews were given certain laws.
- (Back to text) The word Mitzvah is derived from the word ‘Tzavsa’ meaning connection. Through fulfillment of a Mitzvah a bond with G-d is created. This is epitomized by the Mitzvah of circumcision. Even before the giving of the Torah, the bris could be used in an oath as an article of Mitzvah.
- (Back to text) A similar comparison can be made between the first tablets and the second tablets. It was the second tablets that contained Mishnah, Aggadah, Tosefta, etc. Even though they lacked the holiness of the first tablets, they brought about an increase in Torah. Similarly, the Talmud declares that the verse “He has set me in dark places” refers to the Babylonian Talmud, for it contains arguments, questions, and disputes. Nevertheless, the Halachah follows the Babylonian Talmud and not the Talmud Yerushalmi.
- (Back to text) There was an aspect of eternity in the other Temples as well. They were called “Bais Olomim — an eternal house.” However, in their case this quality was only a potential and in the third Temple, it will, in fact become realized.
- (Back to text) It is evident from the prophecy of Yechezkel that there will be some new offerings in the third Temple that were not offered in the previous Temples (just as there were sacrifices offered in the Temple that were not offered in the Sanctuary in the desert) . However, the fundamental sacrifices will be the same.
- (Back to text) This helps clarify another question. on the surface, Sukkos is a continuation of the spiritual process of Yom Kippur. Hence, it would seem to be on the same level. However, in truth, the elevation of Malchus takes place only on the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur and not on Sukkos.