Tisha B'Av. The name evokes thoughts of tragedy, despair, suffering and hopefully thoughts of teshuva . On this saddest day of the year the Jewish people collectively sit shiva for the tragedies that have befallen us since our days in the desert. "When Av enters we diminish our joy" encapsulates this tragic period; so much so that those activities which take our mind away from mourning are to be curtailed. Yet strangely enough Tisha B'av has elements of a festive holiday. Tachanun , special penitential prayers not said on days of joy is strangely omitted on Tisha B'Av. Our sages derived this based on the verse in eicha referring to Tisha B'av as a moed , a holiday - and on a holiday tachanun may not be said. Furthermore there is a well known tradition that the seeds of redemption were planted on Tisha B'av with the "birth" of the messiah. We do know that in the future tisha B'Av along with all the other fasts will be turned into days of joy. But perhaps strangest of all is the law that on this holiday one may betroth - which Halacha views as a legal marriage requiring a get to dissolve- on this holiday. Surely nothing further removes our mind from the mourning than the first step of the marriage process. Surely this is an inauspicious time for choosing one's life partner.
Throughout our history nation after nation has sought the final solution of the Jewish problem. As you read these words millions of people are being indoctrinated with Jew hatred. And at times tragically our enemies have managed at least partially to carry out their plans. Yet despite it all the Jewish people have not, can not and will not be defeated. Jewish learning, observance and creativity are all around us despite our many challenges. Despite the heart wrenching decisions facing the state of Israel , the country is flourishing attracting a record number of western immigrants. Nothing symbolizes faith in the future more than getting married (and starting a family). Marriage is the symbol of vitality, excitement and wonderful dreams as we look forward to a joyous future. Jewish law asserts that despite all the tisha b'avs we have faced Jews will continue to marry and build a better tomorrow.
This message was taught to us most forcefully by Miriam who in a famous Midrash is portrayed as the true saviour of the Jewish people. Faced with the horrendous oppression of the Egyptian bondage her parents separated, seeing only futility in family life under such circumstances. It was Miriam's plea to her parents - that their actions definitely would doom us to oblivion, while the decrees of Pharaoh could be defeated - that allowed for the birth of Moshe.
If we think about the "root causes" of Tisha B'av it is apparent that there is no more appropriate activity than getting 'engaged'. Unfortunately Sinnat chinam, needless hatred continues to afflict us, with no realistic end in sight, dooming us to continued observance of this day of mourning. Marriage on the other hand is the symbol of ahavat chinam , unconditional and devoted love to another. If we could channel our energies for ahava and not hate, we would merit celebrating the birthday of Mashiach. It is not by chance that the Talmud asserts that the most complete application of vahavta leracha kamocha is the love expressed to a spouse. Living with someone so closely that you know their many faults and yet remaining a fully devoted and loyal partner is the greatest sign of true love. This love must be carried over to others even, nay, especially those Jews with whom we have serious disagreements.
The Talmud tells us that one who brings joy to a bride and groom is considered as if having rebuild the ruins of Jerusalem . Redemption comes when hate is converted to love, apathy to concern, and disunity to diversity. May we merit bringing joy to one couple at a time until all the ruins of Jerusalem are rebuilt.