Thursday, August 07, 2014

"Be Consoled, be Consoled, My Nation"

By Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

We have just gotten up from our mourning on the Ninth of Av, and we are already being told about consolation. However, isn't it true that in principle one should not try to console a mourner too soon, when the dead person still lies there before him?
And even more: sages have taught us, "Anybody who mourns for Jerusalem has the merit of seeing its joy" [Taanit 30b]. This is written in the present tense. Shouldn't it be in the future tense – "will have the merit of seeing its joy," in the distant future, not now while the mourning is still fresh?
The author of Torah Temima explains, based on the Midrash, "A Gentile lady asked Rabbi Yossi: It is written, 'And Yehuda was consoled, and he went to manage those who sheared his sheep' [Bereishit 38:12], while for Yaacov it is written, 'And he refused to be consoled' [37:35]. Why was Yaacov not consoled about Yosef? He replied, 'One can be consoled about the dead but not about the living.'"
The Torah Temima asked: "It is written, 'And all of his sons and daughters rose up to console him' [Bereishit 37:35]. But before that we are told, 'He mourned for his son for many days' [37:34]. Why did they wait such a long time before coming to console him?"
The answer is that at first they could not find any way to console Yaacov, but after 'many days' – which means twelve months (see Nazir 5) – a time long enough that a dead person's memory is forgotten (Berachot 58), they found what to say to Yaacov. What did they tell him? The very fact that after twelve months he was still in mourning and had not forgotten Yosef was a sign that Yosef was still alive.
The mourning for Jerusalem, which has continued for such a long time, is a sign that its memory still lives within us, and it will surely be rebuilt. If this were not so, it would definitely have been forgotten by now. And therefore "Anybody who mourns for Jerusalem has the merit of seeing its joy" – in the present tense, right now, since we do not accept consolation about something that is still alive, and we have faith and hope that it will be rebuilt. It is therefore right and proper that in the same week as the fast of Tisha B'Av we are told, "Be consoled, My nation" [Yeshayahu 40:1].
A similar idea applies to Eretz Yisrael as a whole. At the end of Eicha, we read, "On the desolate Mount Zion, foxes go there. You, G-d, will always sit in Your throne, from generation to generation. Why do You forget us forever, and abandon us for many days?" [Eicha 5:18]. What is the connection between the fact that foxes move around at Zion and that G-d's throne is there? And what does this have to do with the question, "why do You forget us forever"?
On the verse, "I will make the land desolate, and your enemies who live there will be desolate" [Vayikra 26:32], Rashi comments, "This is a good thing for Yisrael, that its enemies will not be comfortable in the land." What is the connection between this statement and the curse that the land will be desolate? The Ramban answers this question by explaining that the desolation of the land is a blessing for Yisrael, because the land is not suitable for any other nation. And that is what Rashi means to say. The enemies will not be satisfied, and the land spits out foreign nations and waits only for its own children. Thus, the fact that the land is desolate shows that Yisrael will one day return.
When foxes run around the Temple Mount and the land is not settled, it is proof that the throne of G-d remains in the land, even when it is desolate. This shows that the land awaits us. And therefore we ask, "Why do you forget us forever?"

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