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Thought for the Day: Personal Mourning vs Communal Mourning

Many of the halachos of the nine days are learned from the halachos of mourning.  There are, however, two glaring exceptions.  An avel is permitted to have meat and wine, but forbidden to learn Torah.  During the nine days we find just the opposite: we are permitted (encouraged, even) to learn Torah, but forbidden to eat meat and drink wine.

R' Shlomo Zalman Auerback, z"tzl, explains the difference.  The tragedy we mourn during the nine days is an "old sorrow" and requires external physical actions to decrease our joy.  Hence, we refrain from meat and wine; as chazal tell us (Pesachim 109a): "ein simcha ela b'basar v'yayin" (there is no joy/rejoicing without meat and/or wine).  An avel is permitted these because he needs to external influences to feel his sorrow.  Learning Torah, on the other hand, has the potential to generate such simcha that an avel actually could come to  not only forget his sorrow, but actually come to a level of sublime joy.  (You don't feel that way about learning?  A discussion for another day.)  Moreover, wine has the ability to either make one's sorrow more tolerable or to bring one simcha, but not both.  When an avel drinks wine he is fortunate to ease his sorrow, but to bring him to joy is not really withing its power.

So why are we allowed to learn during the nine days?  Since we already don't feel the sorrow as we should, the learning is not a hindrance to the small amount of decrease in joy we are able to achieve by refraining from meat and wine.  Much more to the point, though, is that learning Torah has the ability to actually reverse our situation and bring us back to our land, the avoda of the Bais HaMikdash, and closeness with HaShem.  May that happen soon and in our lifetime.

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