Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Learning on Tisha b'Av

One of the coolest things about the Chicago vasikin minyan is getting to hear two halachos from the Mishna Brura before or after (depending on time of year) davening from R' Dovid Cohen.  You may be thinking, "What's so cool about that?  I can read the Mishna Brura myself."  That, dear friend, is like saying, "Why should I go to a Yitchak Perlman concert?  I can get the same sheet music and hum it to myself."  More than that, you will get extras, such as quotes from Rebitzin Isserles, which are available exclusively at our vasikin minyan.

What prompted this particular exposition was finally hearing an accurate statement about learning on Tisha b'Av.  The oft quoted misstatement is that one is not allowed to learn on Tisha b'Av.  That is more than misleading; it is patently false.  One is always obligated to learn, just as one is always obligated to breath -- the Torah says "v'chai bahem", you shall live by them [divrei Torah].  So what is the halacha?  One is restricted in what is allowed to be learned on Tisha b'Av; not forbidden, just restricted.  The reason is that divrei torah enliven and infuse joy into your life.  (It should be a mussar haskel that just restricting what one can learn already removes some of that joy.)

Almost every aspect of learning has a permissible venue.  Torah: we have a torah reading; Navi: Yermiyahu (except any verses of consolation); K'suvim: Eicha (don't worry... there are no verses of consolation) and Iyov.  Halacha: hilchos tisha b'Av and aveilus; Medrash: the medrashim on Eicha; Gemara: Gitten 56a-58b concerning the causes of churban Beis haMikdash -- May it be rebuilt soon and in our time.  Of course, you can't learn b'iyun (in depth), but there is plenty to keep you occupied.

One thing is missing from the list: mussar.  I asked once (I think it was the first Tisha b'Av I observed) if I could learn M'silas Yesharim.  I was told: no, because he quotes too many sources from Chazal.  Seems strange that on this day of any I should not be allowed to learn mussar.  On second thought, though, its not so strange at all.  Learning mussar is to encourage you to be careful about making mistakes and the importance of fulfilling mitzvos.  We start with the Three Weeks, which ramps up to the Nine Days, then the week during which Tisha b'Av falls.  If a day of fasting, sitting on the ground, reading kinos, and all the other Tisha b'Av observances that come after so much preparation does not make you feel the pain of sinning (especially bein adam l'chaveiro) and doesn't encourage you to be more careful in your mitzvah observance... reading a book will?!?

Tisha b'Av is a mo'ed -- an appointment with the Creator of the World.  It's not so comfortable, but it is comforting that He still believes in us and wants to spend time with us even when things are not so good between us.  Use Tisha b'Av to feel that pain, and we'll turn Tisha b'Av into a celebration of rebuilding the Bais HaMikdash and renewing our relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…