We are now within the Three Weeks period prior to Tish’ah B’Av. May we see the salvation before this Tish’ah B’Av.
HaRav Yisrael Salant zt”l stated that we can elevate ourselves spiritually on Tish’ah B’Av at least as much as we can on Yom Kippur. What did he mean, and what can we do in the coming days to reach that point of spiritual elevation, should we have to sit on the floor for yet another Tish’ah B’Av?
On Tish’ah B’Av, we need to have reached the point where we can sit on the floor and cry (with tears or in our hearts) over the loss that occurred almost 2,000 years ago. Which loss? The ultimate loss. We refer to the loss of the extreme and palpable closeness to Hashem that we experienced when we had the Beis HaMikdash. We came to the Beis HaMikdash periodically with the mindset of attaining greater awareness and fear/awe of Hashem. These visits would provide spiritual fuel until our next visit. The degree of our desire and yearning to feel the presence of Hashem was the determining factor in the degree to which we actually felt the closeness of Hashem. We witnessed daily miracles in the Beis HaMikdash, and it was the place on Earth where our potential for connection with Hashem was greatest.
The challenge is that we never experienced that closeness, so we can’t know what we lost. We can only imagine, based on what Chazal tell us. Most of us struggle with that and are far from the tzadikim who can imagine it vividly. So where does that leave the rest of us?
The world stands on three pillars: Torah, Avodah, and Chesed. Today, our “avodah” is tefilah. Let us examine two halachos of tefilah to derive the level of closeness that is possible during our Shemoneh Esrei. First, one may not pass within six-to-eight feet in front of someone davening Shemoneh Esrei. This is because, as we daven Shemoneh Esrei, we are standing directly before the Sh’chinah (meaning our connection with Hashem), and that person would be breaking our connection.
The second halachah is that before every Shemoneh Esrei, we are instructed to imagine that we are traveling to Eretz Yisrael, grabbing a taxi to Yerushalayim, entering the Beis HaMikdash, and then entering into the Kodesh HaKodashim. That is where we are standing while we are in our Shemoneh Esrei. It is from that holiest place on Earth that our tefilos, along with the tefilos of every other person who is davening, rise up to Shamayim.
These two halachos should infuse us with a sense of awe and an awareness of the great gift and opportunity we have each and every day, though it is but a taste of what we had. We should recognize that our awareness and closeness today is vastly distant from what we had when we could actually enter the Beis HaMikdash (in the parts of the Beis HaMikdash where we were allowed to enter).
What can we do in these Three Weeks to prepare ourselves to mourn the loss of the extreme degree of closeness to Hashem that we once experienced, and to set ourselves up for the spiritual elevation on Tish’ah B’Av that is akin to Yom Kippur, which will come about through our intense desire and yearning for that closeness to Hashem that we lost? How can we reach that state of intense yearning and desire to the point that we can cry about it on Tish’ah B’Av?
One avodah we can work on is mindfully observing the two halachos mentioned, and to think about what they mean. Mourn and cry internally over the fact that we may not feel even the closeness that is available to us, and over the fact that we can’t even imagine what once was.
Another avodah that we can embark upon is a special focus on those parts of tefilah that are directly related to preparing for Tish’ah B’Av. Some examples include the two brachos immediately preceding Shema Koleinu and the one after it, the second paragraph of Aleinu, and “Amein, Y’hei Sh’mei Rabba.” Towards that end, we are making some of these tefilah segments available this week, next Sunday, and the Thursday prior to Tish’ah B’Av.
צִיּוֹן, בְּמִשְׁפָּט תִּפָּדֶה; וְשָׁבֶיהָ, בִּצְדָקָה [ישעיה א:כז]
Tzion shall be redeemed with justice,
and they that return of her with righteousness.
Weekly Tefilah Focus
Shemoneh Esrei 36
Bringing the Mashiach Closer – Part 1
ולירושלים עירך ברחמים תשוב
And to Jerusalem, Your city, may You return in compassion
Before we begin to discuss the specifics of Yerushalayim and our request to see it rebuilt in all its beauty with the Sh’chinah residing in the Beis HaMikdash, allow us to digress, to address some fundamental questions about our tefilos for the g’ulah, our ultimate redemption, may it be soon in our days.
First, if the tefilos of the generations of the Tana’im, Amora’im, G’onim, Rishonim, and Acharonim – all previous to us – were insufficient to bring the g’ulah, why would we think our t’filos can possibly be effective? Second, do we really believe that our tefilos can bring the g’ulah? Third, we have been asking for the g’ulah for almost 2,000 years unsuccessfully. Am I really accomplishing anything by each day continuously repeating that same request, day after day?
The answer is “Yes, we are” – we are accomplishing something for ourselves, for the klal, and in fact we are hastening the g’ulah.
כל חכם מישראל שיש בו דבר תורה לאמתו, ומתאנח על כבודו של הקדוש ברוך הוא ועל כבודן של ישראל כל ימיו, ומתאוה ומצר לכבוד ירושלים ולכבוד בית המקדש ולישועה שתצמח בקרוב ולכנוס גלויות, זוכה לרוח הקדש בדבריו וכו’ [תנא דבי אליהו רבה, הובא במסילת ישרים פ’ י“ט]
“Every chacham in Yisrael who possesses the words of Torah according to their true significance, and grieves for the honor of Hashem and for the honor of Yisrael all his days, and desires and feels pain for the honor of Yerushalayim and of the Beis HaMikdash and for the swift flowering of salvation and the ingathering of the exiles, attains to the infusion of the Divine spirit [ruach ha’kodesh] in his words…” [Tana D’Vei Eliyahu Rabbah, perek 4, quoted by M’silas Y’sharim, perek 19]
The M’silas Y’sharim (in perek 19) tells us that one should constantly daven for the g’ulah and the return of k’vod Shamayim to the highest level. He continues: “…and if one will ask, ‘Who am I to daven for the g’ulah? Is my tefilah really going to bring the redemption?’” The Ramchal [Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, 1707-1746, author of M’silas Y’sharim] then brings the Gemara in Sanhedrin (37a), which states that man was created alone, as an individual, so that each person should say: “Bishvili nivra ha’olam” (for me the world was created). M’silas Y’sharim concludes:
וכבר נחת רוח הוא לפניו יתברך שיהיו בניו מבקשים ומתפללים על זאת, ואף שלא תעשה בקשתם מפני שלא הגיע הזמן או מאיזה טעם שיהיה, הנה הם עשו את שלהם והקדוש ברוך הוא שמח בזה
“It is Hashem’s pleasure that his children desire and pray for this. And though their desire may not be fulfilled because the proper time has not yet arrived or for some other reason, they will have done their part and Hashem rejoices in it.”
The Mabit (Rav Moshe ben Yosef miTrani, 16th century), amongst others, explains that our tefilos combine with those of all the previous generations before us. They laid the foundation and did the bulk of the work. We need only finish the job. It is all of our tefilos joining together through the generations that will merit to bring the g’ulah soon in our days. He also says that one who is mispalel for the g’ulah and k’vod Shamayim will receive “שכר גדול בלי ספק–sachar gadol b’li safeik” despite the fact that he has not been affirmatively answered as of this moment.
We see how valued and important our heartfelt tefilos for the g’ulah and the increase in revelation of k’vod Shamayim truly are.
On to part 2