VaYigdal Moshe on Tisha b’Av

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איסור שאלת שלום בתשעה באב

The Rambam seems to have a unique shitah regarding the prohibition of greetings on a full-fledged taanis. The Mishna in Maseches Taanis (12b) says that, after the fasts (over lack of rains) have passed, if the community’s prayers have still not been answered, a number of prohibitions come into effect, amongst them “memaatin b’sheialas shalom” – people must “minimize” greetings – like someone who has been strongly shunned. The Rambam (Hilchos Taanis 3:8) brings this halacha in the following manner: “And talmidei chachamim must not extend greetings, rather they must conduct themselves as those who have been shunned and excommunicated by the Omnipresent. And if an am ha’aretz extends them a greeting, they are to respond to him in a somber, low tone of voice.”

Similarly, regarding the halacha of greetings on Tisha B’Av, the Rambam (Hilchos Taanis 5:11) writes, “Talmidei chachamim do not greet one another on Tisha B’Av. Rather, they sit, grieving and groaning, as mourners. And if an am ha’aretz greets them, they respond in a somber, low tone of voice.” In both halachos, the Rambam writes the word “rather” (“they don’t extend greetings, rather…”). The implication seems to be that the Rambam holds that the prohibition on extending greetings is different from all of the other prohibitions of Tisha B’Av such as washing, anointing, etc. All of those prohibitions are objective, statutory, specific prohibitions. Which is not the case when it comes to extending greetings. Rather, according to the Rambam, not extending greetings is specifically relevant to talmidei chachamim who conduct themselves in a manner that parallels and mirrors the conduct, as it were, of the Omnipresent. It is a conduct of “grieving and groaning”. And, interestingly enough, in the very same halacha that the Rambam writes that talmidei chachamim refrain from extending greetings on Tisha B’Av, he also includes the prohibition of learning Torah on Tisha B’Av (other than Iyov, Kinos, and the devarim ha’ra’im of Yirmiyahu). This would seem to imply that the prohibition on learning Torah, as well, is part of the “grieving and groaning” conduct.

(Related by Reb Avrohom Twersky)



“The Gra says that churban Beis Ha’Mikdash was like yetzias neshamah min ha’guf.”



“I once experienced firsthand how deeply Rebbi lived with the reality of all the days of the Jewish calendar year. This incident actually had a touch of humor to it, although Rebbi was totally unaware of that. It occurred during the too-short period during which I had the singular merit to learn with Rebbi during morning seder.  It was Tammuz, nearing the final stretch of the thirteen-week-long summer zman. I was sitting in the room where we learned together each morning, and where Rebbi would give his shiur every day. The fourth-floor, dilapidated room was made even smaller by the wall-to-wall bookshelves on all four sides. The furniture seemingly imported straight from pre-war Mir, Poland, capped off the décor. I always got the feeling that Rebbi really liked that room; that he felt it was very heimish and conducive to proper focus. As soon as Rebbi arrived, I noticed something different about him. “Good morning, Rebbi,” I said, “how is Rebbi doing?” His answer took me a moment or two to process. “It’s a difficult time period.” Figuring that he was referring to the atmosphere of mourning of that time of year, yet still not quite understanding what exactly he meant, I responded, “I don’t feel anything difficult in particular. Baruch Hashem, I am doing just fine.” That was my way of saying, “Huh?” Instead of explaining why it is appropriate to feel a bit down, and perhaps how to connect with that feeling, Rebbi just expressed amazement: “That’s great that you’re managing to keep your head above the water!” He was genuinely impressed with me. I almost felt like laughing out loud, though I would never have done that in front of my Rebbi. With his trademark humility, he must have assumed that I felt the reality of those days just as he did, and he was therefore impressed that I could still be feeling so upbeat. I guess I got a double lesson that day: about Rebbi’s deep connection with the spiritual reality of each calendar day, and about what real humility is. And that was before Rebbi even opened his Gemara to start learning…. Although he was an exceedingly intellectual individual, and almost always kept his emotions at bay, Tishah b’Av was one of those very rare occasions when one could see him cry. One year, as Rav Twersky sat on the floor, reading the ancient words of the kinnos that describe the tragedy of the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and our suffering through the ages, his youngest son Reb Avrohom glanced at his father and saw tears streaming down his face. The night following Tishah b’Av, at around 12:30 a.m., would find him sitting on the floor at the Kosel to say tikkun chatzos.  Rav Twersky felt that it was a very important expression of demonstrating yearning for the geulah and rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash.” (Excerpt from A Malach in Our Midst)

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