Thursday, July 28, 2011

Consoling The Father

Menachem Av:  This coming Shabbat, Shabbat Mas'ei, is also a Shabbat Mevarkhim HaHodesh - a Sabbath on which we announce, with blessing, the coming New Month.

It is the custom in most synagogues to announce the month of Av as "Menachem Av" - literally, "Consoling The Father."

Who is consoling Whom?  The Jewish people are consoling their Father in Heaven.  And G-d, our Father, is in need of consolation, in light of the Talmudic statement "Woe to the Father Who exiled His children."  We comfort G-d by assuring Him that even in the darkest moments of our exile we have not lost our faith and trust in Him.

The Talmud says, "When the month of Av begins, we reduce our joy."  During the Nine Days we observe a greater level of mourning than during the Three Weeks.  We don't eat meat or drink wine (except for Shabbat).  We don't wear new clothes that require the Sh’he'cheyanu blessing - we are not happy to "reach this season."  We don't play or listen to music.

But the Talmud also states that all who mourn the destruction of Jerusalem will merit to rejoice in its rebuilding.  The Sages also teach that the Jewish Messiah was born on Tisha b'Av.  It is that promise of redemption which makes this period one of hope and anticipation.

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