The message of the very first Tisha b’Av: Count your blessings and don’t cry over the small stuff!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
In the coming days the Jewish community will observe Tisha b’Av, the day on which we commemorate the destruction of the two Temples that once stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Tisha b’Av is the most serious fast day, second only to Yom Kippur. We fast for 24 hours not only to recall the destruction of the Holy Temples, but also to remember what caused their destruction. Our sages teach that it was the sin of “baseless hatred among brothers” that forced God to destroy the Temples and exile the Jewish people from their land.
Another reason we fast on Tisha b’Av is to recall the sin of the spies. Moses sent 12 spies to scout out the Land of Israel and report back on what they saw. Instead of praising the Land of Israel and discussing all its beautiful qualities, they weaved together a sermon of fear that made entering the land seem like a nightmare and certain death.
The people became truly frightened and did not want to enter the Land of Israel. They wanted to remain in the desert or return to Egypt. That night the people cried and mourned God’s gift of the Land of Israel. That night was the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av.
God was furious with this sequence of events. The spies’ report and evaluation were completely false. The Land of Israel is a blessed land, a land “flowing with milk and honey” – and the people rejected it.
God decreed: “Because you cried for no reason on the 9th of Av, I will make sure you cry every year on the 9th of Av. Now you had no good reason to cry on the 9th of Av; in the future I will give you a good reason to cry on the 9th of Av” – which, as mentioned, ended up being the date of the destruction of both Holy Temples.
It was also a result of the episode of the spies that the people were forced to wander the desert for 40 years. Originally, they were supposed to go directly from Egypt into the Land of Israel within two weeks. The spies blew it. The nation blew it.
There is a deep message in the episode of the spies that is woefully relevant today.
Look at the Bigger Picture!
It’s true that their entry into the Land of Israel may not have been easy. They would have had to go to war and take the land from the Canaanites; they would have had to adjust to a new place; they would have had to learn to farm for themselves after having been given everything they needed.
It was also perhaps a bit scary. But there was certainly no reason to weep and wail, especially considering all the eternal benefits, which extend to this very day, inherent in the Land of Israel. Their fears were negligible compared to the advantages.
Unfortunately, we sometimes complain about issues that are essentially negligible when viewed in the context of the bigger picture. Let us make sure not to “cry” or complain, sulk, get angry or allow any other false feelings of despair to overcome us. When something goes wrong, take a minute to think about whether it’s really worthy “crying” over. Remind yourself that if you are breathing, if you have food available for lunch and if you have electricity in your home, then you are already better off than much of the planet.
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