A Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my niece and nephew, Ruti (née Levy) and Yoni Epstein of Lakewood on the birth of their daughter, Adina Tova, last week. Mazal Tov to the extended Bulka, Levy and Epstein mishpachos and to the great great grandmother, Oma Jakobovits.
Wednesday, the 15th of Av, marked the 11th yahrtzeit of my Opa, Mr. George Jakobovits. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Tovia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.
For the past week, much of the east coast of the United States has been flooded by a Tropical Storm with the unique name of Isaias. The irony is just too much to ignore. Isaias – as one might surmise from reading it, rather than hearing it – is the Spanish/Portugese form of Yeshayah. Indeed, during this time of year, we are also being flooded – in a good way – by Yeshayah.
In a heartfelt Tish'ah B'Av message, former Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks points out that we lead into Tish'ah B'Av by reading the beginning of Yeshayah and his grave, ominous prophecy of impending doom. However, the very next section already begins to speak words of comfort and hope – (2:3) "ki mitziyon teitzei torah, udvar HaShem miRushalayim. " After a brief turn to Yirmiyah for Tish’ah B’av morning, the shev d’nechemta, the seven haftaros of comfort, are actually a nearly sequential journey through the latter chapters of Yeshayah. The doom and the comfort come from the same source.
This is also part of the message of Tu B'Av. One of the events that highlights the day is the discovery of the corpses from the ill-fated revolt In Beitar which did not rot. An entire blessing in birkas hamazon is dedicated to commemorating this miracle. R’ Tzvi Mordechai Feldheim, the Rosh Mesivta of my son’s yeshivah, Kesser Torah, asks why does this belong among the other berachos? Each of the other berachos highlights fundamental tenet of our faith – that HaShem provides sustenance to all, the gifts of Torah and Eretz Yisrael, and the ultimate redemption and rebuilding of Yerushalayim. What makes this theme worthy of such company?
In truth, he answers, the miracle at Beitar underscored another vital component of our belief system. The destruction of the beis hamikdash and ensuing exile broke the spirit of the nation and created the notion that HaShem had left our midst. The preservation of the corpses and the opportunity to give them a proper burial was and important reminder that even in the darkest times, HaShem is always with us and watching over us. It is only with this realization that we have been able to endure through all of the difficult challenges of this long and arduous galus, may it come to an end speedily in our day.