As the month of July rolls around in America, with the
Fourth of July fireworks lighting up the sky in celebration
of American Independence Day and many enjoying their
extended summer break, the Jewish community observes the sad
days of the Bein Hametzorim.
The Three Weeks come in the middle of the summer vacation
season, providing a sobering influence on summer activities.
Trips are scheduled after the Nine Days and in general there
is a sense of something else going on in our lives that
demands our attention, at least during these weeks. The
minhagim that we follow during these weeks help us
live these sad moments at a realistic level, to enable us to
fully comprehend the enormity of the churban
Life in America, with all its comforts and amenities, tends
to make people forget that as Jews, we really don't belong
here. The Three Weeks serve as a catalyst to help people
realize the truth: we can't take the good life for granted
for chas vesholom the tables could turn just as they
have in other countries throughout our long golus. It
also serves as a reminder that our hopes should rest on
hoping to see Moshiach, for we are still in the long and
This is a time to focus on the more sullen aspects of our
history, the various tragedies that have befallen our nation
over the years. This indicates that we must never lose sight
of where we really belong (in Eretz Yisroel with Moshiach)
and our sojourn in the U.S. is a mere preparation for that
Things remain relatively normal at the onset of the Three
Weeks, with the exception of no chasunas and no
listening to music. As the days progress, the feeling of
Tisha B'Av increases as people prepare for the Nine Days:
finishing up the laundry, buying extra clothing and trying
everything on before Rosh Chodesh.
During the Nine Days, though, things are different.
Naturally, this has a tremendous impact on everyday life in
general and summer life in particular. With no swimming
activities allowed, children are deprived of one of their
most enjoyable summer pleasures. Camps and day camps alike
arrange their schedules during the Nine Days to fill up the
time that is normally reserved for swimming every day. Many
camps run a special program - - a cantata -- that focuses on
churban, golus and the Holocaust to vividly portray
these messages through plays and speeches and give the
audience a feel for these days.
In various communities, lectures are given to the general
audience about the message of the Nine Days and its
relevance in our daily life. The speakers exhort the
listening crowd to improve their attitude toward sinas
chinom and prepare for Moshiach.
"People are interested these days to hear something about
Tisha B'Av," said one rav when interviewed for this article.
"The minhagim of the Nine Days impact their daily
life so they want to know more about the meaning of these
Tisha B'Av is probably one of the longest days of the year --
not only because the day ends late, but also the fasting and
other laws of the day really affect a person's physical
strength. Nevertheless, many people galvanize themselves to
participate in something that will add insight to the
meaning of the day with the hope that this will be the last
Tisha B'Av we must mourn.
After Eichah is leined on Tisha B'Av night, in
some shuls the rav says a few words to set the tone
of the day. Some places have a shiur in the
limudim that one is allowed to learn on Tisha B'Av;
they continue throughout the day after shacharis,
after mincha and go straight through the
afternoon until ma'ariv!
In fact, Rabbi Homnick of Camp Morris (Yeshiva Chaim
Berlin's summer camp in Woodridge, NY) has given such a
shiur outside under the trees by himself the entire
Tisha B'Av for over twenty years.
Le Chateau, a popular chasunah hall in Flatbush, is
open to the public the whole day for people to come in to
hear different speakers on inyonei Tisha B'Av. This
year's program commences with shacharis and kinos
followed by prominent speakers throughout the day,
including Rabbi Shmuel Dishon, Rav Matisyahu Salamon and
Rabbi Mordechai Becher, a noted Gateways lecturer.
Those who must work on Tisha B'Av wait until the afternoon
to begin work. "Some people cannot take off the whole day,"
said the rav. "One person I know works in toys. The toy
industry runs shows a couple of times a year. At times it
comes out on Tisha B'Av. If he were to miss this show, it
would negatively impact his livelihood for months."
The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation's Video
Chazal say the Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed because of
sinas chinom, a fundamental breach in one's respect
for his fellow man. We all know the Chazal and wish we could
do something to improve our interpersonal relationships, yet
it is so difficult to do so. We are used to living with
certain attitudes and prejudices towards people and the
change is arduous and seemingly impossible. Yet during these
days many want to work on their middos in light of
the times and need guidance and chizuk to do so.
The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, has taken as its
mission to promote the works of the Chofetz Chaim regarding
interpersonal relationships: shemiras haloshon, ahavas
Yisroel, to make people aware of the great fortune they
possess when they live their lives by these ideals. Every
year during the Nine Days they sponsor a Machsom Lefi
program in bungalow colonies and camps in the Catskills.
People sign up for different hours throughout the day when
they will refrain from speaking loshon hora during
the Nine Days. Hopefully this will serve as a springboard
for the participants to continue watching their speech
throughout the course of the year as well.
On Tisha B'Av, the foundation presents a video featuring
popular speakers who discuss different aspects of bein
odom lechavero. This video is distributed to communities
across the nation and the globe; last year 40,000 people
watched the video in 20 countries across the world that
included communities in North and South America, Europe, and
some communities in Eretz Yisroel.
This year 360 shuls have asked for the video, already
surpassing last year's 260. With a week to go before Tisha
B'Av the number could climb even higher according to the
This year's presentation, entitled "A Time to Heal,"
stresses that in light of the turmoil in Eretz Yisroel
during the past ten months, where so many innocent people
have lost their lives and many others live in constant fear,
perhaps it is appropriate for us to heal our relationships
with others. This effort would promote achdus in
Klal Yisroel and serve as a zechus for
acheinu kol beis Yisroel.
Three separate videos were prepared this year to reach the
widest possible audience. One video features Rabbi Aharon
Dovid Dunner, the well-known dayan from London, and
Rav Yissochor Frand, noted maggid shiur in Yeshivas
Ner Yisroel, Baltimore.
The second video, which is going to be shown in out-of-town
communities, features Rav Frand and Rabbi Jonathan Rietti,
distinguished lecturer at Gateways seminars. For outreach
communities, a special video presents Rabbi Rietti
"All three speakers basically address the same theme: how
unity among all Jews is something we can achieve if we put
our minds and hearts to it," said the coordinator. "Yet each
one presents it in a different light that is more palatable
to one group while another speaker resonates with another
group. This format enables us to attract a wider, diverse
group with the goal of achieving unity among fellow Jews.
The speakers exhort them to take a hard look at the disputes
and grievances in their lives and commit to resolve them. If
we can reach a higher degree of brotherhood and unity, we
stand a better chance of eradicating sinas chinom
within us so we can merit the coming of Moshiach."
It is our fervent hope that this year will be the last time
we will be writing about sad Tisha B'Av programs, with the
coming of Moshiach, bimhera biyomeinu, Omein.