Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Comfort During Shiva

Today, Tisha b'av is the saddest day of the year.

This morning, while I sat on the floor, I remembered the time I sat in a low chair sitting shiva for my younger brother. We are now sitting shiva-for what? For the bais hamikdosh.

I wanted to explain this to my little son but he is so young, how can he understand? I did manage to explain it to him-by bringing it down to his level.

Today is a very sad day. You know, Hashem had a very beautiful house. It was so big and so special-it was like a shul. And all the people would come there and daven to Hashem. And then, you know what happened?

My son looked at me with his big, innocent eyes.

Hashem's house got broken.

He looked devastated.

"Oiy!" he said.

And we need to fix it.
How can we fix Hashem's house? It was such a special place, so big, so beautiful and so full of people. And now it is broken. What can we do to fix it?

He looked at me as I told him, we need to be very nice to our sister, we need to try to be extra good to mommy and always listen. We do mitzvos and make Tatty and Mommy happy by always listening and helping and acting very gentle with our little sister. This is how we can fix Hashem's beautiful house.

He had this faraway look in his eyes.

I think he got it.

My eyes teared up.

* * *

When I read Eichah last night, there was one thought that kept coming up again and again, in different phrases.

"Ein La Menachem" - she does not have anyone to comfort her.

I thought about these words and I cried.

After the destruction of Hashem's home, His palace, there was nobody to offer any sort of comfort...and I imagined...and I remembered.

When my family sat shiva for my brother Shalom a"h, people kept streaming into our home to try to comfort us, to try to say something that will bring us some sort of nechama. The house was busy from the moment we got up until we were so wiped out from another day of talking and emotional memories...it made us tired. But, there was a constant flow of people...they kept coming.

After the bais hamikdosh was destroyed, there was no one! No one came to comfort Hashem...no one was able to comfort the Jewish Nation. All around them there was destruction. A building, not just a building, a home for the shechina, a place of clarity, a place of real beauty, a place of connection...all gone...burned...so many dead people all over the streets, little children dying in their mother's laps, people collapsing and passing out from hunger...from thirst...children who grew up in rich homes asking for drinks of wine when there was no water to be found...

And there was nobody to comfort them.

When someone goes to be menachem avel, these are the words they use to comfort the mourner: Hamakom yenacheim eschem b'soch she'ar aveilei tzion v'yerushalayim.
What does this phrase mean?

When we sat shiva, someone told us a beautiful way of explaining it.

One of the names of Hashem is Makom, like we say in the haggadah, Baruch Hamakom...Makom means place and Hashem takes up all the space in the world yet at the same time, He doesn't take up any space at all. This is a deep concept and we can't even understand exactly what it means - but this is part of Hashem's G-dliness. On one hand He is everywhere and takes up every inch of space in this world-wherever you go, Hashem is there---and on the other hand, He does not take up any space. This is why Hashem's name is Makom.

When a person loses someone close to them, there is a tremendous void in their heart. So we tell them,
Hamakom yenacheim eschem-only Hashem who is called Hamakom can comfort you. He can fill the void.

So why do we end with
b'soch she'ar aveilei tzion v'yerushalayim?

Because when someone passes away, all the family wants is to get to see them again and spend time with them again. When will that happen? When moshiach comes! So we say, you should be comforted together with all those who mourn for Yerushalayim-because as we know, whoever mourns for Yerushalayim will be zoche to see it rebuilt.

But how can someone live until that time? How can they go on? How can they be comforted during this long wait? By filling that deep emptiness that is in their hearts with spirituality, by doing mitzvos that will make the niftar's neshama go higher.

We had so many people come to comfort us when we sat shiva. But Hashem has still not been comforted, the Jewish People have not been comforted.
We are all waiting for the day of ultimate
geula, the real redemption and ultimate nechama, the real consolation.

May that day come when all those families who have mourned for their siblings, parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren are reunited with their loved ones...and Klal Yisroel is reunited with Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

One last point: The purpose of a fast day is not just to refrain from eating - but to bring us to do teshuva. Each person has to think - what am I doing that is keeping the bais hamikdosh from being rebuilt? It's a strong question. Come up with an answer and then...do something about it.


  1. Wow...I'm tearing up as I'm reading. Beautiful.

  2. This is beautiful... and I really appreciate you sharing it.

  3. Thanks again for your words.

    Another touching moment in eicha for me were the words, "Yesomim hayinu v'ein av, imoseinu k'almanah"

    These words had greater meaning for me this year.

    It made me realize that Hashem knows exactly how I feel, it's even written about in Eicha!



You made it to the end of this post! What do you think about it?