28 July 2009

Tisha B’Av Prep:

Days of Creation & Predicting Jewish Future
by Mark Pearlman of JInsider

This week JInsider offers a different perspective on the observance of Tisha B’Av by using the Days of Creation as a basis for understanding Jewish history. This column is primarily based on Rabbi Pinchas Winston’s thoughtful and inspiring articles. Rabbi Winston is a world-renowned author and lecturer and has written more than 25 books.

Days of Creation as Framework for Jewish History

Kabbalah explains that the history of the six millennia is really just a repeat of what occurred during the Six Days of Creation: Each day of Creation alludes to a thousand years of our existence, and every little detail that occurred on these days has had or will have its corresponding event happen at the proportionate time during its millennium. We are currently in 5769—the sixth millennium and thus experiencing the Sixth Day of creation. According to Rabbi Winston, by using this framework for viewing our history and our future, we are able to improve our perceptions about reality and better understand our role in the world.

The Temple Destruction (Fourth Millennium)

As we commemorate Tisha B’Av, we reflect on two Temple destructions occurring in 3338 and 3830 (the fourth millennium). This time in Jewish history corresponds to the Fourth Day of creation, which is when the moon and stars were put in orbit. According to the Talmud, the moon represents the Jewish People. So, if the light of the moon were reduced on the Fourth Day of creation, then the light of the Jewish People would have to also be reduced, in some way, in the corresponding fourth millennium of history. There is no more effective way to dim the light of the Jewish People than to destroy their Temples.

Creation & Current Times (Sixth and Final Millennium)

Rabbi Winston believes the Internet is a modern-day reincarnation of the Tree of Knowledge. If indeed we are reliving Creation, it’s a well-timed assumption: 1990 (around when the Internet really became popular) began the 83.33-year period that corresponds to the Tenth Hour of Day Six of Creation, during which Adam ate from the forbidden fruit and God exiled humanity from Paradise (Sanhedrin 38b and calendar calculation by Leshem Shevo v’Achlamah: Rabbi Shlomo Eliyashiv, 1841-1925).

“The Web is so all encompassing, so all involving. It is, to date, the ultimate technological coup allowing man to break through more physical limitations than any other invention to date,” Rabbi Winston says. It is incredibly empowering and therefore so attractive: “The woman saw that the tree was . . . an attractive means for gaining understanding. She took some of its fruit and ate” . . . (Bereishis 3:6) A tree of knowledge it is for sure. Of good? For sure. Of evil? Without a doubt. The greater the good technology allows us to accomplish, the greater the evil it makes possible.

In other words, like the Tree of Knowledge, the Internet begins an unstoppable chain of consequences, both good and evil, with one bite/byte. Rabbi Winston feels that this time around the Moshiach is going to come fix the problem – and soon. Says Rabbi Winston: “If the Moshiach is the tikkun (healing) for history, then doesn’t it make sense that his arrival should correspond with some kind of rectification of that original mistake?”

Final Thought: Tisha B’Av v. Yom Kippur

After Tisha B’Av, we try not to have an elaborate meal to break the fast. Unlike the conclusion of Yom Kippur, there is nothing to rush home and celebrate. The goal of Tisha B’Av is only partially accomplished — mourning for what was lost in the past — while the main objective remains unfulfilled: The Return of the Temple. Once it does, the celebration will be beyond imagination.

During Yom Kippur, there are often wet eyes. For many, it is easy to feel that they are being judged; they feel the potential for a negative judgment and therefore, difficulty in the upcoming year. They cry for their lives.

On Tisha B’Av, however, a wet eye is harder to find, since we are only mourning the loss of what once was, and we seem to be able to live without a Temple (or so we think). Intellectually, we should be quicker to cry over the loss of the Temples and what they represented and made possible than for our own personal futures. However, emotionally, especially after living in exile for so many generations, we have difficulty putting the national needs of the Jewish People before our own.