The Shabbat before Tisha B'Av is called "Shabbat Chazon". Rabbi Shlomo of Radomsk writes that it is the most important Shabbat of the year. He bases his thoughts on the verse:

"Then the Land will enjoy [or be appeased for] its Sabbaths." (Lev. 26:34) The verse hints at the greatness of Shabbat in general and Shabbat Chazon in particular. On Shabbat there is a special unity between G‑d and the Jews. This weekly island of unity is very precious, and a source of great joy to G‑d during this long, dismal period of exile of the Jewish people.

When the Temple was standing, this unity was readily apparent and existed even during the week. And even though the strength of the unification was greater on Shabbat, because it was already on a very high level during the week, it wasn't an appreciable greater source of joy.

When Shabbat comes…the Jews are able to renew their connection once again with G‑d….

Now that the Temple is no longer standing and we are in exile and distanced from G‑d, there is an understandable lack of unity. When Shabbat comes and the Jews are able to renew their connection once again with G‑d, he has even more joy than he did at the time when the Temple was standing. From darkness to light, G‑d especially rejoices in this unity with His people.

By way of example, this idea can be compared to a flashlight in the daytime. Even the strongest beam is superfluous compared to the light of the sun. Only when the sun's light fades and darkness sets in is the beam of the flashlight visible.

Now we can understand the verse, "Then the land will enjoy [or be appeased for] its Sabbaths." During the period of exile after the destruction of the Temple, Shabbat is what G‑d desires. His desire and source of joy is unity with the Jewish people and this is realized principally on Shabbat.

With this we have a beautiful insight into the words of the Lecha Dodi poem which is sung on Shabbat evenings: "…Rav Lach Shevet B'emek HaBacha…", "Too long have you dwelt in the Valley of Weeping." It can be read alternatively, "Great is the Shabbat in the midst of weeping." Great is the Shabbat during this time of bitter exile.

Why? Because it is a moment of unity between G‑d and the Jewish people.

According to the magnitude of G‑d's pain is the greatness of His joy….

In addition, "the valley of weeping" can be understood to refer to the 3 weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av. Great are the Shabbats during these three weeks above any other of the year, and the Shabbat closest to the 9th of Av more than all. According to the magnitude of G‑d's pain is the greatness of His joy.

The above can also provide us with insight into understanding a Midrash from Midrash Pliah (a certain collection of extremely difficult to understand Midrashim), which states, "There has never been a holiday in Israel like the day that the Temple was destroyed."

In addition, this Shabbat is called "Shabbat Chazon" after the first word of the book of Isaiah which is the Haftorah for thisShabbat. "Chazon" means "vision" or "seeing". This Shabbat, if observed with joy and concentration, maximizes the possibility for unity with G‑d. One may benefit from this state of unity and be granted an opportunity for unique and penetrating vision into not only his personal spiritual status, but also into that of the entirety of the Jewish people as well.

Senseless hatred is therefore equal to transgressing all three of the cardinal prohibitions….

To this end it must be added, the destruction of the Temple was not only a national and physical destruction but also a personal and emotional one. The Talmud (Yoma 9b) explains that the First Temple was destroyed because the Jews had degenerated into widespread violations of the prohibitions against idol worship, sexual sins, and wanton bloodshed. During the time of the Second Temple, in spite of the fact that the nation had completely repented for those three cardinal transgressions, they were nevertheless constantly at odds with one another in an endless cycle of unfounded and senseless hatred.

The Talmud concludes that the transgression of senseless hatred is therefore equal to transgressing all three of the cardinal prohibitions. Therefore, our mourning on Tisha B'Av must include mourning for the great spiritual and personal loss of our higher selves; a loss that we are still trying to recover from even today.

May this Shabbat Chazon grant us the vision with which to set out on the path of return to G‑d. May we be able to learn His Torah and engage in His mitzvot with love for Him and for our fellow Jews - with a love that knows no bounds, nor needs any other justification than that we are all one people. May we soon experience the 9th of Av as a true holiday for us and for the whole world - an ascent from the Valley of Weeping until the mountain of G‑d in joy and peace.

Based on Tiferet Shlomo of Rabbi Shlomo of Radomsk

(First published in B'Ohel Hatzadikim, Devarim 5758)