While teaching at Ascent in the summer of 5763 (2003), Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh shared the following insight: This mourning period of the first nine days of Av that ends with the fast day of the 9th of Av is related to the present exile. Exile can be compared to pregnancy. Just as during pregnancy the discomfort grows, so too the pain of the exile grows from minute to minute. Just as the birth of a child is anticipated, so too do we look forward to the end of the exile which will herald a millennium of revelation. There is a Talmudic statement that Mashiach is born on the 9th of Av, corresponding to the 9th month of pregnancy. To prevent any influence of the "evil eye", there is a tradition not to speak about a pregnancy until the 5th month, when, by most women, the pregnancy is apparent to all. So also, the 5th day of the 9 days is the anniversary of the passing of the holy Ari of Safed, whose teachings of the inner dimensions of Torah opened the eyes of the Jewish world to the imminent arrival of Mashiach and the coming redemption.

Had Moses...brought the people into the Land, the Final Redemption would have been brought then….

This duality of exile and redemption is also brought out in this week's Torah portion, Va'etchanan, which is usually read in the week of the 9th of Av. The Torah is not just stories but eternal lessons for all generations. The Lubavitcher Rebbe asks what we learn from Moses' persistent prayers to G‑d to rescind the decree forbidding him to enter the land. First of all, even if his prayers were not accepted then, we must say that the prayers of Moses are always in force and will be fulfilled. This is as the Torah teaches that "When a tzadik wills, G‑d fulfills!" (Tanchuma, Vayera 19) Furthermore, since it will be the soul of Moses, reincarnated as Mashiach, who will ultimately lead all of the Jewish people back to Israel in the final redemption, (Shemot Rabba 82, Zohar I:256) we know that his prayers will be fulfilled. We also know from the commentaries that had Moses in fact brought the people into the Land, the Final Redemption would have been brought then, with no subsequent exiles. (Yalkut Reuvaini, Alshiech, Ohr HaTorah)

Even though Moses knew he was forbidden to enter the Land, he prayed anyway, and not just once, but 515 times (the numerical value of the Hebrew word "v'etchanan"). Moses knew that since the entire redemption was at stake, he had to push all the limits, even praying when G‑d had already said "Ask no more". Since we know there is a Mashiach that exists in every generation (Zohar III:273) ready to redeem us and more so, there is a small portion of the soul of Moses found in every Jew. (Tanya Ch. 42) Just like Moses, we must not look at the prayers that were already prayed, or at the apparent difficult situations, we must each continue to call out and pray against all odds, "G‑d Almighty, how long can we wait in this miserable exile!"

We must each continue to call out and pray against all odds….

On the other hand, further in V'etchanan we find the "post-Tisha B'Av" perspective, past the days of mourning, a mini state of redemption. In connection with this, the portion describes the giving of the Torah, an eternal event which has the power to counteract any exile. The portion then moves on to the reading of the Shema prayer, which contains our allegiance to G‑d, our responsibility to G‑d and also the foundation verses for all of the positive and negative commandments. The portion ends with the words "to do today!", referring to our intention to perform all the commandments, which will ultimately bring us to the reward of the World to Come and the seventh and final millennium, the days of Mashiach!

This teaches us that as long as a Jew is performing the commandments with all of his strength, he is already in a state of redemption. He is being guided by the Almighty and all of the obstacles to holiness will fall away. May the days of the month of Av be transformed to days of joy and happiness forever.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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