Hidden Sparks Beneath the Surface
Hidden Sparks Beneath the Surface
Tragedy upon Tragedy…the Three Weeks and Beyond Part One
by Elisheva Tavor
We’ve come through the tragic and painful 17th Day of Tammuz which commemorates the day in which the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and now, almost three weeks later, find ourselves in the nine days, on the cusp of an even more tragic and painful day, that of the 9th of Av. This day is often referred to as the saddest day in Jewish history. Known in Hebrew as Tisha b’Av, it is the day in which both temples were destroyed, the First Temple by the Babylonians in 423 BCE and the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. In addition, many other dreadful events both preceding and following the destruction of the Temples occurred on this same day.
Yet in the midst of all these tragedies, past and present, we can stand strong, knowing that our G-d is always with us…that He provides evidence of “sparks beneath the surface, “ and a promise of light at the end of the tunnel.
Let’s go back a bit and try to draw a connection between these formidable two months on the Jewish calendar.
Kabbalah teaches that each month of the Jewish year has a Hebrew letter as its counterpart. The letter chet is the corresponding letter for the 4th month, the month of Tammuz One way to find out the significance of the letter is to look at the first place it occurs in the Torah.
In Beresheit, we read In the beginning Elokim created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was void and without form and darkness/ chochech was on the face of the deep.
But what follows the darkness?
And a wind from Elokim moved over the surface of the waters. And Elokim said, Let there be light and there was light.
Light followed the darkness; it was there all the time, but it was hidden…hidden beneath the surface.
This is the message of the 4th month, the month of Tammuz. But this is just the beginning, for on the 17th of Tammuz we begin the 21 day period that connects it to the next month and to the 9th of Av.
The number 17 is numerically equivalent to tov, the Hebrew word for “good.” Obviously this “good” is a hidden good, concealed in the darkness. Both the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av are fast days, and the days in between, bein hametzarim, (days of constriction) are days of mourning, but one day these fast days will become days of feasting and celebration. (Jer.8:18)
The Zohar makes the analogy that these entire 21 days of mourning can be compared to a seed…a seed that will one day grow into fruition and become a day of celebration.
We see this hinted in the fact that while we have 21 days of mourning, we have 21 appointed days of festivity on the Jewish calendar. Shabbat is 1 day, Rosh Chodesh is 1 day, Passover is 7 days, Shavuot is 1 day, Rosh Hashanah is 2 days, Yom Kippur is 1 day, Sukkot is 7 days, and Shemini Atzeret (Simchat Torah) is 1 day. These days are calculated according to how the festivals are set forth in the Torah for those living in the Land of Israel.
As the month of Tammuz corresponds to the letter chet, and represents darkness and “hidden good,” the month of Av corresponds to the letter tet, which is the 9th letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Its gematria is also 9. Tet is the first letter of the word tov and represents hidden good, a magnificent good that is yet to be revealed. It also represents the 9 months of pregnancy, which in Jewish thought is said to be a state of constriction, compared to bein hametzarim, a state in which the concealed good will only be revealed at the time of the actual birth.
The sages teach that Mashiach will be born on the 9th of Av. He has been hidden through the ages, but will be revealed at the appointed time. Incredibly, the very day that has been the most tragic will become the most joyous!
As is our tradition, we will gather together on the 9th of Av tomorrow evening to weep and mourn the loss of the Holy Temple and the tragic events that have befallen the Jewish people throughout the ages. As we remove our shoes, sit on the floor and recite the kinot the Book of Lamentations in a darkened room, may we humble our hearts, not just our bodies.
With eyes wide open, we pray that Hashem will illuminate our eyes so that we may be enabled to discover and to share the hidden good in all things…including the good within ourselves and those around us. May we look for the “light between the cracks” and seek with all our hearts to discover those “hidden sparks beneath the surface,” the sparks of light from Hashem to give us hope and encouragement that will build our emunah (faith) and give us confidence to know that even now in our sadness and in our mourning we can experience simcha (joy), which will one day become a reality for all of Hashem’s creation!