Bittersweet – Rosh Chodesh Av

Rosh Chodesh Av is amongst the strangest of days.

As we’re aware, Rosh Chodesh Av marks the commencement of the nine day mourning period culminating in the most tragic and mournful day of the year, Tisha B’Av. As the gemorah states “MiShenichnas Av MeMa’atin B’Simcha” when the month of Av enters, we decrease our joy. Yet, it is still Rosh Chodesh, a joyful day, a semi-holiday. Quite the discordant mix.

On Rosh Chodesh Av, the melody of Hallel is tinged by the portending sobriety of Kinos and Eichah. Leining and mussaf which speak of the korbanos offered on Rosh Chodesh in the Beis Hamikdash remind us of the fact that we were deprived of the ability to bring such korbanos when the Beis HaMikdash was torn from our lives and hearts.

One of the causes for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash was sinas chinam (baseless hatred). The Netziv explains that the sinas chinam that caused the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash was not exactly what we commonly think it was. The Netziv points out that the sinas chinam that caused the destruction included hatred between Jews with different hashkafas or a different psak in halachah. If someone would see another frum jew serving Hashem in a way that was different from his own, he would judge and vilify that person. The Netziv grieves over the fact that this type of sinas chinam existed in his time as well. Is our time any better? Are we getting closer to ahavas chinam (groundless love, the cure for sinas chinam) or further?

Rosh Chodesh Av is also the yahrtzeit of Aharon HaKohen, the ultimate lover and pursuer of Peace. Perhaps the fact that Aharon’s yahrtzeit falls on Rosh Chodesh Av serves as a reminder to us to make peace with our fellow jews, even when they are very different from ourselves. In doing so, may we be zocheh to see the tinge of sadness of this Rosh Chodesh removed and the fulfillment of King David’s statement “You turned my mourning into dancing, you have removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”

This post originally appeared on July 26th, 2006.

11 comments on “Bittersweet – Rosh Chodesh Av

  1. Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av is the yahrzeit of my dear mother Rhoda Kluger, Rochel Leah bas Shlomo Zalman, who was niftar on July 9, 1994. When she died, I felt as if Klal Yisroel was sitting shiva with me, as my mourning period coincided with that of the entire nation. And I didn’t feel as if I was “getting up” from shiva, because the end of the shiva period was Tisha B’Av.

    It’s sort of spooky because there are three other women in my extended family who were niftar on Rosh Chodesh (of different months, in different years). Women of course by nature have a kinship to the month.

    Chazal discuss Rosh Chodesh as a sort of half-holiday especially for women. And I read somewhere (sorry, don’t remember where) that there is a promise of some kind that when the Bayit Shlishi is built, we will all go up not just three times a year, but every month, every Rosh Chodesh.

  2. Bringing the Romans in many years earlier was a completely separate episode. This attempt to play off great powers against one another (Romans vs. Seleucids) turned out poorly, as such exercises often do (for example, trying to get help from Egypt against the Chaldeans before the destruction of the First Temple).

    The Zealots in the rebellion against Rome were opposed by most rabbinic leaders. The Zealots’ dimwitted tactics, such as destroying Jerusalem’s food supply to try to make the Jerusalemites go on offense, made the tragic destruction inevitable.

    However, the Romans were pretty despised in general (not only by Zealots) and for good reason—not because the occupying Romans were gentiles as such but because of objectively bad Roman behavior. Sinas chinam is baseless hatred, so, before making accusations of sinas chinam, one should first look objectively for a possibly valid basis.

  3. But it appears that the sinas chinum of the 2nd Temple was not towards Jews, but rather, towards gentiles.

    The Zealotry of the rebellion against Rome was both futile and arrogant. And even that was begun by overreacting to get the Greek base out of Zion — by bringing in a Roman one.

    Contempt towards others has caused Jews problems throughout the ages. To ignore Jewish bad behavior and its effects and to deny that there was ever wrongdoing on our part is itself a continuation of sinas chinum towards others.

  4. When I see the ballagan in the streets of Kikar Shabbat over utter nonsense, I think we have a long ways to go in terms of ahavat Israel. Moreover, when our brothers and sisters were expelled from Gaza(Gush Katif) most of us supported it and stood back with emotionless hearts.We used gemorah/mishnah to justify dividing Hashem’s land,something that was antithetical to Torah. Call me misnaged but we are more divided than ever over Israel, dati against chareidi, for instance, nullification of Rav Druckman’s agerot, over hashgacot etc. Until we fully unite, days like Tisha B’Av become nothing more than a sham. It was our people that slew Zachariah HaNavi at the beit mikdash. So what have we learn since then? The advent of Maschiach is upon us … and we had better get it together …

  5. David,

    Nice piece. Please, if I may, DO NOT use the term “amongst.” It is an antiquated phrase that no one outside of the Frum world uses. The proper word is “among.”


  6. Great post. Perhaps one way we can use to increase our ahavas chinam and to see past the different clothes or hairstyle is by listening to the holy words of the Iggeres HaRamban. In particular the paragraph beginning “Therefore, I will now explain to you how to always behave humbly” in which the Ramban explains why we have no right to look down on anyone. Whole letter can be read on:

    How much more so can we use this in today’s world in which there are so many of our brethren whose incredible potential is completely untapped.

  7. Neil is right, but we also have the irony that many blogs today (his blog and Beyond BT excluded, among others!) self-righteously exacerbate the very problem he mentions. We now have the perfect technological support system for sinas chinam.

  8. Thoughfully written, David. The “hatred between Jews with different hashkafas or a different psak in halachah” is exactly why we are still in Galus. If we all try to be a little less judgemental, things might be different.

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