Who is looking forward to next Tisha B'Av?
One late summer Shabbat in the year 1983, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zy”a, said in farbrengen, “The previous Rebbe had one Chasid, me. And I have none.”
When he said those words, at least two thousand Lubavitcher Chassidim heard him, and were struck dumb. No one could believe their ears.
When I went home after the farbrengen, my wife was at a neighbor’s house, so I went there and mentioned to the neighbors and to my wife what the Rebbe had said.
The neighbor’s wife exploded, screaming, “Then what am I doing all this for?” Later that year, she abandoned her family and stopped observing mitzvoth.
My first reaction to the Rebbe’s words puzzled me more than they shocked me. I knew that I was no Chasid, even though I wore a black kapota and a black hat in those days. I always had one foot out the door. I had one foot out the door when I was thirteen with the boy scouts and with my fraternity in college. In fact, in the end I never did become a boy scout and I never did become an active member of a frat house. And I felt the same way about being a Lubavitcher, l’havdil. So it was no big news that the Rebbe did not consider me to be a Chasid of his, but what about all those holy tzadikim standing behind the Rebbe for four and sometimes six hours at a time drinking in his words of Torah as if they were life itself? I could not understand how he did not consider them his Chassidim.
I thought about this for many years (not all the time) and then one day, I understood why the Rebbe said that he had no Chassidim. I understood it in light of something else that he said. The Lubavitcher Rebbe said publicly that we should live as if Geulah were here.
When I pieced that pronouncement together with the saying about having no Chassidim, it all made sense. He told his Chassidim that they should live as if Geulah were here. And here it is, 23 years after his passing, and they are all still fasting and mourning on Tisha B’Av.
A person who lives as if Geulah were here does not fast and mourn on Tisha B’Av. He dances and sings and stuffs his face and makes l’chaims on Tisha B’Av, and has gilui Shechina on Tisha B’Av because Mashiach was born on Tisha B’Av and this guy dancing around and stuffing his face is helping the baby grow. And that is what the Rebbe was saying. It was up to them and they were not doing it. Therefore, they were not his Chassidim.
And the simple truth is that our l’chaims on Tisha B’Av fulfill the words of the prophet (Zachariah 8:19), “So said the Lord of Hosts; the fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth month and the fast of the seventh month and the fast of the tenth month shall be for sasson and simcha and moadim tovim (joy and good times), just love truth and peace.”
The fast of the 4th month is the 17th of Tamuz, the fast of the 5th month is Tisha B’Av, the fast of the 7th month is the fast of Gedalia, and the fast of the 10th month is the 10th of Tevet, all fast days mourning some aspect of destruction and exile. And one who mourns and fasts on those days is not living as if it were Geulah. And even more, he or she is transgressing the will of G-d as expressed through His prophet.
The truth is that it takes ometz – courage – to go from Galut to Geulah. It takes courage to reject shituf.
Shituf means partnership. It refers to the belief in a partnership between the G-d of Israel, and a sub-deity. A sub-deity is defined as a being who is independent of G-d’s will. The independent will is what makes him a deity.
Shituf is when one fears the G-d of Israel plus another power with an independent will. According to many opinions, non-Jews are permitted shituf to the extent of belief in the sub-deity, but not to the extent of worshipping the sub-deity. That is forbidden and is not shituf; to worship the sub-deity is avodah zara – idolatry.
One who fears and loves G-d, and also fears the words of a Church, transgresses shituf.
And the term Church is used generically. It can apply to the Jewish Church, the Catholic Church, the Protestant Church and the Turkish Church and the Hindu Church. And any other kind of Church, including the United States government. And Monsanto. And one’s own yetzer hara.
Shituf is to surrender oneself to any entity besides G-d alone.
For a Jew to be worthy of Redemption, he or she must reject shituf. For a non-Jew to be worthy of Shabbat, he or she must reject shituf.
The prophet of G-d tells you to feast on Tisha B’Av. The rabbis tell you to fast on Tisha B’Av. The difference between feast and fast is one letter “e.” It stands for emet, truth.
Think about it. You have a whole year till next Tisha B’Av. May it be the first one you look forward to with joy. Amen.