Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Devarim

As we prepare to mark Tisha b’Av, the Chief Rabbi uses a riddle to make sense of the cycle of Fast days that fall across the Jewish Year and hopes that they will not always be so black and white…

There are six public fast days on the Jewish calendar. They are: the Man and the Woman, the Long and the Short and the Black and White.

The Man is Gedaliah; the Fast of Gedaliah takes place immediately after Rosh Hashana. The Woman is Esther and that is an allusion to the Fast of Esther, just before Purim. The Long is Shiva Asar b’Tamuz; right in the middle of summer, it ends later than any other fast.

The Short, Asara b’Tevet, in the middle of the winter, it ends earlier than any other fast. And of course, if you are in a southern hemisphere community, it is just the opposite way round.

‘Yom Kippur is the ultimate day of judgement, but at the same time we are optimistic’

The black of course is Tisha b’Av, which we are just about to mark and the white is Yom HaKippurim. Yes indeed, Yom Kippur is the ultimate day of judgement, but at the same time we are optimistic that G-d has favourably responded to our prayers.

Now it is very interesting that Tisha b’Av of course is our black day of the year, but the prophets refer to it as being Moed, which means a festival. That is why, ironically, on Tisha b’Av we have trappings of festive procedure, such as no Tachanun, because we anticipate a time when Tisha b’Av will be transformed to become the happiest day of the year.

Similarly, according to tradition, the Moshiach will be born, or hopefully has already been born on Tisha b’Av, because that is the day which will produce out of the depths of our anguish the heights of the exhilaration of our redemption.

‘The Moshiach will be born, or hopefully has already been born on Tisha b’Av’

It is at Tisha b’Av time that we have the signs of the greatest hope for our people. Therefore we look forward to a time in the future when people will identify the six fast days as being the man and the woman, the long and the short and the white and the white.

Shabbat Shalom.

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