Singing in the Rain

Rabbi Zvi Teichman

In just a few days, absent the coming of Moshiach, we will be mourning over the destruction of the Temples once again, weeping over the many tragedies we continue to endure in this lengthy exile. 

From mid-day on Tisha b’Av we slowly introduce hopeful words and songs of comfort that reaches its pinnacle on Shabbos Nachamu, when we read aloud the soothing sentiments, in the words of G-d as conveyed by the prophet, that His people will be comforted from all their troubles.

The word נחמה, means consolation. Yet we find that this same word can mean to ‘reconsider’, as when in the generation of the deluge, וינחם ד’ — G-d reconsidered, having made Man on earth.

Rav Hutner explains that when painfully mourning a loss, consolation can only be achieved if one can reframe one’s thinking in perceiving the loss from a different perspective, in seeing the loving hand of G-d in all occurrences of life.

Although there is a time for וידום — muted silence — in submitting our being totally before G-d, subsequently one must be able to transform that sorrowful stillness into an exquisite song of appreciation. As King David expresses his desire to sing to G-d, ולא ידום — and not be silenced.

Moshe depicts how, ואתחנן — I implored of G-d, בעת ההיא — at that time to be permitted to enter the land.  

The Baal HaTurim points out that the numerical equivalent of the word ואתחנן is the same as שירה — song (515).

Moshe after hearing of the decree that he may not enter the land, begins to sing praise to G-d despite his disappointment. Evidently if one accepts one’s fate yet continues to thank G-d, it compels G-d to grant one’s deepest desire. It was for that reason, Rashi explains, G-d had to request of Moshe to desist from his praying lest He be left no choice but to grant him his wish.

When one sings despite the pain, it reveals that there is no expectation, nor entitlement, merely a sincere desire to connect with G-d no matter what is in it for ‘me’.

When G-d sees that the ‘want’ is unconditional, and merely an outburst of emotion to fulfill the will of G-d, whatever may come one’s way, Hashem as our Father responds as any father would, to provide the child what it genuinely yearns for, even absent of any merit.

Might that be what Rashi means when he says that Moshe was not making his request contingent on any merit, simply requesting a מתנת חנם — a ‘free gift‘? Moshe presented himself before his ‘Father’, expressing a deep desire with no strings attached, and thankful whatever the outcome. Can a loving father resist such an appeal?

I believe there are three vital lessons in this tale.

Firstly, if we genuinely want something that is devoid of personal need — solely a pining for connection with Hashem — we will get it.

Avi Fischoff, founder of Home Sweet Home, a safe base for children gone astray, tells a fascinating tale of a disillusioned young boy who left home at the age of thirteen, instinctively grabbing his Tefillin as he flees from his home. He ends up finding a ‘kind’ young man who promises him lodgings if he ‘helps’ him with his business in shoplifting expensive scarfs. He eventually tires of the manipulation fleeing once again, and as providence would have it finds his way to Home Sweet Home. There he is provided with unconditional love, softening up but remaining bitter. One day while spending time with his mentor, he comments that he suddenly realized he has no idea where his Tefillin are. His mentor asks him if he really wants them. He responds that he has not worn them in years and has no interest. His mentor comments to him that the day he genuinely desires them is the day he will find them. Two days later his Bubby frantically calls him, sharing with him a dream she had the previous night where her late father, a survivor, comes to her in a dream asking whether their grandson is putting on his Tefillin daily. He annoyingly responds he will, just to placate his Bubby. That very night his former ‘employer’ calls to tell him that while packing up his former residence he discovered his Tefillin in the bottom of a closet. He asks him whether he should sell them or chuck them out. Clearly sensing the loving hand of Hashem reaching out to him, he tells his former friend to send them directly to him. Today the young errant child is a grown man with a beautiful family living an inspired life. (Ami Magazine)

Secondly, one can appeal to G-d even when feeling inadequate and undeserving, after all He is our Father, who will lovingly provide unconditionally.

There is a famous story, regarding the great Bobover Rebbe, Reb Shlomo, who restored Bobov to its glory after having lost most of his family rebuilding it all from scratch. In his humbling beginning in a small shteible in the West Side of Manhattan, a small following of survivors flocked to his warmth. One individual who was blessed with a beautiful voice, would inspire with his sweet and heartfelt tefillos each week. One Shabbos, he suddenly disappeared, and the Rebbe dispatched one of the bochurim to find him. The young boy returns with dismay in his eyes reporting how he found the ‘Chazzan’ sitting on a bench smoking on Shabbos! The Rebbe, in his legendary response, exclaimed to the bochur that the holy Yid was not smoking, it was rather the Germans who were! He tells the bochur to summon the Chazzan for Shochein Ad. He returned, continuing to daven regularly for several months, eventually vanishing once again. Many decades later the Chazzan meets up with the Rebbe at a wedding, reporting to him how he had returned to a life of Torah and mitzvos, and blessed with many observant children and grandchildren, and the Rebbe was indeed correct, it was the Germans who were smoking those cigarettes. (Mishpacha Magazine)

Lastly, we must discover joy in our relationship, singing our appreciation for whatever may come our way, because it is the relationship we cherish and the privilege to serve in whatever capacity or circumstance we are summoned to.

A daughter recounts how her mother, as a young girl, kept two days of fasting on Tisha Bav in Auschwitz, since the Nazis cynically gave them food for Erev Tisha Bav after dark — knowing they would refrain from eating — and the next day’s ration during the fast day. What inspired her mother to never question her difficulties was the image of Bais Yaakov girls, merely 12 and 13 years old, marching to their deaths singing, Ani Maamin. (Mishpacha Magazine)

May we transition from the inspiration of Tisha Bav in marching forward in our lives, singing of our good fortune to be in the embrace of Hashem, in whatever He may rain down upon us!

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