The Torah of Tisha B’Av

A unique aspect of Tisha B’Av is that you’re not allowed to learn many types of Torah, because learning Torah brings us joy. As this halachic digest points out: “One may not study Torah on Tisha B’Av except for melancholy passages in Torah texts, the laws of mourning and Tisha B’Av, and works of Musar (S.A.,O.Ĥ. 554:1; Y.O. 2:26).”

The irony of this is that in my Shul, more people pass through the doors to learn Torah on Tisha B’Av then any other day. Between the four showings of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage videos (2 of them concurrent), the Rav’s shiur and a shiur by a popular local Talmud Chachim, close to 1,000 people will pass through the doors of the Shul on this day. How are we to understand this?

First there are some practical factors as to why so many people attend shiurim on Tisha B’Av:
1) most people take the day off
2) there’s not much else to do which is in the spirit of the day
3) going to a shiur takes your mind off the hunger you might feel
4) after a few years, it’s become your routine on Tisha B’Av

From a spiritual perspective, one reason might be that although many of us have trouble actually shedding a tear for the destruction, we know at some level that something is missing in our lives. And we know at some level, that we’re all a part of the problem. It’s one day that many people take some responsibility for the less than perfect state the Jewish people are in. Hearing the mussar oriented shiurim on Tisha B’Av is our praiseworthy attempt at trying to do something about. On this day we’re all open to our faults and we’re ready to take a corrective step in the right direction.

The second reason is perhaps the spiritual power of communal Torah learning. The two primary communal spiritual activities are prayer and learning Torah. The power is so great that these spiritual activities are two that many of us can actually feel. When we’re most receptive to spiritual progress, like the Yomin Noraim and Tisha B’Av and we combine that with a communal spiritual activity like learning Torah, the overflowing of our Shuls on Tisha B’Av is understandable.

May we all grow from the tremendous power of the day and may our communal efforts lead us to an environment of even greater spiritual opportunities.