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Tisha B’Av: Olat Shabbat: Responding to Tragedy

The 22nd of Tammuz is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Shmuel ben Yoel ibn Shuiv, Rav in the Aragonese community of Salonica (1528). His father, who was born in Spain and moved to Salonica in 1495, authored Olas Shabbos, Nora Tehillos, and Ein Mishpat.


People respond to tragedy in different ways. There are those who maintain their equilibrium and simply continue to function despite any circumstances. There are those who are easily overwhelmed by matters large and small. There is a fear response which is a balance between the previous two and these are people who are able to maintain some of their perspective even during times of tragedy and can focus on the larger picture.

Those who ignore tragedy and simply continue to function will never be able to derive the proper lessons from suffering. Those who responded to less significant suffering just as they do to the more significant find it almost impossible to function; life is filled with challenges large and small. There are those who say that even such a person can turn this into a positive trait by repenting when ever he confronts a problem. However, I believe that a person who is repenting in response to troubles at every moment will never be able to focus on future growth but will instead be wrapped up in his problems, convinced that he is doing all sorts of terrible things, and will never be able to move forward.

The challenge is to take the third approach, that of people who are able to maintain their perspective and focus on the larger picture and from the larger picture are able to discern at least a hint of God’s message through the suffering.

This is the meaning of the Talmudic dictum that we should lessen our joy during the month of Av. we cannot approach life with our regular full joy, but must take time during these days to look at the broader picture of the suffering of the Jewish people and consider what is God teaching us. (Olat Shabbat; Derush L’Shabbat Eichah)

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