Spiritual Tools: The Three Weeks: The Greatest Power
In honor of Jacob B, who, every Friday, accesses the Greatest Power: Rabbi Yehudah used to say: Ten strong things were created in the world:
A mountain is strong, but iron cuts through it.
Iron is strong, but fire can make it bubble.
Fire is strong, but water puts it out.
Water is strong, but clouds contain it.
Clouds are strong, but the wind can scatter them.
Breath is strong, but the body holds it in.
The Body is strong, but fear breaks it.
Fear is strong, but wine dissipates its effects.
Wine is strong, but sleep overcomes its power.
Death is stronger than all of them.
But Tzedaka saves from death, as it is written, “And Tzedaka saves from death (Proverbs 10:2).” [Bava Batra 10a)
We lost our power during the Three Weeks as Jerusalem and the Batei Mikdash were destroyed. We lament our weakness in the Kinot, lamentations, of Tisha B’Av. If we are searching for empowerment, says Rabbi Yehudah, we need look no further than the Mitzvah of Tzedaka which is more powerful than death.
The same Talmudic section offers more insight into our empowerment through performing Tzedaka: Rabbi Yitzchak said: “The Holy One, Blessed is He, will provide sufficient money for any who runs to do Tzedaka.” Rabbi Nachman bar Yitzchak said, “The Holy One, Blessed is He, will provide appropriate recipients through whom to perform the Mitzvah of Tzedaka.” (Bava Batra 9b)
We feel distant from God during the Three Weeks and we are desperate for a reconnection. Rabbi Yitzchak and his son, Rabbi Nachman describe Tzedaka as empowering us to directly involve God in our lives.
There is another hint to the empowerment of Tzedaka in Rabbi Yitzchak and his son, Rabbi Nachman: The most famous Talmudic story about the destruction is the tale of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza; “Bar,” meaning son: The stingy man and the son of the stingy man! The people who triggered the events leading to the destruction of the second Temple were a stingy man who taught his son to be stingy. Rabbi Yitzchak taught Rabbi Nachman bar Yitzchak the rules of a generous spirit. Tzedaka empowers us to raise generous children, who do not hate others, but seek to help them. They will be rewarded with, as Rabbi Nachman teaches, “appropriate recipients through whom to perform the Mitzvah of Tzedaka.”