Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

Please join the Ohr Tzvi family by donating or by sponsoring a parsha message.

Please be in  contact with Ohr Tzvi about having Rabbi Weber as a scholar residence in your community.

It’s paradoxical but it’s true.

To forget, we must teach ourselves to remember.

And to remember, we must teach ourselves to forget.

And it’s a truth that explains the following Gemara: “Immediately after the destruction of the beis hamikdash, there were many ascetic people who stopped eating meat and who stopped drinking wine … Rabbi Yehoshua told them … my children, not to mourn at all, that’s impossible … to mourn too much, that’s also impossible … instead, a person should plaster his home but leave one area unplastered; a person should set his table but leave one section unset; a woman should wear her jewelry, but leave off one ornament.”[1]

This Gemara commands us to mourn – to “remember” the churban. Why? Because “remembrances” of lost glory can prompt us to want that glory – and to the good deeds that can reinstate that glory.

This Gemara also commands us not to “over-mourn.” To, on some level, “forget” the churban.[2] Why? Because “remembering” the churban too much will obscure glorious beis ha-mikdash memories – thereby deadening the possibility of recalling any glory.

So, we pivot back and forth from remembering to forgetting and from mourning to celebration.

We pivot this way all year long. “We plaster our homes; we just leave one small section unplastered. We set our tables; we just leave one section unset. Women wear their jewelry; they just leave off one ornament.”[3]

And, most especially, we pivot on Tisha B’Av.

On Tisha B’Av, we grieve by fasting and by engaging in many other acts of mourning. Paradoxically, though, on “sad” Tisha B’Av we omit the usual “sad” tachanun tefilla. Why? Because Tisha B’Av, a “holiday”[4] and the day on which “Moshiach will be born,” is unsuited for sad tefillos.”[5]

On Erev Tisha B’Av, we grieve by sitting on the floor while eating a pre-fast “mourning” meal containing just bread and ash-coated eggs. Paradoxically, though, we eat a proper celebratory Yom Tov seudah right before we eat that “mourning” meal. Why? Because “when the beis ha-mikdash stood, Tisha B’Av was a Yom Tov and the tradition (of a Yom Tov seudah) has not departed.”[6]

We mourn and we remember loss. And then we pivot from mourning towards celebration and forgetting loss – and we better ourselves thereby.

And if such pivoting betters us in this arena, then wouldn’t it also do so in other arenas?

The marital arena is a case in point.

“Forgetting” our spouse’s mistakes will let us envision – and build – the better marriages that can lie past those mistakes.

We should then pivot. Away from “forgetting” and on towards “remembering.” Our spouses’ strengths. Our marriages’ positivisms. Past and future nachas. Remembering all that will raise us above anger and reinstate positivisms.

Our self-perceptions are additional cases in point.

“Forgetting” our mistakes will free us from hope-deadening regret and bitterness. That will liberate us and let us work towards future accomplishments.

We should then pivot. Away from “forgetting” and on towards “remembering.” Past accomplishments. Still attainable dreams. Memories of Holocaust survivors and of all those who rose up after being beaten down. Remembering all that will raise us above regret and reinstate hope.[7]

It’s hard, when we’re hurting, to “forget” bad and to “remember” good.

But isn’t it far, far harder to just “remember” bad and not good?

[1] Bava Basra, 60b

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Shulchan Aruch, OC, 559:4

[5] Midrash Zuta, Eichah 1.

[6] Magen Avraham, 555:11

[7] Both marriage and self-perception, of course, benefit from “remembering” one’s own mistakes. Provided, of course, that the remembrance is balanced – that it cautions us away from past mistakes without depressing us and thereby decreasing the chances of further accomplishment.

Rabbi Weber is founder of Ohr Tzvi Montebello-Monsey. Please visit his website, ohrtzvi.org, to sign up for his weekly email message or for information on his live or zoom shiurim. Rabbi Weber will be scholar in residence at the Hudson Valley Resort for the Yomim Noraim & Sukkos. For information, please email or call (845) 794-6000