When Light and Darkness Collide
This week we usher in the Jewish month of Av, the saddest and darkest month on our calendar. On the ninth day of this month, we commemorate the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, as well as many other tragedies.
In our lives, we all have light-filled days when we feel at peace with our inner selves and aligned with our mission in this world. But more often than not, we have dark and sad days when we seem out of sync. These are the times in our lives that are painful and full of unused potential, when we feel disconnected from our spiritual selves and our Maker.
Yet, often it is precisely in the blackness and difficulties of our lives that our fortitude, faith and strength as human beings emerge. Those circumstances highlight the hidden potency of our inner souls and bring out their greatness.
Just as anxiety is meant to agitate us into action, darkness, too, must be used as a springboard for further growth and to acquire a deeper sensitivity. There is a Chassidic saying that nothing is as whole as a broken heart—as long as our grief is constructive, such turmoil brings us to action.
And that’s why the name of this dark month is so appropriate. Av means “father” in Hebrew. Other months seem to have more significant name associations: Nissan, the month of nissim (“miracles”); the High Holidays are in Tishrei, new beginnings. What relevance does fatherhood have to this sad month, when some of the most painful events in our history occurred?
Av is the month when we hit our lowest point as a nation, when we can easily feel deserted and alone. And perhaps that is precisely why this month needs to be called “Father.”
Only a father can you look you in the eye with a tenderness that says you are straying, and that it’s time to return. Only a parent can guide you to a better direction with an unquestionable firmness that still holds warmth and sensitivity. Only a parent can punish without alienating—his love hidden, but still apparent.
It is customary to add to this month the name “Menachem,” which means “comforter” or “consoler,” so that it becomes “Menachem Av”: the “comforting Father.”
As we begin this month of Menachem Av, may each of us finally feel our Creator’s loving, everlasting embrace. Editor, TJW