Rosh Chodesh Av Torah Essay - Matan - The Sadie Rennert
Return to Online

Rosh Chodesh Av Torah Essay

Chava Wulwick

On Shabbat Parshat Devarim there are two occasions when the leining tune changes: once in the parsha, and the other in the special Haftarah for Shabbat Chazon. The tune changes to the mournful and haunting tune used for the book of Eicha, which we will read next Wednesday night on Tisha B’AvOn both occasions, the pasuk where the tune changes includes the word “eicha.”
In Parshat Devarim, the pasuk is one in which Moshe Rabeinu is talking to Bnei Yisrael, summarizing all that has happened to them in the desert.  One of the first things mentioned is the appointment of judges, about which Moshe says
אֵיכָה אֶשָּׂא לְבַדִּי  1:12
“Eicha, how can I alone carry your difficulties, burdens, and quarrels?” Moshe in this verse, indicates the need for establishing a judicial system.
In the Haftarah, Yeshayahu 1:21, the verse rebukes the nation, saying,
אֵיכָה הָיְתָה לְזוֹנָה
“Eicha, how is it that [Jerusalem] the faithful city has become like a harlot?”

The Book of Lamentations, written by the prophet Yirmiyahu, starts off with the same word “eicha” – hence the name of the book. אֵיכָה יָשְׁבָה בָדָד    1:1

The Midrash in Eicha Rabbah (1:1) links these three eicha pronouncements,
שְׁלשָׁה נִתְנַבְּאוּ בְּלָשׁוֹן אֵיכָה, משֶׁה, יְשַׁעְיָה, וְיִרְמְיָה “There are three who prophesied using the language of eicha: Moshe, Yeshayahu, and Yirmiyahu.”The midrash seems to be indicating that there is a causal connection between these three statements and time periods when the word eicha was used . In the book of Eicha, Yirmiyahu asked in deep pain how the tragedy of destruction could have occurred. In order to answer that we have to look back at the situation from the times of Yeshayahu, who preceded Yirmiyahu. Yeshayahu asked how the people of the formerly trustworthy city could be so treacherous and unfaithful  אֵיכָה הָיְתָה לְזוֹנָה   “How could she have become like a harlot?”
In order to answer the question as to how the nation found themselves in such an awful situation at the time of Yeshayahu – we need to look back to the time period of Moshe, who had such trouble dealing with the bickering and arguments within Bnei Yisrael   אֵיכָה אֶשָּׂא לְבַדִּי “How can I bear this burden alone?”
‘Eicha’ is all about sorrow – how could this have happened? How could it be that we are facing such challenges and we are enduring such sorrow? Why is this happening to us?
Fascinatingly the midrash brings another occasion in Tanakh in which the same letters appear in the same order, however, it is vowelized differently. ‘Alef’ ‘Yud’ ‘Kaf’ ‘Hei’, eicha / “Ayeka.”
Going back right to the beginning of the Torah, in parshat Bereishit 3:9, we read that Adam and Chava were hiding among the trees in the garden
וַיִּקְרָא ה אֱלֹיקם אֶל־הָאָדָם וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אַיֶּכָּה׃
״The Lord, God, called out to man and He said to him: Where are you?”
Surely Hashem knew where Adam was?
Sir Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis – the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth explains that Hashem was not asking Adam where he was, Hashem was explaining to Adam, through this “Ayeka”, that now is not a time to hide away, and it is not a time to shy away from your responsibilities.
Instead of asking “Eicha – how can this be?,” we need to ask ourselves “Ayeka?” Where am I? Where am I now? What am I going to do about this situation? How can I respond proactively and constructively?
The troubles started when Bnei Yisrael were bickering and it was too much for Moshe  אֵיכָה אֶשָּׂא לְבַדִּי “How can I bear this burden alone?”
And eventually, continuing in that vein, we reached the awful situation of the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash.
In times of difficulty, of crisis, tragedy and of challenge, instead of asking “how/why is this happening?”  we should ask, “what can I do about it?,” and “how can I contribute towards society and try to make the world a better place?”
It all depends on asking the right question and behaving with responsibility.
May we all merit to see the Beit Hamikdash rebuilt במהרה בימינו, speedily in our days.

Have a meaningful Tisha B’Av.

Chava Wulwick

Chava Wulwick

is a qualified teacher currently living in London, UK. She is an educator for the United Synagogue and has served as the Scholar in Residence at Hampstead and Finchley Synagogues. Chava completed an MA in Jewish Education (LSJS and Birkbeck), an MA in Property Valuation and Law (City University Business School) and a BSc (London School of Economics) in Accounting and Finance. She is an alumnus of Michlalah, a graduate of the LSJS Bradfield Women's Educators' Programme and the Montefiore Scholars Diploma Programme. Chava has recently completed the Bellows Eshkolot Professional Development Fellowship with Matan.