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
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.