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Friday, 31 July, 2015 - 1:02 pm







Our dining room table on Friday nights is a rather active and noisy place, as it is in many homes across the globe. Highlighting the din, is the active participation of our children and guests discussing the Torah portion or festivals of that particular week. From the time of Moses, Jewish people focus, study, and “live” with the portion assigned to each week. It takes a full year to get through the entire Torah. And it is the same with the festivals. Before each one, our children will have been well prepared to discuss and celebrate them.


It has been quieter over the past weeks. Some of our children are in camp. The ones at home study these portions much less while out of school.


It does not seem to matter, however, for today’s festival. Today (Friday) is the fifteenth of the Hebrew month of Av. The Talmud (Ta’anis 30b) enumerates six significant incidences which occurred on this day, causing this celebration to be the most joyous than any other festival in the year. One would imagine the intense preparations befitting such a day. It would be very difficult, however, to imagine how this past week would help to prepare for such considerable joy, as this past Sunday was “Tisha B’av (the 9th day of Av), the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. This is the complete contrast of joy and celebration!


It must be that the catalyst and impetus for joy on the fifteenth of the month is generated from the sadness of Tishah B’av itself, six days previously.


The explanation is as follows: Of the six happy events attributed to the 15th of Av, the main cause for celebration involves wood. In Temple times, several generous families donated all the wood used for the altar’s fires. Those fires were mainly for the animal-sacrifice service, a primary function of the Temple. The cutting of the wood was halted from the fifteenth of Av till the Spring, since the heat of the sun begins to weaken with the shortening of the days. Light and heat are necessary to dry the wood and keep it free from worms. Once all the wood was, filling the reserves, it was time to celebrate.


Two ideas emerge and are underscored from the chopping of wood for the fires of the altar: 1) The wood was essential for the Temple’s main function and service. It completed the offerings, allowing them to be burned according to the will of the Almighty.  2) The donation of the wood was not a mere charitable donation, but it was charity in one of its highest forms, for those benefiting from the wood could not identify the benefactors, just as the benefactors could not identify the beneficiaries. When giver and taker have no knowledge of each other, this, according to Jewish law, is one of the highest forms of charity. Both of these factors – strengthening the Temple’s service and charity – are causes for great celebrations.


The sad day of Tishah B’av, on the other hand, provides the exact antithesis of these two factors. On that day, both holy Temples in ancient Jerusalem were destroyed. The main reason the Temples were destroyed, explain the Talmudic Sages, was baseless hatred among fellow Jews. In other words, the destruction of the Temples on Tishah B’av brought an end to the physical edifice of the Temple and its central importance to the Jewish people, while also accentuating the glaring necessity for unity and selfless acts of loving kindness for one another.


It is no wonder why this day was marked with such a great celebration. The fully replenished supply of wood provided assurance that the main service in the Temple would continue through the winter. It also was a phenomenal gesture of kindness to everyone in the nation. The only way the Jewish people of the second Temple era could react and respond to a tragic day like Tishah B’av was to promote and celebrate the complete opposite and transformation of the tragedy and grief of Tishah B’av — by perpetuating the service in the Temple and sharing love with one another.


In present times, more than 19 centuries after the destruction of the second Temple, the fifteenth of Av provides a reminder to the power of transformation, and to the necessary perspective following a tragedy.


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This Shabbos is the sixteenth Yahrtzeit of a close friend of mine – and so many more – unforgettable Avrohom Chayim ben Yeshayah haLevi, or Allen Tenenbaum.


Allen was tragically torn from his family and friends on Thursday, 16 Av, or July 29, 1999, during the infamous Buckhead shootings and massacre.


There are few events more tragic than losing a loved one and a friend, especially in such a senseless and brutal manner. Yet, when thinking and reflecting upon Allen’s life, he was a man who was constantly and actively engaged in acts of kindness. As his synagogue’s president, he invested incredible effort in “keeping the wood burning,” making things happen for the community. His care for his religion, and for every individual person – especially his family – made him consistently great. He maintained an innate ability to impact all those with whom he came into contact, rich or poor, Jew or gentile, big or small, religious or not.


His beautiful family, which he so loved, continues to follow in those very same sweet footsteps. It is, in fact, exclusively under his and their influence and merit, that the words you are currently reading in the “Good Shabbos Email” have been written and disseminated each week for more than fifteen continuous years.


Allen is deeply missed by us all, especially by his immediate family, my very dear and beloved friends, Debra, Brittany, Megan and Scott.


On the day of Allen’s Yahrtzeit, may we reflect upon his inspiration to impact all people with respect and love for G-d and man. May the holy soul of Avrohom  Chayim ben Yeshayah haLevi intercede on High on behalf of his beautiful family, so that they  continue to be blessed with success and Mazal, with strength and  courage, with health and wealth, and with continued growth in both material and spiritual areas.


And may the experience of the ultimate comfort, an end to all tragedy and suffering, be realized immediately with the coming of the Messiah. This era will feature the prophecy of Isaiah (25:8): “Death will be eliminated forever, and the tears of sorrow will be wiped away by the Almighty Himself,” and we will all be reunited with our loved ones. May this happen speedily in our days.



SUMMARY: The power of transformation is manifest more than ever when the most tragic and sad day leads to the most joyous one.



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