Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Friedman of Sadigora (1819-1883), who stood at the helm of
the Sadigora Hassidim from the regal house of Ruzhin for 32 years, was once
offered an explanation for the custom of beginning the Shabbat evening service
earlier than normal on the week before the fast of Tisha Be’av. The person who
offered the explanation suggested that people are hungry to eat meat after not
having not having done so for a number of days since the beginning of the Hebrew
month of Av, as per the Ashkenazi custom.
Hungry for meat, we begin the
service earlier than normal in order to get home and eat.
Sadigora Rebbe did not accept this explanation. How can someone suggest that
customs of the Jewish people are driven by an ignoble lust for meat?! He
therefore offered an alternative explanation.
When one travels through
the thick darkness of the night, steps are taken gingerly, taking care not to go
astray. When a light appears in the distance the traveler’s steps hasten in
order to get to the source of the light as quickly as possible.
the parable, the Old Sadigora Rebbe explained: Throughout the year we journey
cautiously so as not to go astray. The Shabbat before Tisha Be’av is known as
Shabbat Hazon, the Shabbat of the vision – because we read Isaiah’s vision
(hazon) that opens with a description of the low spiritual level of the Jewish
people during the First Temple period.
According to Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of
Berditchev (1740-1809), on this Shabbat there are those that merit to see a
vision of all the bountiful good that awaits those who serve the Almighty with
love. As Shabbat Hazon approaches and the light of the End of Days can almost be
perceived, it is no wonder that we quicken our steps and hasten to usher in the
Shabbat! YEARS LATER, the grandson of the Old Sadigora Rebbe, Rabbi Aharon
Friedman of Sadigora (Kedushat Aharon, 1876-1912), expanded on this idea. In the
summer of 1908 the Kedushat Aharon was walking in the forest when someone
recounted the explanation of his grandfather. The Kedushat Aharon added: The
weeks leading up to Tisha Be’av are called the Bein Hametzarim, the days
“between the straits.” In contrast, Shabbat is called Nahala Bli Metzarim, a
heritage that has no limits. The Jewish people long to leave the straits of
distress and enter a spiritual realm that is not bound by temporal limits. Thus
we hurry from the Bein Hametzarim, the straits of distress, to the Nahala Bli
Metzarim, the reality that is limitless.
The Kedushat Aharon recounted
another memory from his grandfather to explain why Shabbat Hazon was ushered in
earlier than any other Shabbat. When Tisha Be’av falls on a Sunday or on a
Shabbat – as is the case this year – the fast begins immediately after the
conclusion of Shabbat.
On a normal Shabbat, we are permitted to extend
the holy day even after nightfall, beyond the official conclusion of the day.
Not so if the fast of Tisha Be’av begins immediately after Shabbat. The Kedushat
Aharon recounted in the name of the Old Sadigora Rebbe that since under these
circumstances we are unable to extend Shabbat beyond its conclusion, we try to
extend Shabbat at the other end by commencing the holy day earlier. The method
is different, but the goal is identical: to add Shabbat holiness.
further explanation was offered by the Kedushat Aharon on Shabbat Hazon itself.
The three Shabbatot preceding Tisha Be’av each have a special designated portion
that we read from the prophets. These portions begin with three different
expressions: divrei (the words of), shimu (listen) and hazon (vision) – hinting
at the need for us to repair our faults in speech, in hearing and in sight. The
portion from the prophets that is read after Tisha Be’av talks of comforting the
Jewish people after the destruction, and includes the words “and all basar will
see” (Isaiah 40:5).
“Basar” in this context means “humans,” but term
literally means “flesh” or “meat.”
The Kedushat Aharon explained: Indeed,
there is a lust for meat on Shabbat Hazon – not for physical meat, but for the
fulfillment of the verse: “And the glory of God shall be revealed, and all flesh
[basar] will see together, for the mouth of God has spoken it” (Isaiah
The writer is on the faculty of Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies
and is a rabbi in Tzur Hadassah.