“Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and those that return to her, with righteousness” Isaiah 1:27

By Rabbi Dr Michael Harris, July 26, 2012

The haftarah of Shabbat Chazon concludes, as haftarot usually do, on an optimistic note. Shabbat Chazon is normally the Shabbat preceding Tishah b’Av; this year it falls on the ninth of Av itself, with the fast postponed until Saturday night and Sunday.

In Out of the Whirlwind, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993) discusses a notion important to Judaism which he calls “unitive time consciousness”. The idea is that the past is not simply gone, nor the future merely anticipated; both are here now and connected by the present. In particular, the sharp conventional division between past and present experiences is blurred. The result is that Jews are encouraged not just to recollect the past but to re-experience it.

This thought is especially familiar from the Pesach Seder: “In every generation, a person is obliged to see himself as if he had gone out of Egypt”. Rabbi Soloveitchik insists, however, that this merging of past and present consciousness is applicable not only to the Exodus but to every event which Torah and tradition urge us to remember.

Unitive time consciousness, argues Rav Soloveitchik, is particularly pertinent to Tishah b’Av. When we say in the kinnot of Tishah b’Av, “On this night, my Temple was destroyed”, we mean both a night in the year 70 CE and tonight. The two nights fuse into one experience, one vivid reality. We re-experience the destruction.

One might add a note of hope based on this year’s calendar. Judaism, and in particular the halachah, sometimes does something else spectacular with time: it suspends and thus transforms it. This year, the ninth of Av is deferred until the tenth, its sadness almost totally barred from encroaching on the joy of Shabbat.

Last updated: 4:31pm, July 26 2012