Project Genesis

The Calendar and Holidays (incl. Sabbath)

Other Holidays and Fasts

Purim and the Ninth of Av

Question: Why is it that on the 9th of Av there are no commandments of giving gifts to the poor and sending food to others as there are on Purim? Surely this helps to create and increase more love for our fellow Jews (for the rectification of baseless hatred that led to the destruction of the Temple)? Is today just a day to be sad, without interacting with people? How far will that get us?

Answer: Even though one of the causes listed for the destruction of the 2nd Temple is baseless hatred, it seems to be just one of the symptoms of a deeper underlying problem that also leads to all the other issues listed as causes of destruction and exile (slander, murder, idolatry etc). Somehow, according to the Talmud, the way to correct this underlying problem, is not to focus directly on activities that might lead to an increase in loving others, but rather through mourning – the primary activity required on the 9th of Av. Anyone who is truly in mourning, does not usually have any desire for social interaction. The question is: how does mourning lead to a rectification of that underlying problem and more importantly, what is that underlying problem? The Torah says (in Deut. 28:47): “because you didn’t serve Hashem, your G-d WITH JOY….you will end up serving your enemies….” – it is clear from this verse that a lack of joy in one’s service of G-d leads to exile – so it seems that through mourning we are able to somehow regain that lost inner joy – how that works is a long story that we can continue to discuss if you wish.

It is interesting that you bring up the issue of gifts to the poor, because there seems to be a strange relationship between the month of Adar (in which Purim falls) and the month of Av – the Talmud tells us that “once Av begins, one must lessen Joyful activity” but “when Adar begins one must increase Joyful activity” – thus both months are focused on the issue of happiness; Maimonides states (Mishne Torah, Sefer Zmanim, Halachos of Megillah 2:18) that the primary reason that we give gifts to the poor on Purim, is not because it increases love for others, but because “there is no greater and more beautiful JOY other than to bring joy to the hearts of paupers, orphans, widows and converts” – so we see that the purpose of the commandment of giving to the poor is to create a feeling of joy in the giver, something that would not be at all appropriate for the 9th of Av, a day on which we are told to minimize joyous activity and become mourners.

Yours sincerely,
Ari Lobel

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