FORTY YEARS OF TISHA B’AV PROGRAM OF FLATBUSH
Dateline 9 Av 2448, Wilderness of Paran:
Twelve Meraglim return from their 40-day investigative journey through the length and breadth of Eretz Yisrael. Ten of them report that “it is a land that destroys its inhabitants”, that it is a land of giants, impossible to conquer. B’nei Yisrael weep and wail all that night, complaining ungratefully, “If only we had died in Egypt, or in this Midbar! Why does Hashem want to bring us to Eretz Yisrael to die by the sword?” In response, Hashems proclaims that their sojourn in the Midbar will be lengthened to 40 years, one year for each day that the Meraglim travelled; that all the adults who complained will die in the Midbar and only their chlildren will enter Eretz Yisrael; and that the night of Tisha B’Av, which they had disfigured with their weeping Bechiah shel Chinom – for nothing – will become a night of Bechiah L’Doros, a Night of Weeping for subsequent generations.
Dateline 9 Ave 2448 to the Present:
Every year on this day, Jews all over the world sit on the floor in collective mourning, to contemplate tragedies and disasters that have afflicted our People: the Destruction of both the First and the Second Bais HaMikdash; the Roman conquest of Beitar and the bloody annihilation of hundreds of hundreds of thousands of Jews in that city; and Turnus Rufus plowing over the Har Bayis and the City of Yerushalayim in an attempt to destroy all vestige of their existence. In the European Jewish experience: the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition; the Chmielnitzki massacres and the pogroms of Russia; on and on through the Vale of Tears of Jewish History to the Churban of the Holocaust, still in living memory, and the blood that is still shed by those who hate us within the modern State of Israel.
We sit on the ground and read the Book of Eichah, we read the heartwrenching Kinnos that were written in response to the painful events of our collective history.
Dateline Tisha B’Av 5742 (1982):
The pioneering Tisha B’Av Program of Shiurim is arranged in Flatbush, to address the desire of some people to learn (within the parameters of what is permitted on this day) more about the significance of Tisha B’Av and to be inspired as to how to grow from it. Another Program is held the following year, and in response to communal interest, the Program becomes a fixture of the calendar.
As more and more people hear about it, the Tisha B’Av Program expands, eventually attracting more than 2000 attendees, and has to move around to larger locations to accommodate them. The advertising becomes more sophisticated, advancing from hand-lettered signs fixed to trees to its current iconic graphic design format, with ads placed in the Jewish newspapers.
Despite the extreme heat, people come from far and near to attend the Program, thirsting for inspiration on our historic National Day of Mourning. Some local shuls take up the baton and introduce their own programs, and in 1993 the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation begins to show their video presentation in multiple locations, their goal being to challenge Klal Yisroel to grow Ahavas Chinom, thereby combating the Sinas Chinom that was the catalyst for the Destruction of the Second Bais HaMikdash. Many other organisations have followed in their wake.
Just as parents do not regard their children as competitors, the Flatbush Tisha B’Av Program welcomes the proliferation of such programs, whether held locally, worldwide, or online. We are all Children of one Father in Heaven, begging Him to favor us again and bring us Home!
Ribbono Shel Olam, Master of the World! Look down and see how Your Children unite on this the saddest day of the year, despite the heat, despite their hunger and thirst – see how they mourn the Destruction of Your Bais HaMikdash, the desolation of Your Holy City Yerushalayim, the withdrawal of their connection with You! See how they long to be close to You again! See how they undertake to work on themselves to see once again Kol Yisrael Chaveirim – friends – Chibburim – joined in service to You!
Dateline Tisha B’Av 5782 (2022):
The Flatbush Tisha B’Av Program is to be held in its classic format at the Yeshiva Chaim Berlin Elementary School, 911 East 13 Street/corner Avenue I.
On Leil Tisha B’Av, which falls this year on Motzai Shabbos (August 6), Maariv will be followed by the reading of Megillas Eichah and Kinnos. Participants are asked to bring their own Kinnos. Rabbi Avie Gold, the co-author of the iconic ArtScroll Kinnos, will give a talk on the concept of “Nothing Happens By Itself”. Then from our Archives, we will show a video presentation given by the Mashgiach of Bais Medrash Govoah, Lakewood, Rav Matisyahu Salamon Shlit”a (may Hashem send him a Refuah Sheleimah) who has addressed the Program many times On Tisha B’Av morning (August 7) the Program will begin with Shacharis at 8.00 am. Rav Ephraim Levine will then lead and explain the Kinnos, providing insight and inspiration on these often difficult passages.
The Program of Shiurim begins at 1.00 pm with Rav Shmuel Yaakov Klein speaking on “The Abyss of Golus Edom”. After Mincha (at 1.45), a newcomer to the Program and a popular speaker, Rav Yehoshua Schwartz of Detroit, will talk about the importance of “Yearning for the Geulah”. Rav Hershel Zolty, Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, will challenge the Olam on the topic of “Ani Maamin – Do I Really Believe?” Rav Moshe Tuvia Leiff will inspire us to contemplate the beauty of a world “When Jews Are Brothers”, and Rav Akiva Grunblatt will attempt to comfort us with “Signs of Love Within Churban”.
Rav Moshe Yosef Scheinerman will lead us in “Understanding the Golus”. We will then be privileged to hear from Rav Moshe Meiselman shlit”a, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Toras Moshe, Yerushalayim, who will address the question: “What Do We Cry About?” Rav Shmuel Dishon, a stalwart of the Tisha B’Av Program, will then provide his usual fiery words of inspiration. Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser will give a derasha on the intriguing topic “Emunah: Faith on Fire “, and the Program will draw to what has become its traditional close: Rav Fishel Schachter bringing us on the path “From Churban to Teshuvah”.
Maariv and Havdalah will be followed by the customary refreshments, enabling participants to break their fast.
The organisers of the Tisha B’Av Program thank all its illustrious speakers and all its sponsors (and welcome more sponsorship!) In particular, we would like to express our appreciaton to a major sponsor of this year’s Program, l’ilui nishmas their son, a yungerman from Flatbush who was suddenly and tragically wrenched from us in a traffic accident, R’ Meshullam Feivish a”h ben R’ Yisrael Yaakov sheyichyeh. May his neshamah have an aliyah, and may Hashem comfort his family together with those who mourn for Tzion and Yerushalayim.
Dateline Tisha B’Av 5782:
The careful reader will note that forty years have passed since the first Tisha B’Av Program was held. Forty Years – corresponding perhaps to the Forty Years of Wandering in the Midbar, that Hashem decreed in response to the Bnai Yisrael’s weeping at the report of the Meraglim?
Let us unite in Tefillah that this Tisha B’Av should be the last Tisha B’Av in Golus, the last time that it is a day of mourning and sadness. Let us beg Hashem that just as He led Bnai Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael after their Forty Years in the Midbar, so too, after we here in Flatbush have collectively sat on the ground, mourned the Churban and sought inspiration and consolation for Forty Years, may He bring Moshiach and lead us speedily Home to Eretz Yisrael, where the Bais Hamikdash may be rebuilt, and Tisha B’Av should become a Mo’ed, a day of celebration and rejoicing.