Purpose and Priorities
Today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Av. Which means that we are beginning the Nine Days which is the culmination of The Three Weeks, ending with Tisha B'Av (9th of Av). “When the month of Av enters, we reduce our joy.” —Talmud, Taanit 26b. Why do we rejoice our joy?
Many calamities that befell the Jewish people happened in the month of Av. Both of the Holy Temples were destroyed on Tisha B'Av. We use this period of time to mourn those losses. We refrain from eating meat, except on Shabbat, buying new clothing, listening to music, among other things.
According to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, every Jewish soul is shown a vision of the third Holy Temple on the Shabbat preceding Tisha B'Av; called Shabbat Chazon (Shabbat of the Vision). The purpose of this vision is to arouse in us a yearning to see the building of the Temple come to fruition with G-d's help.
In this week's Parasha, Mattot-Masei, the Israelites are very close to the Promised Land. They were victorious over the Midianites. They have experienced the toughness of the desert and were born in freedom, unlike their parents and grandparents who left Egypt. They know that their purpose is to enter the land where they can fully serve Hashem and live their priorities.
Each of the tribes receives a portion of the land, Reuben, Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh decide to settle on the eastern bank of the Jordan. They feel that the land there is better for their flock.
Moshe challenges the tribes of Reuben, Gad, regarding their request to settle on the other side. They state that they will fight with the rest of the Israelites in any future battles. Moshe agrees that they can settle there, so long as they keep their promise (Numbers 32:29-33).
Though many of us have settled in various lands all over the world, around Tisha B'Av, we remember the Holy Temples and yearn for the coming days when we will no longer have to mourn. We yearn for the days when all people will know G-d and when there will be peace in the world. Our purpose as Jews is to bring others closer to G-d. Our priority is to work on our own relationship with G-d.