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Through Falling, There is Rising: A Message for the 17th of Tamuz

"Do not rejoice over me, my enemy, for because I fell, I will rise! Because I sit in the darkness, the Compassionate One is a light unto me!" (Micah 7:8) The Midrash comments: "Through falling, there is rising, through darkness, there is light" (Yalkut Shimoni).

Dear Friends,

When I was 14 years old, my rebbe, Rabbi Zevulun Leib, taught the above verse to our class. And he also conveyed to us its deeper meaning: "Through falling, there is rising, through darkness, there is light." It is through the falling and the resulting darkness that we gain new insights and strengths which enable us to rise to new heights and to experience new light. After teaching us the deeper meaning of this verse, Rabbi Leib led us in the singing of the following words: "If I had not fallen, I would not have risen. If I had not sat in the darkness, there would not have been light for me" (Midrash Tehilim 22). 

The rebbe of my rebbe, Rav Yitzchak Hutner - a leading sage who headed the Chaim Berlin Yeshiva - applied the above teaching to the following biblical statement about the challenges facing the "tzadik" - righteous person: "For though the tzadik may fall seven times, he will arise" (Proverbs 24:16). According to Rav Hutner, the real meaning of this verse is not that the tzadik manages to rise again after falling seven times, but that the essence of the tzadik's rising is through his seven falls. Through these falls, he gains new insights and strengths which enable him to rise higher.

This insight can apply to the falls of both the individual and the community. It is particularly relevant to the season of communal mourning which begins today - the Fast Day of the 17th of Tamuz. This day begins a three week period of mourning which culminates with "Tisha B'Av" - the Fast of the Ninth Day of Av, which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples. On the 17th of Tamuz, Jerusalem's walls were breached, prior to the destruction of the Second Temple. It was the beginning of the fall of Jerusalem.  There were other historical tragedies which happened on this day. For example, it was on the 17th day of Tamuz that the first Tablets of the Covenant were broken by Moses when he descended from the mountain and saw the worship of the golden calf.

In the messianic age, proclaims the Prophet Zechariah, the fast days which commemorate the failures and tragedies of the Jewish people "will be to the House of Judah for joy and for gladness and for happy festivals" (Zechariah 8:18). How is it possible that days of mourning will become joyous festivals? The answer is that through these failures, we will have gained new insights and spiritual strengths which will eventually lead to the renewal of our people and the entire world. These tragic experiences will have become part of the process of change and rebirth; thus, at the final stage of history, these days of mourning will be transformed into days of rejoicing.

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen  (See below)

Related Teachings and Comments:

1. In Midrash Genesis Rabbah (3:7), the sages teach that before the Creator made this world, He created other worlds and then destroyed them. Why did the Creator choose to create the universe in this fashion? The Chassidic sage, Rabbi Tzadok Hakohen, explains that the Creator desired to establish a paradigm for all creation: The best construction must come on the heels of previous "failure." To build properly, one has to suffer destruction - to see his handiwork fall apart - and then start building again. When the insights resulting from the failure are used to ensure greater eventual success, than the failure itself becomes an integral part of the creation process. 
I found the above insight in a lesson by Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann of Project Genesis:  .

2. The messengers of evil and death rejoice when they see the suffering that they are able to inflict on the world. The following proclamation of the righteous person is therefore a warning to them: "Do not rejoice over me, my enemy, for because I fell, I will rise! Because I sit in the darkness, the Compassionate One is a light unto me!" (Micah 7:8)   And the day will arrive when the nations and their leaders will discover this light. For the Compassionate One gave to the fallen people of Zion the following promise:

"For behold, darkness may cover the earth and a thick cloud the kingdoms, but upon you the Compassionate One will shine, and His glory will be seen upon you. Nations will walk by your light, and sovereigns by the glow of your dawn." (Isaiah 60:2,3). 

3. Rav Yitzchak Hutner's teaching that the tzadik rises "through" his falls is found in a letter of response to a disciple who had written to him about his turbulent spiritual struggles. Rav Hutner's response to his disciple can be found in "Pachad Yitzchak - Letters and Writings," p. 217. This volume includes many letters that he wrote to his students. A Hebrew edition is available, but an English edition has not yet been published.  

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