There is a beautiful, heartwarming prophecy in Zachariah (8:19)
Thus saith the Lord of hosts; “The fast of the fourth [month,] and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah- joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; love the truth and peace.”
The prophet apparently visualizes the day that Israel will be freed from persecution and liberated from their exiles; and thus, the days that were designated for mourning and sorrow in the past, will be days of celebration henceforth. While being naturally comforting, with a little thought we realize its inspiration to be a bit strange.
Imagine you take a stroll down the street in the fresh spring morning, and happen to stumble upon a few Jews dancing and drinking ‘L’chaim!’ Being that you are the curious person, you happen to be; you approach the drunks and inquire of the reason for their celebration:
Tell me my friend, what is the occasion?
He looks back at you with surprised eyes, “You don’t know?!”
No, I do not. Enlighten me!
“Today is April the 20th!”
And why is that significant?
“Today is Hitler Day! He was born on the 20th, therefore we give thanks to God every year on this date; for Hitler is no more, and we persevered!”
Any person with a sense of judgment that is not entirely twisted will be repulsed by a ‘L’chaim!’ of that sort. There’s no disagreement and it is self-understood that a day of salvation deserves to be commemorated by thanksgiving and joy. However, a day that is responsible for bloodshed, destruction, terror and suffering, is a day of mourning and tears. Regardless of the current situation.
Zachariah’s vision of a holiday on the Fast of the (ninth day of the) Fifth rather than the day of redemption is essentially our partying and thanksgiving for suffering and death. We are thanking for two millennium of pain and ceaseless torture. How do we have the right and why should we logically drink ‘L’chaim!’ to the aforementioned infamous dates?
Perhaps we can look back into the verse and try to find some clues and answers there.
Thus saith the Lord … “The fast of the fourth [month,] and the fast of the fifth… shall be… joy and gladness… love the truth and peace.”
Firstly, if we look carefully we can see that the verse does not predict the obliteration of the fast day and its transformation to a holiday. To the contrary, the prophet still sees the day he is talking about as being “the Fast of the Fifth”, yet simultaneously a day of “joy and gladness.” How does that make sense? Secondly, the verse ends “love truth and peace.” What does that mean?
The Midrash says, “When the Holy One was about to create Adam, the ministering angels formed themselves into groups and companies, some of them saying, “Let him be created,” while others urged, “Let him not be created.”… Truth said, “Let him not be created because all of him will be falsehood.”… Peace said, “Let him not be created because he will be all strife.” (Genesis Rabbah 8:5)
From here we see that Truth and Peace are humanity’s doomsday forecasters! They predicted the corruption and weakness of Man before he was even given a chance! In addition, after humanity got its chance, countless of alike-minded joined the ranks of Truth and Peace in their lack of faith in the ultimate success of Man.
When the Man in question was Israel, the forecast was bleaker than ever. For wherever the armies of ‘realist’ looked, they saw negativity. They saw a nation in a dessert without a normal source of food and water, they predicted its end. And so when Israel fought seven armies, when Israel failed to conquer their greatest enemies, when Israel’s kingdom was split in two and so on through the chapters and generations of the prophets and the kings. They were obviously wrong every single time. However, when the world witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, which was in essence the uniting force and backbone of the Jewish nation, it seemed the assumptions of the ‘realists’ might be accurate for once, and last.
Nevertheless, to their dismay and utter shock, Israel is still here, their language and culture intact, and their trademark pride as fresh as ever. “How is it possible?” the whole world asks. To that, the prophet answers: You all would be right to assume that Israel would fall to the lies, the strife, the disloyalty, and darkness of the world. For that, is the logical assessment of a nation exiled and persecuted relentlessly. Israel, however, is not a nation threatened by difficulty or challenge. Ghettos, labor-camps, famine and disease came and went, but Israel persevered. How and why, you ask? For Israel can find “joy and gladness” in a world of sadness and darkness. They can discover an element worthy of celebration even on the “ fast of the fifth”
Our prophecy is not Messianic! Our verse is the secret of our lives, the secret of our nation. It is our answer to the dark, long night of exile. We know that we will carry our spark of Truth; we will light our torch of Peace in a vile and violent world! For only the one who can find a reason for joy on a day of mourning, is the one that can live with Truth and Peace in an upside down world!
For that, Peace and Truth will have to love us!!!
P.S. regarding our title, the answer is, no! Unless you are also a neo-Nazi, you should not be celebrating Hitler Day. Jews do not celebrate destruction. They celebrate rebuilding and redemption! Passover is not on the day that we entered Egypt rather on the day we left. To know that one day people will dance for your suffering is not comforting. It is humiliating! However, the knowledge that even in the darkest places and times there can still be a glimmer of hope is the most comforting prophecy ever. With that I wish all of Israel a thoughtful Fast of the Fifth.
As for the name of the post and allegory, see Comment Policy Rules 1 and 4)