Friday, March 23, 2012

Every Season Has Its Own Language

With Rosh Chodesh Nissan, a month begins during which we do not say tachanun.  I, like most other people, don't enjoy Tachanun.  The fact that we sometimes say it and sometimes not makes it seem more arbitrary and insignificant, and so it can feel tedious.  There is the old joke, that the Gentiles are missing one of life's greatest pleasures- coming to shul on a Monday or Thursday and finding out that there's a chassan and you don't have to say Ve'hu Rachum.

This has changed over the last few months, at least for me.  It is an eis Tzara L'Yaakov, with the illness of so many gedolim, and the explicit existential threat of a madman, a madman that is not stam a meshugener and delusional Arab, he is a Persian, and his country is capable of advanced science and discipline.  As Rav Shteinman recently said, this is a time that Tefilla is paramount, and that he believes that the illness of these gedolim is davka for the purpose of reminding us that we'd better start davenning seriously.  Under the circumstances, Tachanun and Ve'Hu Rachum have become, for me, the most important parts of davenning, and for the first time in my life, I'm at a loss to think of what will replace them during Nissan.

There is an interesting Rav Amram Gaon brought in the Bach in 693.  He said that the Minhag of the two yeshivos was to say Tachanun on Purim.  Because Purim is a day of nissim and yeshu'os, davka then they insisted on saying Tachanun, hoping to invoke the will of Hashem to bring more nissim and Yeshu'os.  This is odd, of course, in light of the same Rav Amram Gaon who said that they did not say tachanun on Tisha Ba'av because it's called a Mo'ed.  But in any case, you see that Tachanun is not stam a waste of time- it is a very important tefilla.

I guess the answer is that every season has its language.  The rest of the year, the language is Tachanun.  During the Chodesh HaGeula, the language is different.  The goal is the same, the message is the same, but the language is different.  I have to figure out how to express the thoughts of Tachanun through the language of Nissan.


  1. Think of me as heretical, but I suggest the language of simcha. It's a foreign language to most Litvaks, but it's worth learning a little so that when the Ribbono Shel Olam comes to exact vengeance from those who weren't עובד את ה׳ בשמחה you might be able to fake it. A little.

  2. Maybe the idea is that sometimes language just isn't enough to capture feeling.
    Hashem yilachem lachem v'atem tacharishun -- there is a yeshu'a that comes from a higher place than even tefilah can reach (see shem m'shmuel in beshalach -- pure bitachon is even greater than thinking you have something to worry about and davening to circumvent it).

  3. It's not just an issue of language. Tachanun is an expression of אבילות. See תוס׳ מגילה ה: ואסור in the name of Rashi. And that is the emotion many are most comfortable with.