The day before the 9th of Av

Insights into the fast and the parsha.

Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple,

 Raymond Apple
Raymond Apple


Because Tishah B’Av this year falls on Shabbat, the fast is postponed to the following day, making a 25-hour fast from the conclusion of Shabbat until nightfall on Sunday.

The reason for our postponement of Tishah B’Av this week is not an argument for delaying or deferring; we move it on a day for halachic reasons.

There is a saying, “Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today”. Hillel said, “If not now, when?” The rabbis say, “If a mitzvah comes to your hand, don’t let it get stale”. The general rule is not to delay doing what needs to be done.

There are very few occasions when taking your time is advisable. One is set out in the first chapter of Pir’kei Avot, which recommends that we be m’tunim ba-din, “patient in judgment”. When decisions have to be made, one should not be intemperate, hasty or impetuous.

In most situations, however, one must hear the call for action and respond without delay.

I have heard it put this way, that when a hungry person calls out for food you shouldn’t wait until a committee can assemble and calmly contemplate the need. In the meantime the hungry person can die.


Moses’ career was coming to an end, and what did he leave Israel to remember him by? As the opening passage of Parashat D’varim reminds us, he left the Israelites words.

Unlike most people these days, he did not make a will in the normal sense, dividing up his land, houses, possessions and material assets amongst his children and others whom he wished to benefit.

Despite his claim, Lo ish d’varim anochi – “I am not a man of words” (Ex. 4:10), it was words that he left as his legacy, the words that would enable the people to organise and govern themselves.

The words that would provide guidance when they needed a beacon to follow, the words that summed up what they meant to God and what, hopefully, God would mean to them.

That’s why he remains after so many centuries Moshe Rabbenu, Moses our Teacher, the one whose words are our guide and constitution.

Theodor Herzl was once challenged by a critic who mocked the Zionist flag and said, “A flag? What’s a flag? Just a piece of cloth on a pole!”

Herzl replied, “Yes, you’re right – that is what a flag is, a piece of cloth on a pole. But with a flag you can lead people anywhere, especially to the Promised Land!”

Later generations could hypothetically challenge Moses, “Words? What really are words? Mere puffs of sound!” And Moses could respond, “Yes, true, words are a mere puff of sound. But with words you can conquer a country; with words you can build Utopia!”

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