The difference is plain. Like day and night.
After Yom Kippur we are cleansed, forgiven and atoned for. We feel like a new person.
After Tisha B’Av we seem to be back to square one. A whole day of beseeching Hashem to send the Moshiach, to be worthy of redemption ends in zero achievement. We go home from Maariv still hungry, still wearing dirty clothes, desperately needing a shower, having apparently got nowhere. How can we be comforted in these seven weeks of comfort? What words from the navi can give us a ray of light, some speck of optimism as we return to our old routine with our troubles possibly worse than before we started, three weeks ago?
In our daily Shemone Esrei we say that Hashem sustains the living with loving kindness, gives life to the dead in great mercy. He supports those who have fallen, He heals the sick, frees those who are imprisoned and keeps His promise to those who sleep in the dust. Who is like You, Master of mighty deeds and who is comparable to You? Why do we ask who is comparable to Hashem? What difference would it make, even if there were a certain power similar to Hashem, if that power is inferior to Hashem? Certainly our allegiance would be to Hashem, the greatest power. The second-greatest power is of no consequence. This question could be asked on a familiar line from both Shacharis and Maariv. “Who is like You amongst the mighty ones, Hashem? Who is like You, mighty in holiness, too awesome for praise, doing wonders? And if there would be a second grade god who is great but not as great as Hashem, that would make a difference? We are about to daven to Hashem, the greatest G-d. Only He is worthy to be davened to since He is superior to all other gods. Even a slightly inferior god is useless to us since it is also under Hashem’s power. Interestingly, Yeshaya HaNavi also says in the name of Hashem, in the section we read on Shabbos Nachamu, “Who is like Me, says the Holy One?”(40:25) What is the meaning of stating again and again that nobody is like Hashem?
On Tisha B’Av we look at ourselves and wonder what are we not doing right that Hashem has not sent the Moshiach yet? We know that the first Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of the three cardinal sins of immorality, bloodshed and idol worship so we distance ourselves as far as we can from those heinous aveiros. We know that the second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of causeless hatred so we work on ahavas chessed. We know that believing in the ultimate redemption is not enough; we must also look forward to it, so we try to learn about what we are missing, what the Beis Hamikdash represented, why all our calamities throughout history are ultimately a consequence of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. Our tefilos are invigorated, as we appeal desperately to Hashem that we should suffer no more persecution, no more pogroms, no more Holocausts. What is holding up Moshiach? How much longer do we have to wait?
One answer could be that indeed we are ready but the world isn’t. Before the final geula, the world has to reject all other possible beliefs. To accept the Moshiach, the world has to have seen that there is no other religion, no other ‘ism’, no other possible explanation of our existence. There is only Hashem and His Torah. Everything else is false.
The world has to go through this long process. It needs to see to the futility of serving idols. It is totally false to give credence to any ‘alternative’ version of our Torah. The so-called daughter-religions are at best garbled half-truths. Communism did not lead to equality. Socialism did not create a fairer society. Zionism did not end anti-semitism. Reform Judaism is not only wrong but also a one-way street to national obliteration. The nation which promoted culture and the arts committed a Holocaust. Worship of the body is futile and creates misery. Atheism is an excuse for immorality because there is no immorality in the “survival of the fittest.”
If any of these alternatives to recognition of Hashem had any credibility, to the extent that they were in some way similar to Hashem, it might take eternity for the world to gain clarity in what is right and wrong. But we emphasise in our davening that there is nothing even similar to Hashem, no belief system which remotely compares to Hashem and His Torah. As Yeshaya continues (ibid), “Raise your eyes and see who created these, who brings out all the Hosts by number, who calls out each by name …and not one is missing.” Who indeed created the sun, moon and stars? The Heaven and Earth, the many galaxies? A graven image, a man here or a man there, by themselves? The idea is ludicrous. How long can it take for the world to come to its senses? All the ancient peoples realised that “The Torah is the source of the wisdom of the Jews.” (Devarim 4:6). So how long can it take modern man to embrace the Torah as being the sole truth? Surely it is only a matter of time.
This is Yeshayahu’s comfort to us in these seven weeks of comfort. “Hang in there. Keep beseeching Hashem, keep avoiding the sins which caused the Batei Mikdash to be destroyed. Continue yearning for Moshiach. There is nothing even similar to Hashem and therefore it is just a question of time. Surely, very soon both the Jewish People and all the nations of the world will realise that Hashem is the only truth. And then Moshiach will quickly arrive.”