Shaping the new 5
“These words the L-RD spoke unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice, and it went on no more. And He wrote them upon two tables of stone, and gave them unto me.”
- Deuteronomy 5:19, JPS 1917 Tanach
Moshe reiterates the ten commandments to the new generation that will soon enter the Promised Land. He notes that H’Shem spoke to him “out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness.” H’Shem surrounds Himself in a cloud, as noted elsewhere, “He made darkness His hiding- place, His pavilion round about Him; darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies” (Psalm 18:12, JPS). What this implies is that the closer we draw near to G-d, the more obscure our former conception of Him becomes; that is to say that our own ignorance obscures our understanding of Him.
Within the midst of the cloud, the place of unknowing – terra incognita (the unkown land) is precisely where G-d reveals Himself. This is because our conceptions of Him do not always match the actuality of Who He is. When He revealed Himself to Moshe at the burning bush, at the beginning of the Exodus narrative, the name that He gave of Himself to Moshe was a new revelation, not given to the Patriarchs. When at Sinai, Moshe received an even higher revelation of G-d within the midst of the cloud.
On Tub’Av, the fifteenth of the month of Av, the moon is at its fullest, denoting the strength of Israel, who is likened to the moon. In reference to the preceding commemoration of the destruction of the first and second Temples, Tu b’Av represents renewal, and the positive qualities of hope, resiliency, and continual belief in the promises of G-d.
During the time of the Temple, on this day all of the firewood for the Temple offerings was completed, and stored away for future use. Therefore, Tu b’Av also represents fullfillment and preparation for the future. We should hope to move from the darkness represented by Tish b’Av when the Temples were destroyed, towards a greater understanding of H’Shem, and His ways. Yet, it is important to acknowkedge that sometimes it is necessary to go through times of darkness, in order to find the light.