When it comes to the topic of the Beis haMikdash (the Holy Temple in Jerusalem), especially around Tisha b’Av the problem that everyone faces is the question how to mourn for something that I never knew about? How can I connect to that which I don’t know?
The obvious answer is – go and learn!
However, although giving some direction (and, perhaps, a kick in the pants) is helpful, many times it isn’t helpful enough. So, with HaShem’s help, I would like to spend the next couple of blogs on this issue precisely. However, before we can do that in a helpful way, we first need to take an emotional “step back” in order to gain a little perspective on the issue of our mourning on this day, per se.
HaShem wants to have a positive and vibrant relationship with us (I mention this in book 1, get into it a little more in book 2, and – wH”h – I will elaborate on this in book 3. There are several blogs here on the topic as well). But relationships are a two-way street and they are only as powerful as the weakest of the two partners allow for.
However, the world is designed to allow us for only a finite amount of time to work on this relationship. This means that HaShem, to an extent, is “on the clock.” Even though He, Himself, has infinite time and patience to help us, we don’t. That is how the world is. We all know that we have a finite amount of time on this planet to achieve what we can. This is true generally of all people, but more specifically with the Jewish people.
As a result, HaShem clearly offered us the “carrot” and the “stick” when it comes to the creation of a relationship with Him. Several times in the Torah the two paths of “doing HaShem’s will” vs “ignoring HaShem’s will” are spelled out, using no uncertain terms. If we follow the Torah and keep His mitzvos the Jewish people will be greatly “rewarded” materialistically, which will, in turn, allow them to spend more time on the development of our relationship with HaShem. We would become a “Utopian” society that the rest of the world would see and want to emulate, thereby bringing about the world’s ultimate perfection. However, if we don’t follow the Torah, then we get the stick. And what a stick it is! Conquest of the land by our enemies, enactments that make our lives miserable, destruction and subsequent eviction from the land. Death, misery and more.
He then tells us that the ultimate choice is up to us. Moshe Rabbenu tells us (begs us) to “choose life.” …
Which path do you think we chose? Which path are we continuing to choose?
Are we still mourning the destruction of our potentially Utopian society? Are we still lacking the Beis HaMikdash? Are we still reading the kinnos (poetry about the calamities that occurred to the Jewish people throughout history), in an attempt to awaken something in ourselves to mourn the loss of the Temple and the way that things are supposed to be? [Editors note: It is worthwhile to read the kinnos in a language that you understand because otherwise of what meaning is it to you? Even those of us who read Hebrew have trouble understanding them because of their poetic nature!] Of course, we are!
Many people ask, “How can it be that HaShem does this to us?” or “how can a good G-d do bad things to people?” (for a blog on this topic – see here), but the truth of the matter is that we chose this ourselves! It’s written in black and white in the Torah for all to see, but we chose to ignore that until we come face-to-face with its reality.
Does the Torah describe the calamities of the destruction of the first and second Temples (with details)? Yes, it does! Did they happen, just as described? Yes, they did!
How did the wise-man say it? “Those that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it”?
In this regard, perhaps there is no clear mention of a third expulsion from the land of Israel; however, when one reads from the prophets of Israel concerning the future, it becomes clear that we are still waiting for the future calamity of Gog u’ Ma’Gog to happen (for more on this see here or here (this last one is in Hebrew)) and, like all prophecies, happen it shall…
…unless we change.
On this, the Talmud (Bavli Tractate Sanhedrin 98a) tells us the story of Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi (RYB”L) who wanted to meet the Mashiach (the messianic King of Israel). He met with Eliahu the prophet (Elijah) and asked him, and he was told, “Go, and ask him yourself!” “Where can I find him?” asked RYB”L. “He can be found in the city of Rome” he answered (along with some other information which I don’t want to dwell on just now). RYB”L goes to Rome, finds the Mashiach, and asks him “When are you going to come?” “HAYOM (today)” answers Mashiach. RYB”L goes and finds Eliahu and tells him the good news. Together they wait the entire day for Mashiach to come… until it passed by, and nothing happened. “He’s a liar,” said RYB”L to Eliahu. “He said he was coming, but he didn’t” “You misunderstood him,” said Eliahu. “He said to you HAYOM, but it is a reference to the verse in Tehillim (Psalms) (95:7) “HAYOM (today) if you listen to His voice.”
The Gemara there goes on to describe that there are two times that we can “merit” the Mashiach. The long way is to keep doing what we have been doing, never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity, and then the Mashiach will come as a result of the terrible war of Gog u’Magog, or we can come back to Him today, be contrite, be remorseful, recognize that we haven’t been spending our most precious “coin,” our life, in a manner that was meaningful and powerful, and he will come today.
Our sages, ob”m, tell us that every day we should expect salvation. This is especially true for the day of Tisha b’Av, because even though up until now we have been “celebrating it” by wallowing in sorrow over what we’ve lost, and our calamities, it has the potential to turn into a real moed (festival) (which is why we don’t say the tachanun prayer today).
With this perspective in mind, hopefully, we will begin our journey of teshuva (which is the most important aspect of all of the fast days) and start on our way towards the transformation of this day to its true form.