Is It Time To Move On?

Friday, 16 July, 2010 - 11:33 am

Tuesday is Tisha B'Av, the day of great mourning for the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash-Temple in Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago.

Napoleon Bonaparte once walked by a Synagogue on the 9th of Av and heard the sounds of crying and mourning. Upon being told that the Jews were crying for the destruction of their Temple he remarked, "a nation that still mourns a destruction that occured over 1,500 years earlier, will never be eradicated."

Yet many people ask, "isn't it time to move on?" Now that 2,000 years have passed and we have unprecented freedom to worship as we wish. We have our own country again with an army to protect us. We have accomplished so much both in Israel and the Diaspora. Jews excell in so many arenas of life. We are sophisticated and educated. Do we really need to be crying over an event that took place 2,000 years ago?

I would reply that this questions stems from a basic misunderstanding of our mourning for the destruction of the Temple on Tisha B'Av. Napoleon missed a fundemental element of the picture as do those who suggest the need to "move on."

The Sages of the Talmud declare, "A person in whose days the Temple is not rebuilt, must view it as if in his days the Temple was destroyed." In other words we are not mourning for a destruction that occured 2,000 years ago, but rather one that takes place in our time. As long as we are still without a Beit Hamikdash, the void left by its destruction must be felt keenly as if it actually just occured.

I once heard the Rebbe cite this passage of the Talmud in a very passionate way, concluding with real pain and tears, "this morning, Wednesday in the week of Parshat Pinchas, the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed. How can we sit calmly by when we are "witness" to this destruction? We must "turn the world upside down" to see to it that this destruction is undone."

So one can reply, "I don't feel the urgency because I am perfectly satisfied in my Judaism and spirituality without the Beit Hamikdash." To this I would say that such a statement can only be born of ingnorance regarding the value of the Beit Hamikdash. This is itself one of the greatest signs of exile.

There is a story about a person who came to a secret gathering of Jews in the Soviet Union. The gathering was held in a dark cellar. When he entered he was told by his friends "it's dark but you will get used to it soon." He replied, "that is the trouble. We get accustomed to darkness and it becomes normal and acceptable."

Exile and lack of a Beit Hamikdash is not a normal state for the Jewish people, or the world for that matter. If one does not recognize this, it is because he has grown accustomed to the abnormality of darkness.  

How do we avoid this? By educating ourselves about what the Temple means to us. To start the process go to Learn about it. Start to feel it and make a real part of your life. In doing so, we will not only feel the loss but we will get involved in the process of reversing it. May we be blessed by G-d with the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash speedily so we can feel the special closeness with Him that we have been missing for nearly 2,000 years.

We extend heartfelt condolences to the Egenberg family upon the loss of Mr. Norman Egenberg, the patriarch of the family. I spent some very enjoable time with Norm over the years and he will be missed. 

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