Why the Temple needed to be destroyed.

As Chatzot, midday, on Tisha b’Av arrives, the level of mourning drops. We no longer sit on the floor, Teffilin can now be worn (though we wait for Mincha to do so).
Why is this so? The answer given is even more intriguing that the original question. The answer is that at Chatzot the Temple started burning. Until then the Babylonians and Romans were fighting to get into the Temple, and then looting it. Finally, at Chatzot, they managed to set it alight (with Heavenly assistance).
Wait a minute, at Chatzot the Temple started burning! If so, the mourning should increase at Chatzot. The mourning has been built up gradually, from the 17th of Tammuz when the walls of Jerusalem were breached, until the 9th of Av when the Temple was destroyed. How is it then, that as we hit the climax, the Temple being destroyed, we relax our mourning. Is this not the time to mourn even more? What is going on here?

The Midrash (Lamentations 4:14) speaks about a chapter in Psalms (79) written by Assaf. This chapter begins with ‘A song of Assaf’s, G-d, the nations came into your inheritance (Israel), they defiled your holy Temple and turned Jerusalem into rubble…’ The Midrash asks what is meant by ‘A song of Assaf’s’, surely it would be more correct to begin with ‘A lamentation of Assaf’s’ or ‘A heartrending cry of Assaf’s’. How could this possibly be a song?
The Midrash answers that there was certainly a joy, a joy that G-d vented His anger on sticks and stones, by destroying the Temple, rather than on us, the Jewish people. There is therefore great joy in the fact that we were saved and the Temple was destroyed. This is why, although we are still mourning, although we are still fasting, at Chatzot, the time that the Temple started burning, we relax our mourning a little. We show that there was a silver lining inside this very dark cloud which still hangs over us. Although we have been in exile for almost two thousand years, at least we are still here to be in exile.

If this makes sense to you, very good, you can stop reading now! However, if this sounds a bit strange, please read on…

My personal feeling when I really thought about this explanation was one of total bewilderment. If we were talking about a person getting angry and needing to vent, then I can understand the feeling of relief when that person vents their anger on a punch bag and not on another person. However, here we are talking about G-d. He does not get angry like a human. He has no need to vent His anger. What can it possibly mean that He vented His anger on the Temple and not on us, the Jewish people?

To understand this, let’s look at a story where a great philosopher (possibly Plato) found the prophet Jeremiah crying over the destruction of the Temple. The philosopher asked Jeremiah why he was crying over something that happened in the past, as we say in English, there’s no use crying over spilt milk. Jeremiah responded by asking the philosopher if he had any hard questions he’d never managed to answer. The philosopher answered that yes, he did, but he was quite sure that no human could answer these questions. Jeremiah successfully answered all the questions. The philosopher was dumbfounded. Jeremiah explained that all this wisdom that he had, was attained from these very sticks and stones of the Temple that he was crying over. However that is not why he was crying over the Temple. The reason why he was crying, he explained, was too deep for a philosopher to understand.
When we look at this story, two thoughts cross our minds, firstly why is this not enough of a reason to cry over the loss of the Temple. Surely the loss of all future information that could be attained through the Temple is reason enough to cry. Secondly (or perhaps firstly) what was the reason that Jeremiah was crying, could we understand it?
The answer is, that the real reason he was crying was so important, that the loss of information that would result from the destruction of the Temple paled in comparison. So let’s try to understand the real reason Jeremiah cried.

There are certain things that must work together. For example, a container and its content must have some sort of correlation. One would not keep a strong acid in their china teacup. Nor would one serve tea in a container made for storing acid. Imagine what would happen if one had a strong acid, stored correctly in a container lined for that acid. One day the lining begins to disintegrate. There is now a danger of the acid seeping through the container. Therefore, the acid must be removed from the container, as if the acid is not removed, the container will dissolve in its contents.
Here is what Jeremiah understood and the philosopher could not. The Jewish people and the Temple are like a container and content. The Temple is the content of the Jewish people. It is from the Temple that we derived all our material, spiritual and mental wealth. The Temple provided for us, as long as we were a worthy container. When we slipt in our spirituality, we no longer deserved to be a container for the Temple. There was therefore only two ways that events could transpire, either the Temple would, like an acid, dissolve the container, and the Jewish people would be destroyed, or the Temple needed to be removed immediately, so that we could survive.
Jeremiah was not crying so much about the loss of the Temple, as about the loss of spirituality amongst the Jewish people. He was crying for what happened to us. He was crying for the catalyst of the Temple’s destruction, as opposed to the destruction itself.
Now we can understand the ‘anger’ that G-d poured onto the Temple. This was not anger as we understand it, rather it is a way of describing the reaction of the Temple and the Jewish people as a non-conforming container and content. It is not that He found a punch bag to let out on, rather like the fury of a storm or a chemical reaction, one of us, the Temple or the Jewish people, couldn’t survive. This was what G-d directed on the Temple. He plucked the Temple from within us, leaving us bereft, but able to survive, as we were no longer a malfunctioning container, as we had no content.

Let us hope that this is what Napoleon understood in the famous story where he heard many people crying. He sent a messenger to find out what was going on. When he heard that it was the Jews crying, he wanted to know what they were crying about. After hearing that it was for the destruction of the Temple, some 1,500 year beforehand, he exclaimed that if they are still crying, they will certainly get it back one day. We have not forgotten that we were once on a level where we deserved to be a container for the Temple. We also have not given up getting back this level. We are constantly hoping and wishing that we will get there again, and let’s hope that we do, very soon… Amen!



Why should I feel bad on the 9th of Av?

EichaOn Tisha b’Av we sit on the floor and cry. Or at least that is what we are supposed to do.
What are we crying about, or maybe the question should be why are we not crying?

To understand what there is to mourn for, we must understand what we are missing.
There are a whole load of kinnot written on this very subject. However, these kinnot were written many years ago, and unfortunately, times have changed. Nowadays, believe it or not, we see much more the destruction of Jerusalem and what it means to us.
In Eichah (1:7) it is written, Jerusalem remembered in the days of her affliction and of her miseries, all her pleasant ones that she had in the days of old…
Who were these ‘pleasant ones’ that she had?

The Jewish people were created to be a light unto the nations (Devarim 14:12). When we were given the Torah we became a ‘mamleches kohanim vegoy kadosh’ (Shemos 19:6), a nation of priests and a holy nation.
Looking back through history, we were always a nation of ‘greats’.
Our forefather Avraham discovered Hashem on his own, and even managed to work out all the 613 commandments, without any divine assistance.
Moshe Rabbeinu spoke directly with Hashem, even demanding responses for his questions.
Although there are only 32 books of prophets, there were many more prophets over the generations that prophecy existed. The prophecies that we have recorded, were only the ones that are pertinent to all future generations of our nation. There were in fact millions of Jewish prophets over the generations if not in each generation.
All the people mentioned in the Talmud were at least capable of reviving the dead, apart from all the other miracles they could do, from making rivers flow backwards to calling on Heavenly beings to say what they wanted.
The Anshei Knesset Hagedola created the Shemone Esrei prayer. They built it in such a way that each and every single time it gets said, by each person who recites it, there is a different meaning and connotation.

Jewish_Memorial_P1000723Since the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jewish highs have been different, but no less heroic and great. Stories of heroism are told about Jews throughout the generations, who gave up their lives, preferring to die sanctifying G-d’s name, rather than give in one iota with regard to their religion.
When we go through the kinnot, we see such heroism time after time. Often religious heroism, where we as a nation have shown countless times that the Torah and its ideals are the only thing we are prepared to believe in and follow. It is the absolute truth.

But why did they give up their lives? Was it so that their future generations would willingly give up this rich heritage? When we look around us, we see something that didn’t exist before the exile, an apathetic lack of religious knowledge and practice amongst the Jewish nation.

Rabbi Uri Zohar writes a graphical description of the non-believing Jew of pre-war Europe. When the Christians came looting after their Sunday mass, he was the one who didn’t go into hiding. He was sure that his Christian friends, the rioters, would not touch his house. But when the time came, his non-Jewish friends turned their backs on him, coming themselves to loot and plunder his house. When they burst through his door and dragged him outside, he may have been very shaken at the lack of faith shown by his friends. However, when the sword was put to his neck and he was given the choice to convert or to die, there was no question, not even a hint of a consideration that this non-religious Jew would give up his rich heritage.
Why is it then that nowadays, we cannot imagine ourselves overcoming such temptation? In fact, we are willingly doing this to ourselves, running away from our religion and tradition.
Knowing this, can there still be a question of whether or not to cry! This is a real exile! If only the Temple would not have been destroyed, if only we would still be on the religious level we were when the Temple existed, such things would be unthinkable.

http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/will-your-grandchild-be-jewish-chart-graph.htmAt the beginning of the ninth kinnah, Reb Eliezer Kalir writes, ‘this is your fault,’ you, the Jewish nation caused the destruction, don’t blame Me (Hashem). This sounds incredulous, we caused the destruction?!
The Vilna Gaon writes that the last exile the Jewish people will go through, is ‘Galut Yisrael’, the exile of the Jews. Generations have seen this piece and wondered what hidden meaning the Gaon could have had in this, all the exiles must have been Galut Yisrael, an exile of Jews, as otherwise it would mean that Jews are persecuting Jews, which is unfathomable.
This generation though can truly marvel at the heartbreaking truth of these words of the Gaon. Only in the last one hundred or so years has there been such a concept of Jews making an exile for and to themselves.

Though we are living in what is probably the most comfortable exile in Jewish history, there is almost no open hatred, we do not need to fear the post-Sunday-mass progroms every week, we don’t have to lock up our houses and hide in the woods during the non-Jewish festivals. We even have plenty of money, not having to worry if we can afford a sliver of chicken for Shabbat or slice of bread for tomorrows meals, relatively, we are most likely in the wealthiest period of our exile. Yet, we are not getting anywhere with our spiritual lives. Over eighty percent of Jews, voluntarily, don’t even define themselves as Jewish, and how many of those eighty percent have not yet married out?

What was the Jewish nation like at the time of the destruction, and what are we like today?
There is a rule in Judaism which has only been proven right by each and every generation. This is the rule that every subsequent generation, as they are further removed from Sinai, are on a lower spiritual level. They therefore cannot attain what previous generations attained in their religion.
If we wouldn’t have been exiled, this would have happened, but not on such a large scale. Who nowadays would be prepared to give their lives and their family‚Äôs lives up for the sake of their Judaism? Perhaps when it comes to it, many people would manage, but how many things do we do that are contrary to how Judaism should be portrayed?
How can we not cry when we see how far removed we are from the pre-war generation, never mind the generations of prophecy when the Jews originally went into exile. How can we not cry when we see ourselves sitting back and being happy with what we are achieving, when however good it might be, it can never possibly be anywhere near where it should and would have been had we not gone into exile.

This is truly destruction, and it really is a galut.

Let us truly feel this sadness, and daven hard that Hashem should redeem us, not just for the petty things that seem so important to us, but for the sake of His honour, which is sorely lacking in this ‘Galut Yisrael’, our self-made exile, where we, on our own accord are wiping ourselves out.