Let us try to achieve what we talked about in last week’s column.
The first idea is remembering, perceiving, and feeling the tazros of Klal Yisrael throughout the long and treacherous galus. This is a major part of our mourning. A person has to develop the ability to visualize and really appreciate the multitude of tribulations that we have undergone throughout all of our history. Just a glance looking through a Sefer Kinnos reminds us that so many kinnos are based on various misfortunes which occurred throughout Bnei Yisrael’s history. What happened to the Jewish people happened to us, to you and to me. As we mentioned last week, just as we rejoice about what happened to us on Pesach, et al, so too we are supposed to feel personally affected and involved by Tisha B’Av, 17 Tammuz, etc. It is not for naught that the poskim talk about reading Sefer Joesphus and other history books during this period, making the tazros of the churban come alive, be real. (I take this opportunity to highly recommend the book The Harp, by Meir Uri Gottesman [which has, in fact, just become available for a free download from Jewish E-Books] and a book called Delayed Reaction by Yair Weinstock (I refer to the parts depicting the events of the times of the Bayis Sheini, leading up to the churban) which realistically, and at the same time almost mystically, depict, through the vehicle of historical fiction, the events leading up to and including the churban.
And even a cursory study of our history finds it replete with our people’s sufferings of mass murder, expulsions, evil decrees, false accusations — all directed against the Jews. Not to mention the Holocaust, which took place just one generation ago; reading virtually any book on the Holocaust fills one with a sense of absolute horror and terror. How close did we come just a few years ago (chas milehazkir [may it not be said]) to destruction. And when we compare that with pesukim in the Torah which speak of the glory of Bnei Yisrael, and their superiority over the nations of the world, and how in the future of ultimate truth the nations of the world will flock to us to learn from us and to be subservient to us, one is struck even more by the tragedies, subjugation, and vulnerability, down to sheer mockery, which make up so much of our story.
The second idea we discussed last week is thinking about the churban itself — the loss of the obviousness of the Shechinah resting upon us through the vehicle of the Beis Hamikdash; the resultant kiddush HaShem which was so much a part of the effect of the Beis Hamikdash; and of course, with its destruction, the unparalleled chillul HaShem. A foreign element, the enemies of HaShem and of the Jewish people, traversed the area where the holy Kohen Gadol feared to tread. It appears as if HaShem is, keveyachol (so to speak) powerless to prevent such desecration. And the very fact of the paradigm shift in the entire universe which had heretofore been affected by Matan Torah and the building of the Mishkan in this world had halted and seemingly come to an end is a tragedy of epic proportions. Why, pesukim say countless times the equivalent of the following idea: “I am HaShem your G-d who has taken you out of Egypt to dwell among you”! (The potential is of course still here, pulsating in anticipation, and even HaShem’s “dwelling” does exist, though in hidden form, as the Gemara itself states, “When they went into exile in Bavel, the Shechinah went with them.”) But even worse, it appears as if HaShem is angry and wrathful at His beloved Klal Yisrael, with Divine ire replacing the love, allegiance and attachment between Him and His people.
The third idea from last week to consider is that a major component of the churban Beis HaMikdash is, of course, the loss of our ability to bring korbanos. Do we realize how amazing it is, it was, that essentially whenever we wanted to, we could “visit” with our King, bringing Him “gifts” — an olah, perhaps a todah, perhaps a shelamim. And He accepted them! A fire would appear, as if from nowhere, yet it was a Heavenly fire, and it would consume the korban, as the pasuk describes: “A gift found pleasing in the eyes of HaShem!” Ramban describes in Bereishis (2:3) how “The Glory of HaShem filled the Temple of HaShem and the light of Bnei Yisrael was symbolized by a fire upon the Altar, crouching there like a lion consuming the offerings.” And now the churban is unfortunately a fulfillment of the pasuk in Vayikra (26:31): “And I will lay desolate your sanctuaries, and I will not savor your satisfying aromas.” The pesukim in Yeshaya (1:11-13) describe a state in which HaShem does not want our offerings: “Why do I need your sacrifices? I am fed up with your burnt offerings of rams… and I have no desire for the blood of cattle, sheep, and goats. When you appear before me, who asked you to do this, to trample My Courts? Do not bring Me any more vain meal offerings; your incense is offensive to me!”
When the Beis Hamikdash was in its Glory, our tefillos were more likely to be accepted and acknowledged; it is stated, “For who is a great Nation which has a G-d so near to it, as the Jewish people have, in all ways in which they cry out to Him?” And a major function of the Beis Hamikdash was indeed that it was that place where our tefillos were listened to. As Shlomo Hamelech prayed, “May Your eyes be open day and night in this Temple, in this place of which You have said My name will dwell there. Hear the prayers which Your servants offer towards this Place. Hear Your servants’ supplications and the prayers which Your people offer…” But from the churban and on, the promise of “in all ways in which they cry out to Him” is no more. The Gemara (Brachos 32B) says that from the day of the destruction of the Temple, the gates of prayer have been closed up; an iron wall has arisen separating Israel from their Father in heaven. Imagine having your tefillos immediately accepted! But now we need an eis ratzon, a special merit, some added virtue.
To be continued…