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Crash Course on Tisha B'Av
A fascinating overview capturing the meaning of the holiday.
Rabbi Avraham Goldhar is the Founder of the Goldhar School, Home of the Fastest Jewish Education on Earth! www.goldharschool.com
The Book of Genesis describes how Jacob mourned during the entire twenty-two years that Joseph was missing. Nothing consoled him. No one could comfort him. One would think that after 22 years the pain of the death of a loved one would somewhat lessen or ease with the passage of time, but in this case it did not. Why? Because there was no closure, no burial. Why? Because Joseph was not dead!
For over 2000 years the Jewish people have been mourning the destruction of the Holy Temple. At every festive occasion its loss is remembered. No wedding takes places without the symbolic broken glass. Ashes of mourning are placed upon the forehead of the groom and a section of a new home is left unpainted or unfinished, all in remembrance of the Destruction and the Exile from Zion. One might ask, “Why are they still crying after 2000 years?” Why can’t they get over it and move on? Why? Because there was never any closure, no burial. Why? Because the Temple’s bricks and stone have been destroyed, but the Divine Promise still stands, the Temple will be rebuilt and until that day Zion will never be forgotten.
One August day (it was on Tisha b’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, the day that marks the destruction of both the First and Second Temple) Napoleon was walking along a street when he stopped in front of a synagogue. He heard crying from within. “What are those Jews doing?” He asked the soldier at his side. “They are mourning over the destruction of their Temple.”
“When did that happen?”
“Around 2000 years ago.”
“They are still crying after 2000 years? A nation that mourns so long will never cease. They will surely return to their land and see the rebuilding of their Temple.”
What was is that Napoleon saw that gave him the confidence to make such a statement? He understood that the connection between the People and the Place is intrinsic. One cannot live without the other. Just as the Jewish People is alive, so too is Zion. A nation that will not allow itself to forget will also not allow itself to let go or give up.
The Jews are still crying after 2000 years because they realize the greatness of what was lost and they long for its return like a father who knows his child is missing, but who is not dead. They also cry in anticipation as they see the in gathering of the exiles and wait for when Zion will be restored to its former state and the Temple will be rebuilt.
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In Israel, my 4-year-old son was on a mission to see the Temple being rebuilt. We were all surprised when he found it.
by Beth Perkel (as told to her by R.S.)
My son was on the lookout the minute the plane touched down in Israel. I could see the ignited light in his little four-year-old eyes on the entire car ride from the airport as he viewed the Holy Land for the first time. He was a tiny man on a mission, to see the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Jewish Temple, he was always hearing about.
He learned in school the common Jewish notion that each mitzvah (good deed) a Jew performs adds a "brick" to rebuild the destroyed Temple. And he was expecting to see the third Temple in the process of being rebuilt, brick by brick, mitzvah by mitzvah. You can imagine how his face fell and heart was broken when we arrived at the site of the Kotel, the Western Wall.
“Mommy, this is it?”
“What do you mean this is it?”
“Where is the Beit Hamikdash? All I see is a wall Mommy, where are the bricks we have been working for, where are all the extra bricks?”
“They are coming precious child, someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, they are coming.”
But my answer wasn’t enough. He stood transfixed, woefully unsatisfied, hoping somehow that the bricks would miraculously appear. When they didn’t, he wandered around, the only one moping at the Kotel during the precious moments of our short visit there.
“Mommy, where are the bricks?”
As we took trips around the country the question remained on his mind and he would ask at the most random of places, “Mommy, where are the bricks?” as if they would somehow float to the top of the Dead Sea or materialize on Masada.
Finding the Bricks
And then came our trip to Yad La-shiryon at Latrun, the tank museum known for its diverse collection of tanks and armored vehicles. It was a hot day and we clambered into the various tanks on display for people to explore and sit in, going through the motions of what all tourists do there as we secretly hoped to catch some shade. Finally, my husband gathered together our five children to go and see the long, engraved, memorial wall dedicated to the soldiers of the IDF tank units that were killed defending the Jewish homeland in various wars.
My husband told the children how the site’s very location is actually rooted in history. It was the place where Yeshoshua Bin-Nun made the sun and the moon stand still during the war of the Israelites with the Amorites. It was the place where the Maccabees finally won the battle against Antiochus and drove his army into back to the sea. And in more recent times, it was the place where the armored unit known as the 7th Division fought to open the roads and free a besieged Jerusalem during the War of Independence.
My husband explained how every brick in that memorial wall was a representation of the mesirat nefesh, self-sacrifice that the soldiers who had died during the wars had given to defend the Jewish homeland to bring us one step closer to being a unified nation with our own country. The bricks – huge cement slabs connected together to create the wall – signified how these soldiers, through their incredible bravery, had helped our nation be strong.
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My older kids were so transfixed that I barely noticed my four-year-old son, whose eyes shone even brighter than on the ride from the airport. I was listening so intently to my husband that I almost missed the small voice at my side as my son looked at each cement slab “brick,” scanning the names of the fallen soldiers.
“Mommy, this is it! We found the bricks! These are the bricks for the Beit Hamikdash!”
It brought tears to my eyes. Somehow, his soul had understood something so deep on this very spot where soldiers throughout Jewish history, from the time of the Tanach onward, had died glorifying God’s name, defending the Jewish homeland and helping us take steps towards our destiny. I could see the radiance on his face. He had found it – the bricks that showed him that God’s promise of redemption was on its way.
Published: July 20, 2014
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