This year, less than two months ago, we celebrated 50 years of winning back Har Habayit-the Temple Mount. It was in our hands, …yet we are still left standing pounding on the wall to be let in. It is said that when it was won back, we were like dreamers returned home…and yet, we are only standing on the doorstep. Recently, a friend wrote about his conflicted feelings of mourning on Shiva A’sar b’Tamuz, the 17th day of the month that starts these three weeks of mourning. He said ‘How can we say “Jerusalem, a city that lies desolate”, when it is growing, thriving and teeming with people?’ (Noam Shapiro) I, too, had that thought, as I was privileged to be tin the city that day. It was for mundane business of getting my car fixed, but still I was amazed that we were granted this gift of being able to go about our daily lives in the city, and also wondered how to mourn when it is “in our hands.”
But as we saw in these past few weeks, though we may ‘have’ the city, and even the wall, a year after I wrote “Losing Site,” about not even being able to cry on our own Temple Mount, we still have not earned our way back to being allowed up there without repercussions. Yes, many Jews managed to get up there today, and there was a stirring singing of Ani Maamin at the Kotel plaza at the close of the day, but–we are still experiencing numerous tragedies, like the little girl who drowned and was niftar despite many davening, like the mother in a Long Island community who passed suddenly, and ongoing losses to terror like the family that was destroyed during a Friday night celebration last week. We ask “Eicha,” ‘How could it be,’ a cry that mostly has no words, and no answer. But if we look harder at ourselves, at the larger Jewish world, at how we continue to gather in unity only when tragedy befalls, and in our daily lives we focus more on what divides than on what can unite us. We need to work so much harder on how we can accept and support each other; we have enough people from the outside who are happy to deride us and see us fall.
We are asked to see this day as one of mourning. Unlike when we lose a loved one, and we do not want to eat, or shower, or wear clean clothes because the pain is so great we say “How can I?”–in this time we do those things so that we can work up to mourning. We do not know what we lost, as my son once said when on Tisha B’av just a few years ago we lost his great-grandmother. He concluded that although it hurt to have lost her, he was glad to have had the opportunity to know and love her, and that today, we don’t cry so much for the lost Temple because we never knew it, and don’t have a true understanding of our loss.
So we read Eicha, an eyewitness account of the devastation that was rained on our people, which says in Perek Hay, “Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our houses to foreigners,” a sentence which did bring tears to my eyes last night. And we beg to be brought back, a sentiment which still resonates even as I feel a swell of joy at the city being rebuilt, because we are not there yet. We keep having tragedies, and terrible atrocities, both for our people and worldwide. We keep hurting each other when we can do so much to help each other , even just by trying to see things from another’s perspective. We still have to say Tehillim (Psalm) 22, “My God, why have You forsaken me; why so far from saving me…? I am a worm and not a man, scorn of humanity, despised of nations.”
Today I am not in my home, and my Fast is not yet ended. I am saddened that in Eretz Yisrael, the Fast is over, people are eating and listening to music, yet we are still waiting for Moshiach to bring peace and salvation to the world. We need to meet him (or her) halfway; we have started rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, but we need to focus on building up the people of Israel and remember that our job is to be a light unto the nations.
I am crying today, and yet hoping for the time we can all say, “Cry No More, Yerushalayim.”
May we merit to see Jerusalem fully rebuilt and at peace in our time.