There are many reasons to cry and mourn on Tisha Ba’av. As a Jewish person, I mourn for my people – we have been through a long and often devastating journey throughout human history. We thrived wherever we were given a chance, only to eventually be blamed, persecuted, and expelled. It’s a tragic story that we all share as a people, and now that so many of us live once again in Israel, and humanity has progressed so dramatically, I wonder, what are we achieving by clinging to this dream of building a Third Temple (Beit Hamikdash)?
Here we are, in the year 2018, with a bustling democratic Knesset and the impending downfall of the corrupt Rabbinate, but somehow, we are still trying to make the coming of The Messiah and an antiquated Temple fit into the picture of our future. Often, especially among Baal Tshuvahs, when discussing the Bet Hamikdash the focus is on the metaphorical. It’s explained as “a place for the physical connection with God.” But I think it’s important to state clearly what the Temple actually is.
In the Bet Hamikdash, women and non-Jews are not permitted to enter beyond the outer courtyard. A sectarian hierarchy of priests (by birth) rule. Animals are brought by Jews to be carefully slaughtered, their blood then spilled and smeared, according to the specifications of the sacrifice, and a fire (from God) burns the dead flesh. The sacrifice is brought as an offering for transgressing a Torah Law or as a thank you or sometimes, just because it’s that time of year. Sometimes the person gets to eat the meat afterwards. Sometimes just the priests do.
I know this statement will offend and disturb many. And I know that the Conservative movement, and many Orthodox communities (recently) have some alternative suggestions for what a future Temple might look like. I’ve heard that we have clearly moved past sacrifices. Yes. I think we have. So then why can’t we move past this vision all together? The coming of the Third Temple is discussed in Jewish prayer and in some of the Prophetic texts written after the Bible. We are a tribe of intelligence, morality, perseverance, and depth. We have woven our way throughout human history, demanding our right to exist and upholding our code of ethics. This is indeed something to be proud of and to consider carefully as we collectively move forward.
I see an incredible future for humanity, as long as we learn from the past and not let it drag us backwards. Just as Judaism outgrew polygamy with the advancement of psychology and women’s rights, I believe it’s to our benefit to evaluate more critically what goals we have for our future. Not in a pretend reality, but in THIS reality. In THIS country, where we have brilliant Christian and Muslim citizens that are working hard to be a part of this dream country, and who deserve to be included in our vision for our future. In THIS country, where women are rising in powerful positions in politics, media, science, and business. In THIS country, where veganism and environmental awareness is on the rise and demanding a more accountable approach to how we live.
In THIS country, where are children ask, “what’s Tisha Ba’av?” I want to give them an answer that doesn’t sound as fantastical as the Tooth Fairy. No one is coming to save us and restore the Temple that once was. We must save ourselves. Just like we always have. We fought our way out of persecution and arrived here battered and forgotten. We are literally changing the world through our scientific innovations, our commitment to coexistence despite terrorism, and our “anything is possible” attitude. I tell my children that Tisha Ba’av is a day that we remember the sad things that happened in the past, and we recognize that we are in charge of our future.