Fasting for the Whole World

Many Jews will be fasting this Sunday in observance of Tisha B’Av, Israel’s day of national mourning to commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temple. But many others consider the whole idea of the ancient Temple to be irrelevant, and they won’t be fasting. And why should anyone fast? Why should we mourn for the loss of something that we find meaningless? Our lives are full, productive, and satisfying; everything’s fine. No, everything’s great.

But what if it’s not about me? What if it has nothing to do me, my needs, or my feelings?

The Holy Temple isn’t a Jewish thing. It’s about fixing man’s relationship with himself, with the rest of creation, and with G-d. And Tisha B’Av isn’t about me at all – it’s about a world that is suffering.  I am going to be fasting, not because the Temple was destroyed – but because it has not yet been rebuilt. And that must be my fault. Maybe this is the meaning of what the sages of Israel taught, ‘Every generation which does not rebuild the Temple is considered as the generation in which it was destroyed.’

I will fast because this world that I love so much is being torn apart – by terror and murder, by manipulation and violence; by greed and hatred. And by despair. Musing over the state of the world since the destruction of the Holy Temple, the Talmud paints a bleak picture: ‘Since the Temple was destroyed, ‘each passing day is more cursed than its predecessor; ‘the taste and nourishment of fruit became diminished…’

The Sages of Israel teach that the life-force of all creation lost its vitality and switched to a bare-bones survival mode when the Temple was lost. Colors became muted; in short, with the concealment of the Divine Presence caused by the Temple’s destruction, the eyes of humanity were darkened, and the family of man is unable to live as a family, unable to live on the level of creativity and sensitivity it was meant for.

The lack of the Holy Temple is the whole world’s loss, and that is something to mourn for.

About the Author
Rabbi Chaim Richman is the director of the international department of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem. For over three decades the Temple Institute has been dedicated to every aspect of the Biblical commandment to build the Holy Temple. Through its research and educational programming, the Institute seeks to highlight the universal significance of the Holy Temple as a house of peace and prayer for all nations.
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