On Saturday night, hundreds of Jews around the world will, in some shape or form, commemorate the destruction of the Temple. Opening our mourning will be the reading of the lamentation of Yirmiyahu:
אֵיכָה יָשְׁבָה בָדָד הָעִיר רַבָּתִי עָם הָיְתָה כְּאַלְמָנָה רַבָּתִי בַגּוֹיִם שָׂרָתִי בַּמְּדִינוֹת הָיְתָה לָמַס
How does the city, once full of people, sit alone. How she has become a widow, she who was great among the nations, and princesses among the provinces, how she has become a tributary. (איכה א:א)
Interestingly, and tragically, this will be the third “איכה” that we’ll be reading on the same day, as Shabbat is actually Tisha B’Av this year, even though we will fast on Sunday. In the morning, as part of Moshe’s recounting of history, the Jewish leader retells his feelings of helplessness in the face of a rebellious nation:
אֵיכָה אֶשָּׂא, לְבַדִּי, טָרְחֲכֶם וּמַשַּׂאֲכֶם, וְרִיבְכֶם
How can I, alone, bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife? (דברים א:יב)
Slightly later, we’ll read Yishayahu’s first and most tragic vision in the Haftara reading:
אֵיכָה הָיְתָה לְזוֹנָה, קִרְיָה נֶאֱמָנָה; מְלֵאֲתִי מִשְׁפָּט, צֶדֶק יָלִין בָּהּ –וְעַתָּה מְרַצְּחִים
How the faithful city has become a harlot! She that was full of justice and righteousness, is now full of murderers. (ירימיהו א:כא)
These three איכה’s signify three different lamentations — one of Am Yisrael’s bad tendencies, one on the deterioration of Israel’s morals, leading to the third, which is a grim vision of post-חורבן Jerusalem. I believe that it is no coincidence that these three pesukim, these three איכה’s, are being read on Tisha B’Av, especially in this order.
On the first Tisha B’Av, the eve of the return of the Spies from their failed mission to Israel, Am Yisrael went through three stages of reaction to their evil report. First, they openly rebelled against Moshe’s leadership, and through this, Hashem’s Divinity — “Do not take us into this dangerous land,” they complained, “how could you lead us to destruction?!” Next, they tried to make themselves “זונות” to the lands of other nations, deciding to put their lot with the very nation that had enslaved them, rather than trusting in God to take them into Israel.
The result? Jerusalem had to sit alone, as a widow, waiting forty years for her nation to come home, while the Jewish People wandered in the desert to atone for this transgression. As punishment for their terrible sin, according to Rashi, God vowed to turn that night into an eternal night of mourning. Two Temples, both destroyed on the fateful night of Tisha B’Av, are gone because of Am Yisrael’s reaction to the Spies report. The three איכה’s, read in this order, are a reminder of the slippery slope of their transgression and a warning for the future as well.
I do not think it would be a stretch to say that in order to bring the Redemption, to undo the tragedy of Tisha B’Av and build the Third and Final Temple, we must learn from the mistake of the Jews in the Wilderness, and listen to the warning of the three איכה’s. We must listen to the words of our leaders, even when impostors and liars try to change our opinions and force us to go against them. We cannot allow ourselves to be “זונות” to the nations, to prostitute ourselves to the very nations who killed six million Jews less than seventy years ago, and many many more in the Crusades, Inquisition and other expulsions. As long as Am Yisrael rebels against her leaders and offers herself to her enemies, it should be no surprise that Jerusalem still sits alone, awaiting G-d to rebuild His home there.
Tisha B’Av this year will be particularly painful as our national crisis has gone beyond “איכה היתה לזונה, קריה נאמנה.” Not only does Jerusalem sit alone, but, according to a recent survey published in Times of Israel, the Jewish People have willingly abandoned her for good. “World Jewry ever more uneasy with Israel,” read the top headline of the internet news source on Thursday afternoon, supporting this claim with a JPPI study citing that nearly 60% of Jews polled think that the current Israeli government is not genuinely interested in reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians, leading to these less than positive feelings for the Jewish State.
Whether or not this is true is irrelevant right now — even if Israel is not trying to finalize a peace agreement, this should not stop our brethren from supporting Jerusalem, and it should certainly not give them “uneasy feelings” about our eternal capital. The culmination of Tisha B’Av is Yirmiyahu’s lamentation that God has abandoned the Jewish People and Israel, and his prayer at the end for God to return Himself to Jerusalem. How on earth can we read “הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ יְהוָה אֵלֶיךָ נָשׁוּבָה חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם” on Saturday night, how can we possibly ask God to return to Jerusalem with any sincerity, when our own brethren have abandoned her for good and refuse to even support her from afar?!
At this crucial time in Jewish history, when so many from our nation have given up on Jerusalem, abandoned her to a nuclear Iran and a bloodthirsty Palestinian People, those of us who still believe in God and want His presence to return to His home must unite and put in our effort to ensure this will happen. We must actively undo the lamentation of “איכה ישבה בדד” by not abandoning Jerusalem, by ensuring that she is supported and wanted by her people. We must actively undo the lamentation of “איכה היתה לזונה” by joining together in our values and in a united front, and stopping to prostitute ourselves to our enemies. And, finally, we must return to our leaders and to the words of Moshe Rabeinu, and do Teshuva.
If we can complete this three-step plan, and influence our misled brethren to do the same, then I have no doubt that we will see a fulfillment of Zechariah’s (8:19) words that this date, a day of mourning from biblical times, will finally become a day celebration. We just need to put in the effort, and learn from the mistakes that most of our nation seem to be repeating yet again. With Hashem’s help, we will merit this very very soon.