Gary Schiff
a resource consultant and guide connecting Israel and the US

This Tisha B’Av: Let’s Stop Peddling on a Stationary Bike

Albert Einstein may have quipped, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Every year we do the same routine yet receive one more year without the Temple. I recall a Rabbi giving a heartfelt plea year after year – his take away plea: to invite someone you normally wouldn’t to your Shabbat table. Nice idea yet one has to ask, is that really the key to rebuilding the Temple? Is the pre-built Temple actually going to descend from heaven along with a royal figure to lead us? Perhaps, but not according to Maimonides and not according to the Jerusalem Talmud. From their perspective we need to take meaningful steps directly related to the goal of rebuilding the Temple.

First some history, the Tisha B’Av fast was originally proclaimed by the Rabbanim after the destruction of the first Temple. It was a short–lived commemoration lasting only 70 years until the rebuilding of the second Temple. At that point Tisha B’Av and the four day-fasts became holidays filled with joy. In 70 CE after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the second Temple, we returned to fasting. We had again three years of celebration during the Bar Kochba revolt and reign from 132 CE until 135 CE. Yet from that date forward until today it has been a day of fasting and codified as such in the Shulchan Aruch, the source document for Jewish law.

That said. Here are perhaps more meaningful steps to consider:

1) Move here. (to Israel – if you can. Understanding that many cannot for many important reasons.). You really can’t move the ball unless you are on the playing field. Otherwise you are in the stands yelling at us about what we ought to do which frankly is often not so appreciated.

2) Start the conversation – move the ball forward. The second Temple did not descend from heaven. Our people built it. In fact, the prophet Zechariah chastised the Jewish people during our initial return after the first Temple was destroyed, paraphrasing, “you are building beautiful apartments all over the city but you can’t build a simple home for HaShem?” MK Amit Halevy recently introduced a bill in the Knesset to divide the Temple Mount; i.e., southern area with Al Aqsa for Muslims and northern area with future site of the Temple for the Jews. He obviously received tremendous initial push back, and the bill is likely DOA, but he started the conversation. We need to let it be known that at some point we plan to replace the gold dome (thank you Muslims for protecting the site) with a Temple.

3) Focus on the initial primary cause of all of our suffering – the sin of the spies – “dissing the land of Israel and our people.” The “tikun,” the correction we need to make: be publicly positive about Israel and our people and our future. Israel is the 4th happiest nation in the world as ranked by a 2022 UN study. The reason is hope – it means we are all working towards and B”H heading towards a better future. Make a commitment to be careful with the negatives and find the positives.

4) While the Second Temple was built with one hand on a weapon, many of our sages say that this Temple should be built with support of the nations of the world. It was a spiritual site for all. Let’s encourage conversations between religious leaders – a Muslim friend of mine said why don’t our Chief Rabbis or religious leadership, especially those who speak Arabic, meet with imams face to face and break bread. These meetings can be small and intimate and private and we can share from a position of strength what will be – but also with a level of respect. Though some have recently tried to destroy evidence of our presence on the Temple Mount, we can thank them in general, for guarding the central spot with a gold dome for centuries. Those of us with connections in the Islamic world can make clear our future intentions yet respectfully start the conversation.

5) Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I often hear all of the problems with moving forward: Kohanim have genetic markers but maybe somewhere along the way they converted out and back. Yes, we may find a red heifer – but should we make the ash? What will we do with it? Are we really going back to animal sacrifices? Many opinions. Maybe it is ok start with meal offerings. We need to do our part and then we’ll see if HaShem still hides “his face.“ Certainly during the second Temple period we did our best in an imperfect world.

6) Today we have “sinat hinam” on steroids thanks to the media. (Baseless hatred – the consensus, Jewish, contributing cause of the second Temple’s destruction.) Today, descriptions of those with whom the media hates are laced with horrific adjectives and every difference of opinion is exaggerated beyond anything approaching reality to the point that no one really understands a proposal or core issue but instead learns to hate the other. (Witness the recent media coverage of the Judicial Reform debate.) We cannot let this stand. Write and comment and take these writers on. Comments matter. Letters matter. Enter the fray. Call it out. Be the voice of reason. Do your part to lower the flames.

7) Take note and say thanks to HaShem for the fact we are living in a time of hope. Clearly, we are not sitting in a place of “sackcloth and ashes.” In my Jerusalem neighborhood there are 18 cranes working – building a new neighborhood of 1800 apartments. Obviously, we have not been fully redeemed – but if we take a step back and appreciate the “footsteps” of these days, we can only marvel.

So yes, we will fast – we miss the Temple and it’s pageantry and the reality of living in true messianic times where the world can clearly see the presence of the Divine. We need to commit to take actions. Let’s move the ball forward. All mitzvot require human action. Our Shabbat table does not magically appear each week. We must do our part. Let’s stop peddling on a stationary bike and move forward. Our actions will create hope. Without hope, there is no future. With hope, anything is possible including the rebuilding of our Temple and HaShem taking note and redeeming his people.

About the Author
Gary Schiff is a resource consultant and guide connecting Israel and the US
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