Allen S. Maller

Tisha B’Av: victims turn victors

King Fredrick of Prussia built a entire church filled with war sculptures to commemorate his military victories. This church is an extravagant example of using a religious edifice to celebrate and commemorate war victories. The Greeks and Romans did the same thing. Indeed, even back in Biblical days, the Assyrians, Babylonians and Egyptians used religious buildings to sanctify their military victories. Only the Jews never erected any victory statues in their Jerusalem temple.

Indeed, King David of Israel, unlike King Fredrick of Prussia, was told that he should definitely not erect any temple at all; due to all the blood on his hands.

The Jerusalem Temple was built by King Solomon who was best known for his wealth, wisdom, and his love of woman (see Song of Songs of Solomon).

The Jerusalem Temple was not a tribute to military victory. It was a tribute to the faithful, long suffering and enduring love between the Jewish People and their God.

The major pan-Hellenic temples in 6th century BCE Greece, Olympia and Delphi, were frequently gifted with religious art to celebrate military victories. That never happened in Jerusalem.

In Babylonia and Egypt the gods were kept in enclosed rooms within the temple; and only taken out on parade during holy day celebrations a few times a year.

In the Jerusalem Temple the inner sanctum (the debhir) was empty of any Divine image. Only the ark with the ten declarations inside, stood in the center, with a ten cubits high Cherub of olive-wood plated with gold, on each side (1 Kings 6:23-28 and 8:6-7).

In the days of the Second Temple, in the absence of the ark and the ten declarations within it, only the two Cherubim which according to 2 Chronicles 3:14 were woven in the veil of the Holy of Holies, were there.

The two Cherubim were woven in the vail embracing each other like lovers; and once a year during the Haj Sukkot pilgrimage festival, the curtains to the innermost sanctuary (the debhir) were opened and the Cherubim could be seen as a sign of the faithful, loving relationship between God and Israel.

As Rabbi Kattina said: Whenever Israel came up to (Jerusalem) for the Festival (Sukkot), the curtain would be removed for them and the Cherubim were shown to them, whose bodies were intertwined with one another;

“and they would be thus addressed: Look! You are beloved before God as the love between man and woman. (Yoma 54a)

On Tisha B’Av, when we mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and its Holy Temple, let us remember that the love between God and Israel endures today, as it did almost 2,000 years ago.

Thus, even if we do not win the battle, we never have lost the war to survive.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 850 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.