I’m tired of mourning. I’m really just done with it. Year after year, we enter into this auspicious time, a time that is garnered in sadness, superstition and great trepidation and fear of the wrath that we experienced on these days. We have been shoved in the mud. That mud has been smeared on our face. It is old and crusted, only to be renewed each year with our never ending flow of tears. We have been crying for centuries. We have been dreaming for what feels like an eternity. And every year nothing changes! Why do we cry if we are too afraid to allow our tears to inspire us to change?
2000 years ago we lost the symbol that represented perfect Jewish unity. We were far from perfect, there was poverty, war, oppression, sin, immorality and the list does not end there. Pain was something that our ancestors knew all too well. Yet, they merited seeing the great Temple. They merited living in a land that they controlled. They merited much more than we have merited. What did they understand that we do not?
First I would like to dispel the assumption that you probably think I am about to make. Jewish unity was not something that our ancestors were all too familiar with either. In fact the Talmud tells us that the destruction of the Second Temple came on account of baseless hatred but one wonders why this reason was not given for the destruction of the first Temple as well. The nation of Israel was a majestic kingdom, brought up from bondage out of Egypt to a land that flows with milk and honey. In that land the nation of Israel faced great hardship but persevered to be a united people with a grand Temple to serve God in. Indeed, it seemed as if life could not be more perfect, all of the struggles of the Jewish people had led to this impressive moment in history.
However, this time of peace and prosperity did not create the committed Jewish Nation that we might have hoped for. The Nation of Israel was punished for its evil actions and we lost our first Temple. According to our Rabbis we were in violation of the three cardinal sins: murder, illicit relations and idolatry. But our nation had been severely divided at this point as well, why was baseless hatred not the reason for the destruction of the first Temple? Perhaps because our Rabbis were teaching us that there is a simple equation that we must follow in order to bring about the rebuilding of a third Temple. Hundreds of years after either Temple stood our Rabbis tell us, the first temple was destroyed with sins that only affected our relationship with God but the second Temple was destroyed by sins of brother against brother. Baseless hatred has plagued our people for thousands of years but the way to earn a stronger relationship with God is by reversing these steps of destruction. We must begin by correcting our relationships with each other and this will lead to greater service of God. This process will ultimately make us worthy of the rebuilding of the Temple.
We are a people that struggles to follow all of the laws in great numbers. We are a people that struggles to keep every letter of the law and indeed we are confused as a people, what the Divine Law really is. Certainly we must attempt to keep the law according to how we can best understand it, but, we struggle with pathetic political squabbles that tear even smaller communities to shreds because, let’s face it, we all need to be right. But, we are not all right! We can be wrong and we need to begin to realize that we have the God given right to be wrong! What is not our right is to use our mistakes against one another to raise ourselves to the top. We are not on the top, God is. And He will decide how to judge His people.
What is our mission? To begin building, slowly but surely. Every Jew out there does not know every last law and many might even choose not to follow them if they learned them. What is our mission? To reach within ourselves and find the most basic of human traits, kindness. But do not mistake my words as a cute excuse for forgetting about law. Being kind is hard work. If you don’t smile at every person on the street then start working on that! Smiled at one person today? Then let’s make that two tomorrow. This is the guidebook to changing the world, one smile at a time, one person at a time.
One of my favorite songs begins with the Hebrew words: “Bilvavi mishkan evneh …” – I will build a Mishkan (a Tabernacle) in my heart…” Perhaps the author is trying to teach us this idea. If we begin to build our own tabernacles, by doing single acts of kindness and increasing on them every single day, then our own personal tabernacles will turn into a full tabernacle, a complete Temple for all of us.
I’m tired of mourning. I’m tired of crying. Let this be the last year that we do.