Why I Cry: Some Thoughts in Anticipation of Tisha B’Av
Recently a member of my synagogue came up to me and asked, “How are we supposed to properly mourn on Tisha B’Av and internalize the tragedy of the Destruction of the Temple? We never experienced the Beit Hamikdash so we don’t really know what we’re missing. Furthermore, when Jews were persecuted and constantly under threat of expulsion or bodily harm, we can understand how the sorrow of Tisha Ba’v may have also been an expression of sorrow for their predicament. Today American Jews are blessed to live in an open and tolerant society that has allowed Judaism to thrive. This is good for us, but makes our mourning on Tisha B’Av that much more elusive.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this challenge. Let me share with you some statements from our Rabbis that I find meaningful and I that hope can provide you with some things to think about over Shabbat and Sunday.
1) The Talmud in Sota 48a states:
מיום שחרב בהמ”ק – אין יום שאין בו קללה
From the day that the Temple was destroyed, not a day goes by without some sort of curse.
On Tisha B’Av I cry over the pain that exists — in my community and in my world: the pain of those who are ill, isolated or marginalized. I cry for the anti-Semitism and uncertainty that many Jews across the globe continue to endure. And I cry for the insecurity that has been unleashed on America and its allies, especially Israel, as a result of the Iran Nuclear Deal. (Don’t forget to write to your elected officials here)
2) There is a midrashic aphorism that states:
מיום שחרב בהמ”ק נתמעט השלום
Since the day that the Temple was destroyed, peace has been diminished
The modern Jewish community is noteworthy as much for our dwindling affiliation rates as we are for our divisiveness, strife and discord amongst the Tribe. Last year during the Gaza War we witnessed tremendous demonstrations of unity. How much of that good will continues to exist just one year later? Why must it take a mortal threat to fellow Jews in order for us to put aside our differences? On Tisha B’Av I cry for the discord, baseless hatred and lack of unity that exists within the Jewish community.
3) The Talmud in Berachot 32b states in the name of Rabbi Elazar:
מיום שחרב בית המקדש נפסקה חומת ברזל בין ישראל לאביהם שבשמים
From the day that the Temple was destroyed a wall of iron has separated Israel from their Father in Heaven
The Temple was an inspiring location, one in which daily miracles occurred. When the Beit Hamidash stood if you ever questioned the existence of God, or God’s role in your life, you could go to Jerusalem and feel God’s Presence in the Beit Hamikdash. That was one of the purposes of the Shalosh Regalim: three times a year everyone would go to Jerusalem and recharge their spiritual batteries.
What about today? Where do I go when I have those questions and those feelings? There certainly are answers out there- but not as accessible. On Tisha B’Av I cry over the difficulties many of us encounter in finding God and connecting with God in our lives.
For these three reasons, among others, I mourn on Tisha B’Av.
And if none of these reasons or any other reason to cry resonate with you, then I would suggest there is still a reason to cry this Tisha B’Av.
In June 1967 Israeli paratroopers stormed the Old City of Jerusalem. The news crackled over the radios: “Har Habayit B’Yadeinu” the Temple Mount is in Jewish hands!
As the soldiers reached the Kotel, many, especially those traditional soldiers, rushed to touch the wall, crying and soaking in the fact that they were experiencing something that generations of Jews had prayed for, but never merited to realize. The shofar was sounded. I imagine that some of those present may have thought that Moshiach would come at that very moment. Watching this scene from a distance were two soldiers. Both came from secular backgrounds, and neither of them had been overcome by the strong emotion that their fellow soldiers had experienced. One of these soldiers was crying, and the other was not.
למה אתה בוכה, Why are you crying”, the dry-eyed soldier asked?
His comrade replied with tears in his eyes,
“אני בוכה על מה שאני לא בוכה”;
“I am crying over the fact that I lack the perspective that has caused the rest of my comrades to cry.”
If all else fails in our quest to find meaning on Tisha B’Av, let us at least cry over that apathy; an apathy that unfortunately affects too many of us in too many aspects of our lives. By crying over this apathy, we can at least be comforted in knowing that we still feel something and that there is something upon which to build.
May this Tisha B’Av usher in many types of building: A building of our spirituality and connections to Hashem. A building of peace: within our families, our community and the world. A building of our lives committed to mindfulness and emotion. And in so doing we will be that much closer to the building of the Beit Hamikdash, Amen.