Earlier this year when I was helping my son study for the competition in New York that I told you about here, we got to one of the 613 mitzvot of the Rambam that has to do with Destroying Batei Kenesset (synagogues or shuls): one is not allowed to destroy or harm a Beit Kenesset in any way. My son asked the obvious question then, and I’m asking you the same one now: How come then H” destroyed the Beit Hamikdash!?
There’s a principle in Torah that establishes that H” holds by the same mitzvot that He commands us. When we give tzedakah, He gives tzedakah etc. With this understanding, my son asked me the above question. Only a few lines further in the book where he was learning, he found the answer. The Rambam states, that one is not allowed to destroy a Beit Kenesset, unless it is for the purpose of construction!
And that is the idea I wanted to bring to you today, on the Eve of Tisha B’Av (this year, Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat, but since we don’t mourn or fast on Shabbat, the fast of Tisha B’Av is pushed off to Sunday.) (Click here to find the times of the fast in your area.) Tisha B’Av, the day our two Temples were destroyed and the day many other tragedies befell upon the Jewish People, is the most tragic day of our calendar. We know it as a day of “destruction,” not a positive day or one with good mazal for our people.
Despite all the hard facts we have about the tragedies associated with Tisha B’Av throughout our history, there are also interesting hints that point to another aspect of this day. These are some of them:
- The Book of Eicha (Lamentations), which we read on Tisha B’Av – a quite depressing account of the destruction of the Temple and our people’s exile – calls the day a “moed,” a holiday.
- It is a day in which we don’t say Tachanun in our prayers. (Tachanun is the confessionary part of the prayer, which is omitted on festive occasions such as Shabbat, Yom Tov, Rosh Chodesh, the day of our wedding and other such days.)
- The Rambam says that when Mashiach comes all of our fast days will turn into Holidays. Why not say, that all fast days will be eliminated? Why take it as far as to say “Holiday?”
- The day of Tisha B’Av was the day we were meant to enter the Land of Israel, led by Moshe Rabeinu. Instead, because of the not positive report of the Spies, we didn’t get to enter the Land and instead wandered in the desert another forty years. The day itself had tremendous potential. It was meant to be a day of celebration.
All of these hint at an inner dimension to Tisha B’Av (as there is to everything), which is the opposite of what we perceive externally.
The Prophet Isaiah compares the Redemption with birth, and exile to labor pains. Anyone who has gone through “natural” labor knows that the last part of labor is incredibly painful and that at the point when one thinks one cannot go further, the baby is immediately born. Was the pain the point of labor? Obviously not! The point of labor was the birth of the child! The pain, albeit great, is a detail in a much grander picture. We quickly forget the pain upon experiencing contact with our child, despite the earlier intensity of it. The pain was necessary, but the outcome is so much greater, that the pain dissipates in the amazing outcome.
So, it will be with the Redemption. Right now it seems like we’ve had a painful exile (and we have), but the potential of this day is great, beyond our imagination. The promise of what will come is unfathomable to us right now, but the day will turn into what it was always intended to be: one of construction, celebration, redemption…
The Redemption will come since H” will not have destroyed our Temple if it was not for the sake of a greater and better construction. Unlike the Redemption from Egypt, this Redemption will be eternal and will transform the entire world! Interestingly cool is that this year Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat, which is also Shabbat Chazon (The Shabbat of Vision)! Shabbat Chazon is the Shabbat that precedes Tisha B’Av, and in which according to the Chassidic masters, all the Jewish souls see a vision of the Third Temple built. Yet another hint that what we perceive as destruction is really construction…? I think so. ;-)
May we see the final construction even before Tisha B’Av!