Who wants to cry? Why should we try to feel bad if we want to feel happy? The answer lies in the true meaning of Tisha B’Av, a solemn day that reminds us of what we are missing and expresses our yearning to attain something more.
Allow me to explain. Tisha B’Av, which falls out on the 9th of the Jewish month of Av – this coming Monday night and Tuesday – is our national day of mourning, a day dedicated toward reflection and for the proverbial reality check. True, we want to be happy, not mournful. God wants us to be happy, not sad. He wants us to have unlimited happiness and pleasure. I am not talking about ice cream and amusement parks. I am talking about an inner happiness of closeness and connection to God, to really feel His presence, holiness, love, and infinite greatness. No small achievement, but achievable, nonetheless.
God chose us to be His People, and to give us His Torah; He promised us the land of Israel and to increase us like the stars in Heaven. When we make Him our God, He makes Himself our God, providing protection, blessing and prosperity. When we turn toward Him, He turns His Countenance toward us. When we dedicate our heart and soul to do His bidding, He rewards us with the infinite pleasure of His closeness and endless love.
Our forefathers chose God. Therefore He chose them as his people to fulfill His plan in creation. When we are in sync with His will and purpose, we create the flow to feel His love and blessing. But, the feeling in this earthly existence is only the beginning. Daily striving to become close to God is the beginning of an eternal bonding with the Infinite One.
What does this have to do with our subject? Tisha B’Av is a time when God actively removed His Presence from our midst. It marks a time when our lack of faith and dedication resulted in God leaving us to our own devices. And when God removes His active protection, our enemies inevitably try to destroy us. Fortunately, though they may be permitted to cause massive destruction, God will never allow them to finish the job. We will always survive; and from our limping and bleeding state, we regenerate.
Tisha B’Av began in the desert, during the second year following the Exodus from Egypt, when God was ready to bring the Jewish People into the promised Land of Israel,. They questioned God and did not have sufficient faith to believe in His supernatural ways of driving out the nations of Canaan. The men (not the women) cried for “no” reason, so God said that He would give them something to cry about.
Our crying is only the consequence of our choices. Had we chosen properly and made sufficient effort, the Temple would have remained standing, God’s Presence would have stayed in our midst and the joy of Jerusalem would have been everlasting. But we were not on that level. Rather than destroy His people though, He destroyed His Temple and His holy city. He sent us into a long exile in order to teach us the lessons we need to prepare for our and His return. Only after this preparation can He will bring us back, rebuild the Temple, and eradicate evil, at which point happiness, peace and harmony will reign. God will be recognized by all as the One and only One. His wisdom will fill the earth and we, as his people, will be reinstated as His ambassadors and spiritual teachers.
Surprisingly, our rabbis teach that any generation in which the Temple is not rebuilt, is held responsible, as if they destroyed it! Since had the Temple existed in their days, God would have likely allowed for its destruction. By way of contrast, anyone who can feel for the loss of God’s Presence and can mourn the destruction of Jerusalem, to the point of tears, is truly deserving of seeing the the rebuilding of the Bait HaMikdash, the Temple and the ultimate return of God to His People.
I wish you an easy fast and a meaningful Tisha B’Av.
Rabbi Yaakov Rosenstein
Director of Judaism1on1.com Jewish Learning Your Way!