By: HaRav Menashe Sasson
מאת: הרב מנשה ששון
Tisha B’Av, literally, the Ninth [day of the Hebrew month of] Av, is the Jewish “National Day of Mourning,” so to speak. Tisha B’Av is a day on which, each year, Jews commemorate many of the tragedies which have befell the Jewish People over the centuries.
During Biblical times, those tragedies included:
During post-Biblical times, other tragedies which are commemorated on Tisha B’Av included:
The letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the “Aleph Bet,” each have a numerical value to which they correspond. For example, the first letter of the Aleph-Bet is “aleph” [א], which has a numerical value of 1. The second letter of the Aleph-Bet is “bet” [ב], which has a numerical value of 2, and so on.
The first word in Tanach, the Hebrew Bible, is “Bereshit” [translated: “In the beginning”] begins with the letter “bet,” the second letter of the Hebrew “alphabet.” From this, the Rabbis derived that this world, the physical world in which we live, is represented by the number 2.
Jewish Sages and other great Rabbis have also taught that G-d gave Moshe Rabbeinu two Torahs on Mount Sinai: the Written Torah and the Oral Torah.
Both the Written Torah and the Oral Torah, collectively referred to simply as the “Torah,” contain instructions from G-d concerning the conduct of mankind. One category of instructions found in the Torah, a category which might be called the “Torah for individuals,” sets forth instructions relating to individual conduct (e.g., keeping the Sabbath, honoring one’s parents, etc.). The other category of instructions found in the Torah, a category which might be called the “Torah for the Jewish nation,” sets forth instructions relating to national conduct (e.g., laws relating to Eretz Israel, Jewish kings, the law of war, etc.). Contemporary Jewish religious practice focuses almost exclusively on the former, while almost completely ignoring the latter.
Although the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem have become the quintessential example of Jewish tragedy which is commemorated each year on Tisha B’Av, we might also view Tisha B’Av from a slightly deeper perspective.
The Second Temple was destroyed during the year 70 CE. Intrinsic in that tragedy was the loss of Jewish sovereignty, which was not regained until 1948 — almost 2,000 years later — when the modern-day State of Israel was established.
Thus, because one of the two “Torahs” that G-d gave to the Jewish people — the Torah which provides instructions relating to national conduct — was lost for almost 2,000 years, and which has yet to be fully reacquired or realized, it might be appropriate to view Tisha B’Av in a new light. Rather than being seen as a commemoration of seemingly unrelated tragedies that occurred over the centuries, Tisha B’Av might be better understood as commemorating the singular tragedy of the loss of Jewish sovereignty, a tragedy which encompasses and encapsulates all the discrete Jewish tragedies over the centuries, a tragedy which, at least to some meaningful degree, still persists to this day.
However, to understand Tesha B’Ab, and its related rituals of mourning, as a commemoration of the single tragedy which was the loss of Jewish sovereignty, creates a bit of a problem.
Tesha B’Ab is a rabbinic holy day – “holiday.” When the Rabbis instituted Tesha B’Ab, Eretz Yisra’el was desolate; today the Land has been rebuilt. Prior to 1948, Jews could only dream and pray about coming to Eretz Yisrael; now, Jews not only live in Eretz Yisra’el, Medinat Yisra’el is a Jewish state which is governed (for the most part) by Jews. During the time when the Rabbis instituted Tesha B’Ab, the only practical thing Jews could do was to cry over the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple in Yerushalayim).
That was then. But what about now?
Is it not a bit absurd for diaspora Jews the world over to sit in Beit Knesset on Tesha B’Ab and beseech for a speedy redemption, when all that need be done is go to the nearest computer or mobile device, grab a credit card, and book a flight to Ben Gurion Airport? Is it not even more absurd for all Jews – Israelis and diaspora Jews alike – to lament the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, when the Temple Mount, which is located in the Jewish State of Israel, with its capital in Yerushalayim, could be purified and the Beit HaMikdash rebuilt?!
Since 1948, the Jewish people have experienced miracles the likes of which have not been seen since the Exodus from Egypt. The Jew who, prior to 1948, cried on Tesha B’Ab did all that he could. But today, the lamentations of the Jew who only cries on Tesha B’Ab, while doing nothing else the rest of the year, leaves a lot to be desired.
Recall that after the Jewish people left Egypt, just before the splitting of the sea, Moshe was standing, hands raised to Heaven, praying for safe passage. responded, “Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the Children of Yisra’el and let them journey forth!” Shemot 14:15.
Likewise, now is not the time to only cry out to , on one day each year, about the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash; now is the time for the Jewish people to journey forth and take meaningful action toward rebuilding the Beit HaMikdash.
Copyright © The Israel Foundation. All Rights Reserved.