ח׳ באב ה׳תשע״ד (August 4, 2014)
The fast of Tisha b’Av, the saddest date on the Jewish calendar, is the day which saw the destruction of both Holy Temples, as well as many other tragic events throughout our nation’s tear-soaked galut (exile). A mournful mood is carefully created. We read Jeremiah’s Book of Lamentations and a lengthy collection of elegies which vividly describe all these tragedies, and throughout the day we follow many mourning practices.
Tisha b’Av is our national day of mourning when we pause to reflect on all the pogroms, crusades, inquisitions and holocausts which have dogged our nation for the past 2,000 years. Nonetheless it is specifically observed on the date when the Holy Temples were destroyed, and the Temples are the principal focus of this day’s mourning. It is clear that our suffering is intimately associated with the absence of the Temple.
What is the connection? And why the obsession over an ancient Jerusalemite structure? Does the lack of a Holy Temple leave any of us feeling a gaping hole in our lives?
The Talmud declares (Brachot 3a): When Jews enter their prayer and study halls and proclaim, “May His great name be blessed,” the Holy One, blessed be He, nods and says, “Fortunate is the king who is thus praised in his home. What is there for a father who has exiled his son? And woe to children who have been exiled from their father’s table!” This brief statement captures the very essence of galut.
Parent-child relationships share many of the qualities which typify all relationships — though perhaps to a greater degree: respect, love, care, etc. There is, however, an essential difference.
Other relationships are predicated on these above mentioned feelings: because I like you and care for you, therefore we are friends. In the parent-child relationship the opposite is true; these feelings are predicated on the relationship: because I am your parent/child, therefore I love you.
Thus the parent-child relationship possesses two aspects; its essence and its manifestations. Its core is the essential relationship which is immutable and not even subject to fluctuations.
No matter what, a parent always remains a parent, and one’s child remains one’s child. In a normal and healthy parent-child relationship, this core soul-connection expresses itself in the form of love, care, and mutual respect.
G‑d is our father, and we are His children. And during galut we constitute a dysfunctional family. We have been expelled from our Father’s home. Our relationship has been reduced to its very core. All the perceptible traces of the relationship have vanished. We don’t feel or see G‑d’s love for us, and we don’t really feel like His children. We study His Torah and follow His commandments, and we are told that by doing so we connect with Him, but we don’t feel like we are in a relationship.
This is certainly not the way the relationship should be, and this wasn’t always the case.
There was a time when we were coddled by our Father’s embrace. His love for us manifested itself in many forms: miracles, prophets, abundant blessings and a land flowing with milk and honey. And at the crux of our relationship was the Holy Temple, G‑d’s home where He literally dwelt amongst His people, where His presence was tangible. Thrice yearly Jews would visit G‑d’s home and feel His presence, feel the relationship. They would then return home invigorated by the experience, their hearts and souls afire with love for G‑d.
All the suffering which has been our lot since the day the Temple was destroyed is a result of our exiled state. When the king’s son resides in the palace, when the king’s love for the prince is on open display, the child is insulated against the designs of all his enemies. But when the child is expelled, the enemies pounce.
This is why we mourn the destruction of the Temples.
And we believe with perfect faith that the day is near when we will be returned to our Father’s home, and once again be smothered by His love.
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Republished in Just Jew It Mobile Magazine by kind permission of the author Rabbi Naftali Silberberg – writer, editor, and co-director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute.