Friday, August 8, 2008

Remembering the Churban Beis HaMikdash - Part 4 - Tisha B'Av -

Remembering the Churban Beis HaMikdash

Torah Insights for Enabling Us to Feel the Loss and Yearn for the Rebuilding
of the Beis HaMikdash


Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

Reprinted from the booklet with permission by the author.

Part Four


The Shelah Hakadosh(End of Mesechta Succah [Amud Hashalom]) adds another insight into why we don’t feel the churban or await Moshiach. He writes, “My heart was always ablaze upon seeing the Children of Israel building homes like castles and making permanent dwelling places for themselves in this (transitory) world. This appears as if one is inattentive (maisi'ach da’as) of the redemption! Therefore my children, if Hashem blesses you with great wealth, don’t build extravagant homes, rather build yourselves houses that conform to your (real) needs and necessities, and no more.” The Shelah’s message is that the more we become preoccupied with worldly matters (olam hazeh), the more we become “embedded” in them. Preoccupation with olam hazeh results in becoming oblivious to awaiting Moshiach’s arrival.

Even though the Shelah is addressing wealthy people, nevertheless his principle can apply to anyone. A person who gets involved in his own materialistic world can eventually become so attached and involved in it that he can totally become – chas veshalom – uninterested in the coming of Moshiach.

This concept is illustrated by a story of a traveling Rav who found lodging in the attic of a farmer’s home. After midnight, the farmer was awakened by strange sounds emanating from the Rav’s room. He ascended to the attic and found the Rav wailing and moaning. Slightly bewildered, the farmer asked the Rav if he was feeling well and offered some medical assistance. The Rav replied that he was merely reciting his nightly tikun chatzos, and then started to explain the essence and purpose of the tefillah to the farmer who was unfamiliar with it.

As the Rav concluded, with an outburst of emotion he suddenly asked the farmer, “Tell me, if Moshiach were to appear suddenly, would you be ready to pack your belongings and come with me immediately to Eretz Yisrael?”

After a moment, the farmer replied, “This is impossibility, as our livelihood depends on our chickens, geese and livestock.”

Taken aback, the Rav exclaimed, “What would you do if the Cossacks, who are presently on the rampage, approached your estate with the goal of killing every Jew in sight? Would you then think twice about your chickens, geese and livestock?”
The farmer thought again and replied, “Rebbe, I hear your point. Let Moshiach come now, but when he comes, let him take the Cossacks to Eretz Yisrael, and I’ll remain here with my farm, chickens, geese and livestock!”

We too should honestly examine ourselves to see if we are ready to abandon our present lifestyle and start a new life of total spirituality centered around avodas Hashem.

Underscoring this sentiment, the Midrash comments on the psukim stating that the Jewish nation will find no rest in its exile (Devarim, 28:65; Eicha 1:3). The Midrash (Midrash Eicha ad. loc) writes that had Klal Yisrael found peace and tranquility in its exile, the people would not long to return to Eretz Yisrael. Rav Avigdor Miller adds that the cause of baseless anti-semitism throughout our exile is Hashem’s way of constantly reminding us that we are in galus and to instill a desire for the building of the Beis Hamikdash. (cf Siddur Bais Yaakov, ibid. )


What should we do if we have tried our utmost and are still unable to feel the churban and properly yearn for Moshiach’s arrival?
One idea given by the ba’alei mussar is to think of something distressing that will arouse our emotions and then superimpose these feelings on the churban Bais Hamikdash.

This idea is based on a story told in the Midrash of a widow who resided near Rabban Gamliel. When she lost one of her sons, the sounds of her sobs echoed through the silence of the Babylonian night reaching the ears of the Rabban Gamliel and stimulating him to join her and cry for the churban Beis Hamikdash (Midrash Eicha, 1:24).

Therefore we should read about the atrocities that our Nation suffered by the murder and torture of millions of men, women and children during the holocaust that happened so recently. Once these stories arouse our inner emotions, we should transfer these heartbreaking and painful feelings to the churban Bais Hamikdash.
If this method is unsuccessful, Rav Shlomo Brevda once remarked that if a person cannot feel distressed and troubled over the churban, then at least he should feel distressed and troubled about the fact that he cannot properly mourn the destruction.
With the liberation of the Old City during the Six-Day War, Israeli soldiers, weeping with emotion, fell upon the Kosel Hama’aravi and stood in awe at the last remaining segment of the Beis Hamikdash. The picture of those weeping soldiers is etched forever in the minds of those who saw it. In the rear of those huddled close to the Kosel were two soldiers who came from a non-religious kibbutz. They looked around, overwhelmed by emptiness as the holiness and significance of the Kosel had no meaning for them. Suddenly, one of them began to cry uncontrollably. The second soldier, surprised by the sudden outburst, asked his colleague, “Why are you crying?” With tears rolling down his cheeks, the soldier replied, “I am crying because I don’t know what there is to cry about!” (Around the Maggid’s Table p. 105)


We conclude Kinos with words of consolation so that we should finish with a feeling of comfort and hope for the future. (Rama O.C., 559:5)
Rav Avrohom Shag, one of the gedolim of Hungary, had a lifelong dream of retiring in Yerushalayim. His dream became a reality in 1873 when he arrived in Yaffo accompanied by his loyal talmid Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld.

Rav Zonnenfeld vividly relates their first Friday night at the Kosel: “Words cannot describe the Rebbi’s deep emotions during the Lecha Dodi prayers. When he came to the phrase, ‘Mikdash Melech ir Melucha – Sanctuary of the King, Royal City (i.e., the Beis Hamikdash, Yerushalayim), come forth from amidst your ruins, too long have you dwelt in the valley of weeping… (i.e., the churban),’ he lifted his hands heavenward, while streams of tears descended from his eyes. The Rav was totally enveloped in the cloak of emotions, which expressed his longing for Klal Yisrael’s speedy redemption and the Shechina’s glory reinstated.

“Afraid for the Rav’s health,” Rav Zonnenfeld continues, “I was about to awaken him from his trance, when suddenly his countenance changed, a ray of happiness lighting up his face. Thus, he concluded the phrase in a loud voice, ‘Vehu yachmol alayich chemla’ – And He will have compassion on you.” (Adapted from Guardian of Jerusalem, Artscroll, p. 68)

This beautiful story depicts a duality that is the essence of our avodah on Tisha B’Av – on one hand, the expressions of anguish over the churban, tzar haShechina, and the dark galus. On the other hand, the hope toward the glorious sunlight, the light of Moshiach, the Beis Hamikdash and the Divine presence.
May we merit a speedy redemption bimheira veyameinu.

וצום החמישי . . . יהיה לבית יהודה לששון ולשמחה)... זכריה ח:י"ט)

…And the fast of the fifth (month) …will be to the house
of Yehuda for joy & gladness…( Zechariah 8:19)

2085,1674 BCE – Avrohom Avinu binds Yitzchok on Har HaBayis
2185,1574 BCE – Yaakov Avinu dreams of the ladder to heaven on Har Habayis
2921,840 BCE – Dovid Hamelech buys land for the First Beis Hamikdash
2928,833 BCE – Shlomo Hamelech builds the First Beis Hamikdash
3338,423 BCE – (9 Av) Nevuchadnezer destroys the First Beis Hamikdash and exiles Jews to Bavel. The Kosel remains
3390,371 BCE – Persian King Koresh temporarily allows rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash
3408,353 BCE – King Daryavesh, Queen Esther’s son, permits rebuilding the Beis Hamikdash (70 years after destruction of the First Beis Hamikdash)
3448,313 BCE – Alexander the Great conquers Eretz Yisrael
3699,143 BCE – Antiochus IV plunders the Beis Hamikdash and sets up idol
3621,139 BCE – Yerushalayim recaptured and the Beis Hamikdash rededicated (Chanukah)
3725,836; 33 BCE – Hurdos makes the the Beis Hamikdash the most beautiful building in the Roman Empire
3828,68 CE – (9 Av) Romans under Titus besiege Yerushalayim, the Second Beis Hamikdash destroyed but The Kosel remains (Some say it was in the year 3829)

Some dates are approximate. Source: Toldos Am Olam, Vol. 1 pp 38-54

1840,1911 – Turks ban Sifrei Torah and chairs at the Kosel to inhibit Jews from davening there
1917 – To pacify the Arabs, British reconfirm ban on Sifrei Torah, etc.
1948 – Jews surrender the Old City to Jordan (War of Independence). Jews’ access to the Kosel guaranteed, but revoked. No Jews allowed for 19 years
1967 – Old City liberated. The Kosel returns to Jewish hands

All that remains is a remnant of our crowning glory. This illustration approximately shows the part of the Kosel visible today, in comparison to its true size.

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1 comment:

Gandalin said...


Inspiring post. I think there's a tradition (and it may be only an antinomian tradition from the side of heresy) that after the coming of Moshiach, there will be, for example, no Yomim Tovim except Purim. Furthermore, our whole liturgy, and I mean the daily liturgy, not just the Tisha B'Av liturgy, with its emphasis on restoration of the Beis and the Avodah, etc, will be obsolete.

CVS, could our devotion to our minhagim and to the cultural accreta that make up Yiddishkeit be an example of the chickens, geese, and livestock that we don't want to leave behind? I don't want to take this too far in the direction of antinomianism and the Reform, but what do you think?