As we are in the midst of The Three Weeks, today we have come to the new month of Av and our mourning increases. Last month we mourned the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem. The communities outside of Jerusalem were empty and bare, the conquerors were outside the walls and the people had come into the city for refuge. And yet, the walls were breached. Many were lost, many died. This month we mourn the destruction within Jerusalem, culminating with the destruction of the Holy Temple.
In the days of the Babylonian conquest, this judgement came upon the people for their lawlessness. There was an apathy toward the terms of the covenant between Israel and the King of the Universe. That apathy caused many generations to be ignorant of these covenantal terms, these instructions for life. We read how in the days of Kings Hezekiah and Josiah that there was a revival, a renewal, of covenant devotion. But what we find is evidence of how far the people had fallen from their intended place. People perish for lack of knowledge and many simply did not know. Revivals came and went, and unfortunately many of the people chose to reject what they learned. So the Babylonian conquest came as a form of punishment for straying so far away from the laws of Israel as ordained by the King of Kings.
But while in Babylon systems were put in place that ensured that every Israelite would learn, could learn and do so they would never again be disciplined for their unfaithfulness to the covenant. 70 years after the destruction of Jerusalem, an edict was set in place by King Cyrus that allowed, and not just allowed but strongly encouraged the Jewish people to return to their home and rebuild their city, and the focal point was to rebuild the Holy Temple. Can you imagine?
Centuries later, it was time for discipline once again. This time it wasn’t because the people were walking in lawlessness, this time the issue was the lack of love. Our Master and His disciples taught a lot about love. In fact, it is one of the primary teachings! The Sages of Israel tell us that the Holy Temple was destroyed this time due to baseless hatred. There was such a lack of love of one’s neighbor in those days that the privilege of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was removed and the privilege of living in the land of promise was also taken away. Exile came again, and has persisted since those days. All because of baseless hatred.
For this we mourn. We mourn the loss of the Holy Temple, the only place where the worship that HaShem has commanded is to take place (sacrifices, offerings, etc) because THIS is the place where His Name dwells forever. And yet, because we could not find it within ourselves to love one another, we’ve lost the privilege of having the Holy Temple available to us. So we mourn. We mourn the loss of life that occurred when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and when the Romans followed suite centuries later – on the same day. It is a tragic day indeed. Continue reading