As we mourn the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, once again, we wonder how many more times we will be doing this. For close to two thousand years, the Jewish people have been mourning the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. We shed tears of hope, wishing that this year will be the year, and alas, here we are once again back in the mourning process.
Hacham Ovadia Yosef offers a beautiful insight into why this might be. The rabbis tell us (Masehet Ta’anit 30b) “Whoever eats and drinks on Tisha Be’av will not merit to see the joy of [the reconstruction] of Jerusalem. And whoever mourns the destruction of Jerusalem, merits, and sees in its joy”
Hacham Ovadia asks: why is it that when the Gemara speaks of he who does not mourn over the destruction of Jerusalem, it speaks in future tense (“will not merit to see the joy…”), yet when it speaks of those who mourn the tragic loss of Jerusalem, it speaks in present tense (“merits and sees its joy”).
Maran cites the Gemara * that says that there is a rule of nature that after 12 months people are able to start overcoming the loss of a loved one; once 12 months past, we no longer feel the same sense of loss and are able to move forward. The Gemara points out that the reason Yaakov Avinu can never stop crying about the loss of his beloved son Joseph, even though Yaakov Avinu thought he was dead, is because this law of nature did not apply. Since Joseph was really alive, he was not able to be forgotten.
This rule sheds light on how and why we mourn the loss of Beit Hamikdash. As long as we are crying, grieving, and lamenting the loss of Beit Hamikdash- Hacham Ovadia explains- that is a clear sign that the Beit Hamikdash will be rebuilt. Just like Yaakov Avinu who never stopped shedding tears over the loss of his son Joseph, if we refuse to be comforted and continue to be inconsolable over the loss of the Beit Hamikdash there is still hope.
This is why the Gemara says in the present tense “he who mourns the loss of Beit Hamikdash merits to see in its reconstruction”, in the present tense, because the very process of grieving and bemoaning the loss of Beit Hamikdash, offers hope for its reconstruction. On the other hand, for he who eats and drinks on Tisha Be’Av and does not mourn the loss of the Beith Hamikdash, the Gemara uses future tense since that person will not see the full reconstruction in the future; needless to say that, this person see no hope in the present either.
The story has it that when French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1829), was traveling through Russia, in his long journey of conquest, he passed through a small town. As he was walking by one of the Synagogues, he heard people voices whimpering with sadness and agony. He asked someone what was going on in there. The response he got was that, that night was the night of Tisha Be’av and that the Jews were crying about the loss of their Temple. “How recently was this Temple destroyed?” Napoleon asked. When he was told that it was almost two thousand years ago, Napoleon responded:” a people who can mourn the loss of their Temple 2000 years ago, will surely be around in another 2000 years!”
One of the most moving scenes I have ever seen, is that of Maran Hacham Ovadia, mourning the loss of the Beit Hamikdash. In a video, available to all on YouTube, one can see Maran speaking about the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash in a Halacha shiur. Suddenly, without intending to do so, when speaking about the halachot of mourning for the Beit Hamikdash, Maran’s voice chocks up, tears start streaming down his cheeks, and he bursts out crying for the Beit Hamikdash. There is not a better example of how personally we can take the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and that, that very same agony, is what offers us hope, for the continuity of the Jewish people.
Printed in Qol Ha-Qahal, 2016