I want to state loud and clear – in the opening sentence of this article – that I do not cry over the loss of the Bet Ha’Mikdash during the Three Weeks and Nine Days. Yes, I fasted on the 17th of Tammuz and will fast on Tisha B’av but not because there’s no Bet Ha’Mikdash. Let me tell you right away what I do cry for. I cry, weep, mourn and rip out whatever hair is left on my head for my brothers and sisters who prevent me from building the Bet Ha’Mikdash!
Prevent me from building the Bet Ha’Mikdash??? Who would do that??? Allow me to explain.
The Netivot Shalom wrote a piece of Torah on the Three Weeks that will simply blow you away. He asks a simple question. Everybody knows that the first Bet Ha’Mikdash was destroyed due to the violation of the three most horrific sins known to Jews; murder, adultery and idol worship. These sins carry the punishment of death yet after just 70 years, Hashem forgave the Nation of Israel and rebuilt the Bet Ha’Mikdash. The second Bet Ha’Mikdash was destroyed due to “sinat chinam” (baseless hatred) and although that sin does not carry the penalty of death – nor does it actually have any court-imposed punishment – Hashem has still not forgiven us for the last 2,000 years!
How can that be, asks the Netivot Shalom? How can a punishment linger for 2,000 years? Who punishes someone for 2,000 years? And furthermore, how can Hashem forgive Yankel for worshipping idols yet not forgive him for hating Yosef? That doesn’t make any sense!
And then comes the mind-blowing, unbelievable, life-changing answer of that great Chassidic master, the Slonimer Rebbe, author of Netivot Shalom. Please read the next few sentences carefully because it will permanently change your life. I am not kidding. The Rebbe says that we have been making a mistake for the last 2,000 years. The destruction of the Bet Ha’Mikdash was not a punishment. I will write that again: The destruction of the Bet Ha’Mikdash was not a punishment. Huh??
The reason the Bet Ha’Mikdash was destroyed, writes the Netivot Shalom, was because when Jews do not stand together, when there’s no Jewish unity… there simply cannot be a Bet Ha’Mikdash! When we stand apart, we are not a nation – we are individuals – and individuals, no matter how righteous they are, no matter how much Torah they possess, no matter how much Kedusha shines from their essence will never, ever, be able to build the Bet Ha’Mikdash! In short, the Bet Ha’Mikdash does not need an architect or building contractor… it needs Am Yisrael to stand as ONE.
This is what happened 2,000 years ago when Jew stood against Jew. It wasn’t just that Yankel hated Yosef, it was much more than that. Through that hate, Yankel separated himself from Yosef and in reality, separated himself from Klal Yisrael. This broke apart our nation. It made us into individual Jews named Yankel, Esther, Nissim and Rivka. No longer were we a nation – and without a nation, there cannot be a Bet Ha’Mikdash… period. All the tears, all the Tefillot and all the Torah learning in the world – as important and vital as they are – will never rebuild the Bet Ha’Mikdash if we are not together as one nation.
What started 2,000 years ago with Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza culminated in the destruction of the Bet Ha’Mikdash, sending us into galut. That was the worst punishment of all because then, no matter what we did, or how great our leaders were, we were no longer a nation. We were individual Jews who established communities. These communities kept us strong but, at the same time, drove away the concept of Jews as a nation. Those days seemed to be over… until…
Until 1948 when – FINALLY! – after 2,000 years the Jews came home AS A NATION!!! Yes, we were broken from the Holocaust. Yes, many of us were far from Torah observance but we came back to the land, re-established our holy language and declared ourselves as a free, independent nation. We set up a government, a court system and an army. No longer would we be ruled by Czars, Emperors or foreign military forces… we were back in our original inheritance (you know, the one given to us by Hashem… oh yeah, that one). In short, we took our individuals and our communities and transformed them – once again – into AM YISRAEL, the Nation of Israel.
So what happened? If the Bet Ha’Mikdash was destroyed because we turned a nation into individuals, why wasn’t it rebuilt when the individuals returned to being a nation?
Now comes the part where I cry during these dark days.
Because many fellow Jews – actually the majority of Jews – chose to remain as individuals (or communities) and did not join the nation. Do you understand what that means? By staying out of the land, by not taking part in the fight and settlement of the land, it was as if these Jews said, “We don’t want the Bet Ha’Mikdash” because as I explained above it simply cannot be built with our nation apart. It needs the Jews together and by staying 6,000 miles away you are simply not together.
You must understand this. Yes, these are strong words but they are the truth. Jews who choose to live outside the land are disconnected from the nation and by doing so, cause disunity. I realize that this is not what most Yidden think about and to the majority of you, this is a new concept. However, the time for being “Jewishly politically correct” is over. I know you are good people who truly want to keep Torah and Mitzvot and serve Hashem but you must see the whole picture. A Torah way of life is one that is much more than eating glatt kosher, wearing mehadrin Tefillin and learning Daf Yomi. Those are all extremely important and I do not underestimate their value but Yiddishkeit is more… MUCH more. It is being part of a nation, living in the land chosen by our Father and doing whatever we can to establish His Kingdom from that land.
Unfortunately, you haven’t been taught this. I know. I lived in New York for close to 30 years, went to Yeshivot from first grade and attended hundreds of shiurim given by respected Rabbonim. Nobody ever mentioned this concept. Like you, I was taught to keep Torah and Mitzvot, guard my tongue from Lashon Hara and vulgarities, do Chessed, dress modestly and love Hashem. Those are all pillars of our religion and OF COURSE must be observed to the letter of the law, but friends… there’s a whole other side that was hidden from me… and you.
It’s called connecting to the nation and being a part of Am Yisrael, something that unfortunately cannot be done outside the land of Israel. Therefore, you must understand that all the tears on Tisha B’av will not help repair the damage until our nation stands together in Jerusalem. This is what I cry about since I know that it is up to us to build the Bet Ha’Mikdash.
Therefore, this Tisha B’av don’t sit and cry. Say the Kinot in the morning and then use the rest of the day to plan your Aliyah to Israel. Figure out what you need to do professionally. Talk to friends who recently made Aliyah and find out what they did right and wrong. Start the ball rolling – on Tisha B’av – because coming home to Israel is a lot more than what you think. This is what our Rabbis meant when they said that Moshiach is born on Tisha B’av. It means that on that very day, we start the process to come home and reconnect to our nation! It’s that very connection to our nation that actually helps build the third and final Bet Ha’Mikdash.
Remember this final point; I desperately want that Bet Ha’Mikdash but it cannot be built without YOU… yes, YOU!! We need YOU to make that dream possible. Now, let’s stop crying and get to work!