The Geese and the Peasants
The story is told of a Chassidic Rebbe who stayed one night in the attic of a simple farmer. Promptly at chatzos (midnight) the Rebbe sat on the floor and began saying Tikkun Chatzos (a prayer said most nights by pious individuals, mourning the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash.) Immediately, a fountain of tears began to flow from his eyes, as he unabashedly mourned our great loss. Soon, his crying became so loud that it aroused the farmer and his wife from their sleep. The concerned farmer quickly knocked on the door and asked if everything is okay. The Rebbe answered that he is simply mourning the Bais Hamikdash. Seeing the puzzled look on the ignorant farmer’s face, the Rebbe began to vividly describe the glory of the Bais Hamikdash and what will be when Moshiach comes. He portrayed all the Jews around the world returning to Eretz Yisroel, unhindered by the influences of the non-Jews. As the Rebbe became more and more excited he grabbed the farmer’s hands and said “Come, let us pray for Moshiach! Perhaps at this moment, the Gates of Heaven are open, and our prayers will be answered!”
“I must ask my wife”, replied the simpleton. He rushed to his wife who looked at him in disbelief. “What?! Leave our farm and our geese and go to Eretz Yisroel?! Absolutely not!”
The farmer returned to the Rebbe with her answer. “Go remind her,” said the Rebbe gently, “about the peasants who are constantly stealing from you and ruining your farm. In Eretz Yisroel you won’t have any of these problems.”
The farmer trudged down the stairs and told his wife the response. After thinking for a moment, her face lit up. “I don’t mind if Moshiach comes, but he should take all the peasants with him to Eretz Yisroel, and leave us with our farm!”
Are we any different than that foolish couple? Each year, when “The Three Weeks” arrives, the time of mourning over the Bais Hamikdash, do we truly mourn the loss, and desire Moshiach’s coming? Or perhaps we just go through the outward motions, and look for legal loopholes. Yes, it is difficult for us to feel the loss, because we don’t really understand what we are missing.
Anyone Who Mourns Jerusalem
Our sages tell us (Bava Basra60b) “Anyone who mourns Jerusalem will merit and see its joy.” The simple implication of “anyone” is, no matter who you are and how little you mourn, you will merit seeing its rebuilding. That means that even now, just by reading these words you have joined the ranks of those who are seeking the redemption! However, this statement is a little difficult. Why is it written in present tense: “he will merit and see its joy,” which implies that right now he will see it. Shouldn’t it have said that he will see it in the near future when it will be rebuilt?
The Mikdash – A Miniature Mount Sinai
In a previous article (The Revelation On Mount Sinai, 5-25) we described how at Mount Sinai we merited the most fabulous revelation in the world’s history. We saw and clearly felt Hashem’s presence and His solitary rule. In addition we merited a feeling of extreme closeness to Hashem. In Shir Hashirim (1:2), the Song of Songs, we yearn once again for that closeness. “Kiss me with the kisses of Your mouth!” This refers to the moment when we heard the Ten Commandments. The Ramban tells us that the Mishkan, which was the forerunner of the Bais Hamidash, was in truth a miniaturization of that spectacular revelation. Meaning, that connection was not a one-time event, it continued in the Mishkan and subsequently the Bais Hamikdash!
When a person entered the Bais Hamikdash he immediately felt and saw Hashem’s presence. There were many miracles that could be instantly witnessed. For example, every morning the Kohen took a small portion of ashes from the altar and threw it on the solid marble floor, where it was swallowed instantaneously, leaving no trace. On the altar was a column of smoke which rose to heaven like a marble pillar. Even on the windiest day, it stayed straight! But that was only a small part of the uniqueness which resulted from Hashem’s presence. Jerusalem (not Disneyland) at the time of the Bais Hamikdash was called “The Happiest Place on Earth” (see Tehillim48). This was because one constantly merited atonement from sins. The joy which resulted from that closeness to Hashem was indescribable.
A Life Of Spirituality
All the above shouldn’t just excite a tzaddik, but every one of us. We know that we were created to serve Hashem, and therefore any spiritual accomplishment brings us more joy than a windfall on Wall Street. And if we lose an opportunity, we are greatly saddened. Even more so, we are saddened by the extreme disgrace of Hashem’s Honor in the world. The power and success of those who profane His name seems unstoppable, and it is extremely painful. Therefore, we yearn for the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash with all our hearts. For then, Hashem’s glory will fill the world, and we will merit to once again be close to Him. All the hindrances in serving Him will disappear and we will soar to great heights of spirituality.
Let us now return to our question. Rav Chaim Volozhiner writes (Nefesh Hachaim 1:4) that the reason why our enemies were able to destroy the Bais Hamikdash was because Hashem’s presence there was just a reflection of His Presence in our hearts. Because we had already driven Hashem from our hearts, all that was left was an empty building, devoid of any holiness. In truth, writes Rav Chaim, we are commanded to make a Mikdash in every generation. This can be fulfilled by returning Hashem’s presence to our hearts.
Once we have brought Hashem back, the physical building will be rebuilt and Hashem will once again dwell there. Thus, one who really mourns the loss of the Mikdash has actually brought Hashem back into his heart, as he shows that life without the Divine Presence is sorely lacking. Spirituality is not just a bonus – it is our life! Thus he already merits now seeing the joy of its return, as the main component of the Mikdash has been already rebuilt. And when enough Jews have done this, it will be immediately reflected by the return of Hashem to the physical building of the Mikdash.
During these three weeks let us try to seek more spirituality in our lives. A few more minutes of daily Torah learning, a little more effort in prayer, and of course, an extra good deed for our fellow man each day. At the same time let us use the different customs of mourning to arouse in ourselves a desire for the return of the Bais Hamikdash. If we do them with feeling and not just by rote we will be included in those who will merit not only to the return of Hashem to our hearts, but also to ultimately see the great happiness of Moshiach.
Rabbi Niehaus was raised in Los Angeles and subsequently attended Yeshivas Toras Moshe in Yerushalayim. He is the Rosh Kollel of the Zichron Aron Yaakov Kollel in Kiryat Sefer. He is also the director of the Chasdei Rivka Free Loan Gemach. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author: Rabbi Eliezer M. Niehaus, raised and educated in Los Angeles and subsequently Yeshivas Toras Moshe in Yerushalayim, is the Rosh Kollel of the Zichron Aron Yaakov Kollel in Kiryat Sefer , Israel. He lectures for the public and is the director of the Chasdei Rivka Free Loan Gemach. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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