Whether it is up on the Temple Mount, or down below by the Western Wall, whether it is a conflict with other religions or within the different streams of Judaism, something that has been missing from our national and spiritual lives for 2,000 years insists on thrusting itself onto our consciousness again and again.
Inexplicably, Jewish movements and organizations that reject the right of Jews to live in the “occupied” Old City insist on gaining a presence at Ground Zero of the Middle East conflict.
Most of the waves of violence over the past seventeen years, starting with the Al-Aksa Intifada of 2000, have centered around the Temple Mount. Now our Arab neighbors, who cheerfully pass through metal detectors whether they are coming to pick up their monthly Social Security checks or go to Mecca for the Haj refuse to do so on the Temple Mount.
God is talking to us via current events. Do we know how to listen? Do we even understand what we are missing from our spiritual lives?
The Mishnah (Taanit 4:8) says the phrase in Shir Sashirim “The Day of the Rejoicing of His Heart” refers to the building of the Temple. In Pirkei Avot we read: “The world is based on three things: Torah, avodah [service], and gemilut chassadim [charitable acts].”
Torah? There is more Torah study today than ever before.
Chesed? There are more non-profits, gemachs, fundraisers, and donors than ever before.
What is avodah? Three times a day we beseech God to “Return the avodah to the Sanctuary of Your House.” In the Shema prayer we say about avodah: “And to serve him with all our heart.”
So the Temple is an affair of the heart. This is what is missing from our lives. The Temple was the place where we experienced a deep, mystic, emotional relationship with God – something we can hardly imagine. Subconsciously we have begun more and more to feel this great void in our lives. We may not even be aware of it – but even those distant from us feel it.
Wave after wave of conflict has been named or blamed on our relationship (or lack of relationship) with the Temple Mount. Personally, I have never ascended the mount and I am not talking now about the practical questions of whether we should go there or not. I am talking about the fact that there is a whole dimension of religious/emotional experience that is demanding to return to our lives.
This is what fueled the original chassidic movement – the initial attempt to bring the heart back into Judaism. This is what is behind the new wave of Chassidut Eretz Yisrael or neo-chassidism which is sweeping the younger generation in Israel.
This is what explains the many problems we have with educating our youth – they see us go through the motions without the emotions. They see us recite our prayers by rote, perform the commandments without feeling – and it just doesn’t hack it for them anymore. We need to put our hearts back into our spiritual lives.
This is the revolution Makor Chaim is leading in Israel. This was the unforgettable message of those three weeks of Jewish unity three summers ago when the entire Jewish world held its breath together during the search for the three murdered boys. This is the feeling we should hold on to as we approach Tisha B’Av. It is hard to try to love the Unknowable and we must try to do so by loving our fellow man, created in His image.
Rav Kook wrote (Orot HaKodesh 3:324): “If we, and the entire world with us, were destroyed by unjustified hate, we shall return to be built and the world will be built with us – by unjustified love.”