Has it ever concerned you that a few days after we sat on the floor crying and mourning the loss of the Beis HaMikdash, we celebrate Shabbos Nachamu with such festivities? The happiness that we are to experience on Shabbos Nachamu may lead one to question the sincerity of our mourning performed just a few days earlier. Yet, Chazal instituted for these dates to follow one another year after year, and it boggles the mind. Why are these dates so close together?
The truth is that these two events are not contradictory at all, as we will soon see! The Gemara in Ta’anis 30b says that one who mourns the loss of Yerushalayim merits to see the happiness of Yerushalayim. The Chasam Sofer and Rav Chaim Volozhin point out that these words should have been in the future tense; it should have said, “He will merit, and he will see its happiness.” How can we say that he will see it now, when one is sitting on the floor without shoes and not eating or drinking? Why do Chazal say that he is meriting it in the present tense?
The Chasam Sofer and Rav Chaim Volozhin both explain that the Gemara is teaching us that when a person mourns the loss of Yerushalayim that makes Yerushalayim feel alive and real to him. As you will remember when Yaakov Avinu was informed that his son Yosef was killed by a wild animal he could not be consoled. Rashi tells us that there is a decree that one can only be consoled over one who is dead. However, if the person is still alive one cannot be consoled. If one mourns over the loss of Yerushalayim and does not treat it as something dead, which is forgotten, then he will merit right now to see the nechama of Yerushalayim. Mourning the loss of the Beis HaMikdash will lead one to see the joy of Yerushalayim already today.
The only way the Jewish people have remained true to their faith despite having been in exile for close to 2000 years spread out among many different nations and cultures, is the fact that we have the Torah and we keep our mesorah, which connects us back to our roots.
For example, not eating meat during the nine days. The truth is the nine days are hard for many people. But what we have to realize is that the very fact that we have a connection to something that happened almost 2000 years ago is what keeps our people and our religion alive. The fact that we inconvenience ourselves because our Beis HaMikdash was destroyed so many years ago, is the reason that we are still connected to our heritage. It is the halachos and minhagim of mourning that keep us connected to our heritage in galus.
The same holds true regarding the Holocaust. Some people say it is time to forget – to move on – let it go. We know that if we don’t talk about it and tell the next generation about it, in a few more years it will be forgotten. How will they remember the Holocaust in 100 years from now?
The answer is the same way we still mourn the loss of our Beis HaMikdash that was destroyed close to 2000 years ago and we mention in the kinnos stories of Rabi Yishmael’s children who were united in a jail cell whose souls left them out of extreme purity, and we lament the evil crusades and the destruction of the cities of Rishonim in France, and the burning of the Gemaras in the 13th century in France, and the Inquisition in Spain, etcetera, we will continue to connect to our past and our heritage, and these events will never be forgotten, and we will remain linked to our eternal chain of mesora.
The greatest revenge that we can take on the Nazi’s and all of our oppressors throughout history is to commemorate our losses and use them to ensure our continuity. By commemorating them we are connecting ourselves with our ancestors and making our mesora stronger.
As long as the Jewish people remain connected to their heritage by performing the halachos and minhagim of mourning events of the past, they will preserve their mesora for the future. By treating the Beis HaMikdash as if it is still alive in our minds, we are in fact revitalizing it. This is why the Gemara says that one will merit to see the happiness in the present tense.
May we all be zoche v’roeh – merit to see today in our lifetime the nechama and the simcha of Yerushalayim habenuya, amen.