The articles in this column are transcriptions and adaptations of shiurim by Rav Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l.
Chilul Hashem, desecration of Hashem’s name, is a prominent motif of Kinot Tisha B’Av. In the kinah “Zechor Hashem Meh Hayah Lanu,” the chachmay ha’kaballah define galut, exile, in terms of s’chi u’maos, treated like refuse and scum by the other nations. Hashem’s great name was desecrated because the name of the Jewish nation was desecrated. Hashem is, kvayachol, in exile together with us. If Jews are treated with contempt, then kvayachol, so is Hashem. The midrash comments on the verse “Kuma Hashem v’yafutzu oy’vecha”: does Hashem have enemies? This refers to the enemies of Hashem’s chosen nation. Anyone who attacks the Jewish people also attacks Hashem. An enemy of the Jewish people is an enemy of God.
Chazal tell us that various nations entered the Temple to loot it after its destruction. Amon and Moab refused the gold and treasure; instead they wanted to vilify the Jewish people as hypocrites for preaching against idolatry while they worshiped the Cherubim in their Holy of Holies. This was the ultimate desecration of the Jewish people and Hashem’s name. Our enemies were not content to destroy us physically. They wanted to contradict and deny the notion that the Jewish people are chosen by God. No matter how accepted the Jew may be in corporate and social circles, he is always distrusted. Fundamentally, the nations of the world dislike us. Our presence irritates them. There is a certain tension between Jew and umot ha’olam that divides us. They attack us for our behavior even when we exceed the standards they hold themselves to. Witness the contempt the world displays in the infamous Goldstone and recent UN Gaza reports. The tension between Jew and non-Jew is one of the motifs of Tisha B’Av.
Jeremiah lamented “Karati l’mahavay hayma rimuni,” I called to my friends and they deceived me. On Tisha B’Av we examine kiddush (sanctification) versus chilul (desecration) of shem shamayim. As the scope of the Holocaust unfolded, the tragedy of the 6 million kedoshim was amplified by the desecration of Hashem’s name and the Jewish people. Non-Jewish missionaries exulted in their arguments that God rejected the Jewish people. Such statements against the Jews desecrate God’s name. Medinat Yisrael is a major refutation of the narrative of these missionaries. They can’t abide the rejuvenation of the Jews in Israel and Jerusalem. The church’s approach to Israel and Jewish control of Jerusalem has been very negative because it contradicts their viewpoint that the Jews have been rejected.
Maaseh avot siman l’banim. We painfully appreciate Jeremiah’s words today, as Churban delayed the realization of the great eschatological promise and ultimately led to the desecration of Hashem’s name. We see a world that dismisses the Jewish State and treats the Jew as sub-human just a short time after the Holocaust. We call to “friends” who claim to have our back yet constantly undermine and belittle us, whether it relates to an enemy that overtly wants to destroy us or by placating our clandestine foes that seek to boycott, divest and sanction us out of existence. We are deceived by friends who refuse to recognize our rights to West Jerusalem, let alone East Jerusalem, and eagerly desert us and make common cause with our enemies. The destruction of the Temple thousands of years ago reverberates today in the contempt shown us by the nations of the world who consider us s’chi u’maos.
Chazal tell us five tragedies occurred on Tisha B’Av: the spies incited the people against entering the land, both Temples were destroyed, Beitar fell, Bar Kochba died, Jerusalem was plowed under in an attempt to blot out the memory of the Temple. When Hakalir talks about churban, he includes tragedies from both temples as well as the loss of the 10 tribes. Chazal tell the story of the exiles who passed by the Ishmaelites who fed them salty foods and gave them empty flasks that led to their deaths. We don’t know which temple is referred to; this pattern possibly occurred in both churbanot. Chazal mention all the churbanot because all these tragedies identify with this day. We express in kinot that we lack permission to introduce fixed days (moed) to our calendar to commemorate other national tragedies. Tisha B’Av is the designated day to commemorate all these events. It is most appropriate, as this day was designated for mourning millennia ago, on the fateful day the spies returned and melted the hearts of Bnei Yisrael with their deceitful report regarding the land and its inhabitants.