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The word “shavat” in the first kina of Tisha B’Av morning indicates a sudden suspension and cessation of time that accompanied the Temple’s destruction. The destruction day that Jeremiah relentlessly prophesied about, and was relentlessly ignored by the people, suddenly arrived. That day is forever etched in our national memory as a day of destruction, mourning and the absence of routine and time. For example, we do not wear talit or tefillin Tisha B’Av morning. Perhaps the absence of time is a metaphor for the open-ended suffering associated with this day for so many tragedies over so many generations.

On Tisha B’Av we commemorate the destruction of the various communities and individuals who perished al kiddush Hashem. We trace the seeds of these calamities to our exile so many years ago, planted by our forefathers’ refusal to heed the words of the true prophets, and instead harkened to the false prophets who led them astray. Ultimately we acknowledge our culpability for not mending our ways to facilitate the rebuilding of the Temple. As Chazal say, each generation that does not rebuild the Temple is culpable for its destruction.


The Gemara mentions an opinion to read the story of the spies in Parhsat Shlach on Tisha B’Av. Though our custom is different, we still fulfill this opinion in our Shabbat Chazon Torah reading. Parshat Devarim is always read on the Shabbat preceding Tisha B’Av. Moshe retells the story of the spies and the aftermath that led to their punishment to wander the desert 38 additional years till the complete demise of the rebellious generation.

Prior to introducing the spies episode, Moshe retells how they were ready to enter the land and how in a matter of days, without a battle, the land would be theirs. Hashem was anxious to bring them into the land immediately. Moshe recounts how he established a system of Justice before retelling the story of the spies? Why was it necessary to retell the story of establishing the Judiciary at this point?

The requirement to build the tabernacle was fulfilled. However, the Jews could not enter Eretz Yisrael in a state of legal anarchy. The land that rejected the immoral Canaanites would not tolerate Bnei Yisrael imitating their immorality. A system of justice to maintain law, order, peace and harmony was a pre-requisite to entering the land. Once established, they were ready to enter. However, the catastrophe of the spies derailed their march and extended their sojourn in the desert, ultimately denying Moshe’s entry to the land. Had Moshe entered the land and built the Temple, the eschatological vision of Mashiach would have been realized immediately and we would never have been exiled.

The format for our future return will follow the blueprint in Devarim. Only after a full judicial system is established can we reclaim our inheritance and homeland. We reinforce this notion thrice daily in our Shmoneh Esrei. First we ask Hashem blow a powerful trumpet to herald the ingathering of exiles. The next blessing should have been a prayer for rebuilding Jerusalem. Instead we say Hashiva Shoftaynu. The pre-requisite to rebuilding Jerusalem and Temple is the re-establishment of justice. Only then can we successfully rebuild Jerusalem and reestablish our connection with the land and Hashem. The conclusion of the haftarah for Shabbat Chazon shares this theme. “Tziyon b’mishpat tipadeh vshaveha b’tzdaka.” Zion will be redeemed through establishment of justice and her returnees with righteousness. May it be speedily in our days that Tisha B’Av turn from a moed of pain to a moed of joy.

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Rabbi Joshua Rapps attended the Rav's shiur at RIETS from 1977 through 1981 and is a musmach of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan. He and his wife Tzipporah live in Edison, N.J. Rabbi Rapps can be contacted at [email protected].