Devarim - Tisha B'Av 3
Reliving the Day
Devarim - Tisha B'av
This week’s portion falls out a few days before Tisha B’av — the ninth day of the month of Av. It was on this day that our two temples were destroyed. It is the saddest day of the year. We fast and deny ourselves the creature comforts, eating, drinking, leather shoes, marital relations and washing. We sit on the floor and recite kinnos-- sad poems lamenting the loss of the temples.
What are we trying to accomplish on this day? As it says in Psalms "Serve G-d with happiness", why on this day is there a focus on being sad? It seems as if we are crying over spilled milk.
Whenever a special time occurs in the Jewish calendar, we do not observe that day to commemorate the event which took place on that day. We are meant to relive it. The same spiritual energy which was generated on that original day we are reliving, whether it is Pesach and we are reliving the exodus at our seder, or Tisha B’av and we are reliving the destruction of the Temple, this energy is present.
This gives us a unique opportunity to capitalize on this feeling. If it is a happy day, such as Pesach, we are able to reconnect with G-d as we did when we left Egypt and to again experience the freedom our relationship with Him provides us. And for a sad day, such as Tisha B’av, we can again feel this loss. Not to feel despair, or a sense of hopelessness, rather, through reliving the destruction to understand what the Temple was, what led to its destruction, and how we can rebuild it. Tisha B’av is referred to as Moed — an appointed or special time (Eicha—Lamentations 1:15). The word Moed is usually referring to a festival, not a day of tragedy. The reason why Moed is used for Tisha B’av as well is to teach us that although Tisha B’av is a tragic day, it is also a day of hope.
While we sit on the floor and recite the sad poetry, we should be thinking about ways to end our exile. The Talmud teaches us that every generation that does not rebuild the Temple, is considered to have destroyed it (Jerusalem Talmud; Tractate Yoma 38b). This is teaching us an amazing lesson: that we have it in our capacity to rebuild the Temple.
In this week’s portion, the Jewish people are on the cusp of entering the land of Israel. Moshe starts giving his final talk to them, as he knows he will not enter the land with them. One of the reasons Moshe could not enter the land was, were he to enter, the Temple would be a permanent structure, unable to be destroyed. G-d wished that if the Jewish people moved away from Him, He would have a structure on which to display his wrath. When G-d destroyed the Temple, the sanctity had left; He was merely destroying a structure of stone, not His beloved nation. We must keep in mind that even when we move ourselves away from G-d, He still loves us.
Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.