A Time to Mourn

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


A Time to Mourn: Why the Destruction of the Temples is Still Relevant 

Contact Rabbi Spero at 862-9546 or

The time starting from the previous Thursday, 17th of Tammuz (July 20th), up to and including the 9th of Av (August 10th), is known as the “three weeks”. This is more than a mere designation of time. This is the time of year when we mourn the loss of the Temple.

Amongst other things, the 17th day of Tammuz is the day the daily sacrificial offering stopped (during the time of the first Temple), the walls of the Temple were breached (during the second Temple), and an idol was placed in the sanctuary (during the second Temple).

The 9th of Av is the day on which both Temples were destroyed. There are more recent events to remind us of the sadness of this day. This is, amongst other events, the day of the expulsion from Spain, and the day on which World War One started, which in effect was a prelude to World War Two.

The obvious question begs to be asked: Ever since 1948, when the State of Israel came into existence, why do we insist on remembering the destruction of the Temple? We have the Land of Israel.

In order for us to understand this, we must first understand the significance of the Temple, and what caused its destruction.

When G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people, it was an eternally binding contract, regardless of where the Jewish people were. However, there was one place, a special place that G-d had chosen which was most conducive to Jewish growth (similar to football, which can be played on any surface, but a flat field of grass is most conducive to its play), a place where even the mundane physical activity of farming took on special meaning with hundreds of ways to gain closeness with G-d. This place was Israel. The Jewish people only received Israel on the condition they would keep the Torah, or else the Land would vomit them out.

And the purpose of the Temple in Israel afforded the Jews the opportunity to have a place where G-d’s presence would be most closely felt (obviously G-d does not need a special house, but we who relate to G-d on our level need a special place to relate to Him). This gave them a sense of the “Absolute” sense of G-d. Within that absolute there were many different paths. In fact, the Midrash relates there were 12 different doors to be used for the 12 tribes, thus showing that each tribe should develop its own way to serve G-d.  However, there still was a sense of right and wrong, and as diverse as the Jews were, as diverse as G-d wanted them to be, there still was an absolute set of values.

The situation in Israel today is comparable to that of a wedding where everything is set to go, the food is ready, and the groom waits under the wedding canopy. Only one thing is missing: the bride. The bride in our case is the Presence of G-d.

We commemorate these 3 weeks not merely to feel bad about what we once had and now lost, but rather to grow and rectify the mistakes we once made.  Amongst others, the Talmud mentions two reasons the 2nd Temple was destroyed: 1. The Jews had baseless hatred towards each other (Gittin 55a-b), and  2. They omitted  the morning blessing before studying Torah (Nedarim 81a). We must accept upon ourselves to love our fellow Jews, and to treat the Torah with respect,    i.e., not only to learn Torah, but to obey it, as opposed to deciding how we want to interpret the Torah. May we merit to better love our fellow man and the Torah, and may the Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days.


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