"Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there."
It is a basic tenet of Torah study that, "there is no chronological order in Torah," or literally, that there is no "before" and "after." It is the exclusive prerogative of the Torah itself to determine the order of its own narrative, and it is the challenge, responsibility and great privilege of Torah scholars and students alike, to learn out from this what the Torah is intending to impart.
Tonight begins the twenty-five hour fast of Tish'a b'Av, (the ninth of Av), commemorating the destruction of the first and second Temples. Here in Israel, even before the sun sets and the fast day officially begins, tens of thousands of Jews will begin streaming into the Western Wall Plaza. From the four corners of the land of Israel they will arrive and congregate together in the shadow of the place of the Holy Temple. Many will stay for the twenty-five hour duration. Others will pay what they feel to be an essential visit to the site and then move on. By the time the fast ends with the appearance of the stars in the Thursday evening sky, hundreds of thousands will have passed along the western wall of the Temple Mount complex.
A stranger from another planet, or even from another country, could be excused if, upon witnessing what transpires, expressed utter bewilderment: The white bearded elderly arrive, often carrying a mattress to stay the night. Young men and children arrive. Women and girls arrive, some in the modest dress indicative of their religious upbringing, others in the latest fashions. Infants in buggies, perhaps their first trip to the wall. Young men in kippot, other with jell and spiked hair. Kids with piercings and kids with tattoos. Religious men with broad hats, others donning the cardboard yarmulkes which can be obtained at the Wall. Groups of men and groups of women sitting upon the ground are wailing in lament. Boys are high-fiving, girls are embracing. Young people are talking excitedly, laughing, not having seen one another for months or years, this one in the army, that one at university. One great cacophonous mass of Jewish humanity together in the shadow of the Holy Temple, where the heavens greet the earth, where G-d's presence, the shechinah, shines forth touching all humanity.
How can this be our visitor enquires? Are you people not mourning for your Holy Temple? Shouldn't your mood be somber, shouldn't your voices be hushed?
Every Jew is taught, and imbibes with his mother's milk, that Tish'a b'Av, the sorrowful day of our nations greatest calamities, will someday be celebrated with unbridled joy, when the Holy Temple is standing once again in its place upon the holy mount. There is no "before" and "after" in Torah. And in the life of the nation of Israel, as perceived in the light of the truth of Torah, and the destiny and destination assigned to this people, there is certainly no "before" and there is certainly no "after!" The kids, the younger generation assembling and greeting one another at the gates to the Holy Temple, for them the future has arrived, the Holy Temple is within their grasp, it is so close! The old folks? They, too, are part of the Torah time warp. They wail with great heartfelt emotion, but they too know in their heart of hearts that the day of the Holy Temple is drawing near.
Our perplexed guest can be excused if, from within this sea of unity and good will, he cries out in consternation, "But where is the gratuitous love that your sages say must precede the building of the Holy Temple?" It swarms and pulsates all around him!
Our guest can be excused if he points to the mosque that sits on the southern extremity of the Mount, or to the Dome of the Rock that is perched upon the site of the Holy of Holies, and expounds, "The reality has changed, the Holy Temple can no longer be!" But it is only the mosque that crowds his spirit, and the Dome that covers his heart that form an obstacle to the will of G-d from becoming manifest, to the pure energy of this people from maintaining its course!
"Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there." (Zechariah 8:4-5)
Yes, the old men uttering lamentations, and the boys and girls who gather at nightfall on the 9th, and with joy and with laughter will greet the new dawn, together they are the living words of the prophet. Shoulder to shoulder, and with one heart, the Holy Temple will be rebuilt.
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven get honest about the 9th of Av. Why are we still mourning? Back in the land of Israel after 2000 years of exile can we afford to let ourselves simply mourn the loss of the Holy Temple, year after year? Moses saw it crystal clear over 3000 years ago: the Jew, every Jew, belongs in the land of Israel. The Jew in the land, the Jew who has truly returned, will rise up and build the Holy Temple. It's time to let the exile go, from our hearts and from our souls, and attach ourselves to the Torah of the land of Israel.