|Tisha B'Av: Making this Fast the Last Fast
AS WE PREPARE to observe the fast day of Tisha B'Av, the day of mourning on which both the first and second Holy Temples were destroyed, and many other calamities befell the Jewish people, we recall that Zechariah the prophet (8:19) tells us that our days of mourning will be turned into days of gladness: "The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth will be to the house of Judah for joy and for gladness, and for happy festivals."
INDEED, TISHA B'AV was not intended to be a day of perpetual mourning, but rather, a bridge to the future; the yearning and desire which our mourning inspires is designed to motivate us to rebuild. But what will it take for the people of Israel to begin rebuilding of the Holy Temple? Are we indeed moving closer to that day? Today we hear many excuses, such as "who are we to rebuild the Temple? We are not ready. The time has not yet come. The Temple is a thing of the past." Indeed, a new poll reveals that approximately half the people of Israel are ready to rebuild the Holy Temple. But actually this is nothing new: The prophet Hagai, who exhorted his generation to rebuild the Temple, heard the very same excuses. "Thus said the L-rd, Master of Legions: This nation has said, 'the time has not yet come.' But I say, It is time for the Temple of G-d to be rebuilt!" (Haggai 1). The moving verses in the first chapter of the book of Haggai make it clear that the Holy Temple is the source of all blessing in this world, and its absence results in decay and ruination for all. "And the word of the L-rd came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, saying: Is this a time for you yourselves to sit in your paneled houses, while this House is in ruins? So now, thus said the L-rd... set your heart to consider your ways! You have sown much but bring in little; eating without being satisfied, drinking without quenching thirst, dressing, yet no one is warmed, and whoever earns money earns it for a purse with a hole." These verses indicate that all the world's physical blessings emanate from the service of the Holy Temple, and its absence brings devastation. But now as then, G-d tells us that it is within our power to rebuild the Holy Temple: "Thus says the L-rd... Set your heart to your ways! Go up to the mountain and bring wood and build the Temple! I will be pleased with it and I will be honored... You looked for much produce, but behold, it is little; you bring it home and I blow upon it. Why is this? Because of My Temple which is ruined, while you run, each to his own house." (Haggai 1:7-10).
THE FACT IS, a great revolution is taking place in Israel even as we speak. More and more people identify with the values and spiritual goals that the Holy Temple represents for our lives; this past Rosh Chodesh (beginning of the new month), a record 12,000 people came to encircle the Temple Mount and pledge allegiance to Jewish sovereignty on the Mount and the building of the Temple; cohanim, men of priestly descent, are ordering priestly garments for themselves as a sign of their dedication and preparedness to serve in the Temple; the ancient recipe for the Showbread has been rediscovered, bringing Israel another step closer to the resumption of the Divine service, the list of changes in attitudes, accomplishments and achievements goes on and on...
THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL are healthy, honest and committed to both their heritage and their future. The past is close behind, but we look towards our destiny. The renewal of Israel and the building of the Holy Temple is a process that has begun and is now unstoppable. Israel knows intuitively that the Holy Temple is the secret of the peace they so fervently seek. They refuse to be sold a bill of goods; that includes concessions and empty promises of peace, as well as the cycle of mourning and the endless excuses that lead nowhere. This nation is preparing to "rise up like a lion" (Numbers 23:24). We are moving ever closer to the day on which we can truly say, without jaded cynicism or facetiousness but with true sincerity, that Tisha B'Av is no longer relevant, for it will have turned into a day of gladness. This will be the day we have waited for, the day of the L-rd, the day when Israel and the nations walk in the light of G-d. It can't be much longer.