Okay. Maybe the title is a little bit of a stretch, but you never know, right?
For me, the most meaningful Tisha B’Av experiences came when I commemorated this somber day while in Israel. We read Eicha at the Haas Promenade in Jerusalem (The Tayelet). It was so incredible the first time I experienced it on a summer trip in high school that when I staffed a summer trip years later, we brought our entire group there. We weren’t the only ones there, with good reason. The Tayelet provides a breathtaking view of Jerusalem. At night, it’s wonderfully illuminated. Yet, as beautiful as it is, it is glaringly incomplete without the most glorious of structures: our Beit Hamikdash. On my second Tisha B’Av night at the Tayelet, I told the program participants to look out at the city in front of them, and to take in the beauty and imagine that landscape as a massive jigsaw puzzle. Then, I asked the participants how it would look if the final piece of the puzzle was missing, rendering the project unfinished. How would they feel? What would they do?Some answered the picture would look complete enough. Some responded they’d make do without the final piece, and revel in the rest of their near perfect accomplishment. Yet, the overwhelming sentiment expressed was one of frustration. Knowing there was so much of the work completed was nice, but without the final piece, the puzzle wasn’t nearly the same. Almost complete, yet significantly incomplete. The situation posed to the program participants was not one made up on the spot, nor one made up at all. The Israel that we have today is truly amazing, but without the Temple, it’s not a finished product. Any slew of buildings can be constructed, but without the Beit Hamikdash, Jerusalem, Israel, and all of us are lacking.
But in reality, there are powerful questions are on my mind, ones that I have a hard time myself answering:
Do I care about the Beit Hamikdash being rebuilt?
Do I mean it when we say I want it to be rebuilt?
Do I daven for it on my own, outside the framework of our fixed, set prayers?
Am I ready for Mashiach and the new Beit Hamikdash?
Some of these questions are easier to answer than others. I think I genuinely care about the Temple being rebuilt. Although there are times when my kavanna wanes from where I want it to be, I do mean it when I recite portions of our sacred liturgy where this inyan is discussed. Other than Mincha on Tisha B’Av and being inspired and comforted by the Nachem prayer in the Shmoneh Esrei, I can probably count how many times I’ve singled out the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash among the other pleas contained in my individual bakashot. Finally, I, along with many of my peers, aren’t ready for Mashiach to be here, but need this redeemer more than ever. The world is ready for the suffering to cease and have answers to the most jarring, painful questions. Yet, when it comes to living our lives as they were when the Temples first stood, that may be an area where we are not as well-prepared at the moment. But we still want. We still mourn. We still cry out. We take solace in the fact that we have the State of Israel, even without a Beit Hamikdash at the moment. Nevertheless, even with the modern-day splendor of our Holy Land, we still yearn, now more than ever, whether we’re ready or not. If the building of the Beit Hamikdash will bring an end to our communal tzar, whenever it comes, we will be ready.
Baruch Menachem Tzion U’Bonei Yerushalaim!