What is our response to tragedy?
This Shabbat is actually Tisha B’av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. It is on this day that many of our greatest tragedies took place, most famously, the destruction of the first and second Temples. As Tisha B’av falls out on Shabbat this year, we delay the fast and observances until the Sunday.
What has our response been to all of these tragedies? How have we maintained our link to Jerusalem and our homeland over some two thousand years?
Ever since the Jews were exiled from Jerusalem, we never forgot her. We never stopped hoping that one day we would return. For millennia the mourning of Tisha B’av is what kept our dream alive.
The story is told that once Napoleon was walking through the streets of France, returning from a military victory when he heard strange sounds, of wailing and crying. They made their way to the source of the sounds and found groups of jews sitting on the floor, wearing a washcloth, weeping their eyes out. He asked them why they were crying. They described to him how their holy Temples were destroyed and how so many of their people had been exiled. Enraged, Napoleon asked who did this to them and how could he help them restore their dignity. They explained that it was the ancient Romans who destroyed their temple some 1800 years prior. Napoleon was astounded and responded: “Such a people, who weep over an event that occurred in their distant past.. such a people are destined to have a future. “
Thank G-d we are so fortunate to belong to the generation that liberated Jerusalem and saw her rebuilt. We have lived to see in person what our greatest prophets could only see in a vision. But let us not take this privilege for granted. I call on all of us to become the guardians of Zion. Every one of us must stand up for the one home our people has ever known and the one city our people has loved more than any other. We must make her case known to a world that sometimes fails to see her beauty. To assist, on Tisha B’av eve our Shlichot will be giving us a tour through the various sites of destruction in our holy city and throughout the ages.
With Hashem’s help, we will succeed in our mission, and to quote Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “let us pray that the world make its peace with Israel so that Israel and Israel’s G-d can bring peace to the world”.
I look forward to seeing you over Shabbat and together in Shule over the meaningful day of Tisha B’av.
Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman