Experiencing Loss & Redemption (Tisha B’Av)

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Last year I shared a mashal from the Arvei Nachal and words of insight from Rabbi Benzion Twerski on a way to approach this season and grow from it.

A year later, here we are again. Has anything changed? 

As I reflect on Kinnah 31, I am brought once again to the struggle that I’m sure we all face.

How do we feel the pain of the loss of the Beis Hamikdash? We weren’t there. I know I’m not the first person to wrestle with this, nor will I be the last. 

I’d like to quote a passage from Bilvavi’s commentary on the Nine Days…

“It may be difficult for most of us to imagine what it was like when we had a Beis Hamikdash. How can we conjure up an image or feeling for something that we never experienced? People read the stories and explore history of the destruction but still find it difficult to identify and feel real pain and cry.Consequently, most of us are unable to readily feel true pain for the destruction of something which we never saw.”

Hopefully we can make a change today.
Hopefully we can connect with this loss.
Hopefully today’s tears will bring Geulah.

How do we connect with an abstract concept? Our Yiddishkeit today is so far removed from Temple life. We no longer live in an agrarian society that is centered around Temple offerings. Of course we have a kesher to it in some fashion – reciting korbonos before shacharis and mincha, davening shemoneh esrei as our appointed offering times, washing negel vasser like the Kohanim. But that’s not an emotional tether, not in the way we need it to be. 

Reflecting on our situation, I have found three ways to help better connect to our loss. It’s not fully there, but it’s a start. 

The first way to better connect to the loss of the Beis Hamikdash is to draw a comparison. In part, that’s what this Kinnah is doing. 

Our community has experienced significant loss this past year. Pillars have left us behind, reeling from their absence in our daily lives. Whether it was leaving this city or leaving this world, their absence is a void that simply can’t be filled. That is one way we can try to connect and better understand this loss. When we mourn for the relationships absent in our lives today, we can better understand the mourning we should have for the Beis Hamikdash. 

The loss of our Holy Temple is not simply a loss of sacrifices or ritualistic culture. We have managed to preserve this in our seder of tefillos. Rather, what we lost, that we don’t even recognize, is closeness to G-d. 

The legacy of those that left us this past year will still be felt for some time to come. As new faces emerge in our kehilla, they’ll hear of the legacy of these individuals, but they won’t be as personally touched by it. They won’t have the experiences we all have had with these cherished neshamos. In that way, they’ll have a point of reference, but they don’t really see the depth of that relationship that used to be. 

The same goes for us with HaShem. 

This is the second method we can utilize to attempt to better connect with the loss. 

Of course HaShem is available and we can connect to Him, but no longer in the same way. All of our work we do, the mesiras nefesh, the shteiging, all of us to lead us to a deveikus. All our growth, all our attainments, the yiras shamayim, kedusha, and tahara. All the efforts to continue to grow in ruchniyus…is nothing compared to when we had the Temple. 

According to the Vilna Gaon, when the Temple stood, the light it cast on klal yisroel lifted up even the simplest Jew to a spiritual level we cannot even begin to comprehend today. 

When I reflect on the idea of losing a structure I never experienced, I find myself lacking. 

When I reflect on the losses I have been hit by this past year, I begin to mourn. 

And when I realize that all the work I do to feel close to HaShem, that I could be so much closer but am unable to because of the destruction of the Temple…there’s a pain there I struggle with. 

Our sole purpose in this world is to grow close to HaShem. To know that my life’s mission here is in a way handicapped because of this, and that I am at fault for the destruction…there’s a deep-seated sorrow that begins to form. 

It’s our fault that the Temple hasn’t been rebuilt yet. Thus, it’s our fault that we’re so distant from our Creator. 

For me, that’s enough to start with to begin to learn to mourn the loss of the Temple. 

This Kinnah is the third approach. 

This piece contrasts the jubilance of leaving mitzrayim to the mourning of leaving Yerushalayim. It’s an interesting work that translates well into our lives. 

When one leaves a community for another, especially in smaller communities, it’s inevitable to feel mixed emotions. On one hand, it’s like going to Yerushalayim. There are new opportunities, new challenges, a new frontier. In this way, we feel free to redefine in a new way, like leaving mitzrayim.

On the other hand, it’s like being sent to Galus – becoming disconnected from friends and family, facing uncertainty, scared of the future. Will it really work out? Did I make the right choice? What if I’m wrong? In this way, these doubts, the unknown, is like being sent out of Yerushalayim. 

Change and growth is inevitable – we just need to work on ourselves to change and grow in a direction of kedusha. 

So, too, the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash was inevitable. Adam HaRishon was aware of this from the beginning of Galus, that of Gan Eden. 

Just as we hold to the promise of redemption of our Temple, so too we hold to the promise of Olam HaBa in Gan Eden. 

So why a day like today? Why is HaShem, in a way, hidden from us? So we can mourn. So we can feel the loss. So we can desire that relationship, and the Temple, once again.

As we mourn the loss of our Temple and being sent out of Yerushalayim, it’s essential we remember the verses in this Kinnah, and recall the joy when we leave our Galus of Egypt to the Holy Land. In this way, we can merit an end to our current Galus and look forward to entering the Holy Land in welcome embrace once again.