Wednesday, July 30, 2008

“I Will Lament Each Year”

Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Al churban Bais Hamikdosh,
Ki horas vechi hudash,
Espod be’chol shana veshana
Misped chodosh
Al hakodesh, ve’al haMikdosh.

Over the destruction of the Bais Hamikdosh
That was razed and that was trampled
I will lament each year, every year, a new lamentation
Over the holiness and over the Mikdosh.

-From the kinnos of Tisha B’Av authored by Rabi Elazar HaKalir [Kinah 24]

“A person who happens upon his friend who is an aveil (one who is mourning for a parent) within twelve months of his loss should speak to him words of condolence,” we are told in a Baraisa in Maseches Moed Koton. “But he should not ask how he is…”

“After twelve months,” the passage continues, “he should ask him how he is doing, but should not speak to him words of condolence. He may, however, offer him consolation obliquely.

“Rabi Meir says that a person who meets his friend who was an aveil, after twelve months and yet speaks to him words of condolence, to what can he be compared? To a man whose leg was broken and then healed. A doctor meets him and says, ‘Come to me, for I will break your leg and heal it. Then you will know that I am a good healer.’”

Raising the subject of a person’s loss after he has had due time to grieve and heal is improper, as it inflicts the hurt all over again.

But the loss of the Bais Hamikdosh is different. We are meant to feel it anew each year. The wounds are fresh. They can never go away.

The Gemara (ibid) teaches that an aveil, after three days of shivah, may visit another aveil’s house. This halacha, says Tosafos, is what we rely on when we go to shul on Tisha B’Av. Our mourning on Tisha B’Av is like the mourning of an aveil during shivah after the first three days.

Every year, we mourn the loss of the Bais Hamikdosh, we mourn over Yerushalayim, and we mourn the exile of the Shechinah. We also mourn the millions of Jews who died.

Our grief over the slaughtered members of Klal Yisroel goes back not just 2,000 years to the churban of the second Bayis. It goes back 2,500 years, to the churban of the first Bais Hamikdosh. Using the words of Yirmiyahu Hanovi in Eicha, we cry in the night, for the kohanim and elders who expired in the streets, for the babies, and for the young women and young men who fell by the sword.

Their blood merges with the blood of the millions more murdered by the Romans during the second destruction. Into it flows the blood of the untold numbers killed in Persia and Arabia in the centuries following, and later in the darkness of the Middle Ages.

Mi yitein roshi mayim,” weeps the author of the kinah for the martyred Jews of Worms, Speyer and Mainz, murdered nine hundred years ago in the First Crusade. Though they were massacred in the days leading up to Shavuos, the day we mourn them all is Tisha B’Av.

Vechi ein lehosif mo’ed shever vesaveira,” the mourner declares. One does not add a day to the calendar for new destructions and holocausts. Therefore, on this day we raise our grief. And thus, into the same stream flows still another river, from the darkness of the twentieth century, of the blood and tears of the Six Million. And to that we add the tragedies of the 21st century and the Jews who have been murdered in Eretz Yisroel on busses, in cars, in their homes and in the street, by bombs, bulldozers, and everything in between.

For every generation that does not see the building of the Bais Hamikodosh in its day, it is as if it was destroyed in its day.

And to our sorrow - the sorrow of every generation - the wounds of the people of Bais Yisroel are felt fresh each year in more than ancient memories. The task during the Nine Days, which begin this Shabbos, is to connect our practices with our awareness.

Like aveilim, we abstain from music, fresh clothes, swimming, haircuts, shaving and much more. It is the least we can do to express our participation in mourning over what we have lost. While we are observing these manifestations of mourning, we seek to transform them into genuine expressions of grief as we contemplate what we have lost.

The fundamental mourning of Tisha B’Av is for the Churban Habayis, the cessation of the avodah and the departure of the Shechinah from Yerushalayim.

The destruction of the Bais Hamikdosh was accompanied by endless slaughter. It was the starting point of the exile. The millions of tragedies and losses we have endured in the golus since then are all traced to that day.

Like aveilim, we mourn the Jews whose bodies lay in the streets of Yerushalayim and those whose lives were ended in the Kovno Ghetto and Auschwitz. We conduct ourselves as aveilim, mourning the loss of fellow Jews as though they were our own flesh and blood. We mourn them year after year and still without any consolation.

We imagine the day of consolation and redemption from what plagues us, with the Jewish people as a vibrant, fruitful nation, thriving in its land, blessed with abundance.

Peace will reign. All the enemies around will have been forever vanquished. Internally, our people will live in harmony. No hatred, no vilification, no crime and no inequity.

All the inhabitants of the land will be decent, kind, compassionate and honest. They will be keepers of the mitzvos, steeped in Torah. All the children will be learned of Hashem.

True justice will prevail in the land. Corruption will have been wiped out. Emes, tzedaka and chessed will be the bywords of society.

The economy will be in permanent upswing. Six days they will work, but on the seventh, everything will shut down. The banks, businesses, farms and factories will be closed. The entire workforce will be in the bais medrash. Shabbos will be a holy day to Hashem - for everyone.

Every seventh year, the field will lie fallow. No one will lack for food and produce that year - and every year.

No one will have to work on Chol Hamoed ever again. Yomim Tovim will be joyfully celebrated by all. Content and pleased, happy with our lives, we will all converge on Yerushalayim, bringing our little shepselach along with us on Erev Pesach, Bikkurim fruits on Shavuos, and our lulavim and esrogim proudly aloft as we make the trek for Sukkos.

The Aseres Yemei Teshuvah will culminate with the kohen gadol, dressed in pure white, entering the Kodesh Hakodoshim on Yom Kippur and being mispallel for the continued welfare of the nation. The scarlet thread will turn white, and all of Klal Yisroel will rejoice. For we will all know that Hashem has forgiven his people.

As we mourn for the loss of Yerushalayim, we lament not only the physical destruction, but all else that was lost. We mourn the loss of the Botei Mikdosh and we mark all the pain that the Jews have experienced since that day of destruction.

We mourn all the episodes of machlokes that have resulted from the golus we are in and the loss of the Urim Vetumim and the yedios haTorah that have become weakened through the ages of Diaspora.

We mourn the loss of so many innocent souls who became swept up in Communism, bundism, Haskallah, Zionism, Yiddishism, and many other substitutes for the truth, dreamed up by Jews who had strayed too far from home. We mourn the Jews lost in this blessed country because their parents and grandparents thought that it couldn’t work here and threw their Judaism overboard as they crossed the great ocean to the goldeneh medinah.

We also mourn those innocent simple souls who were led astray throughout the ages because they hungered for something more and different, those who were drawn in by Shabsai Tzvi, Solomon Schechter, Moses Mendelson, Chaim Weiss-man, Mordechai Kaplan and all the other Pied Pipers of sheker.

During these days, we also mourn the loss of the Jews who moved to Eretz Yisroel to hasten the geulah and were felled by marauding Arabs, by pestilence, by rampant disease and by hunger and starvation.

Every year that the Bais Hamikdosh has not been rebuilt, there is so much more to mourn. We can easily be overcome with sadness and melancholy as we reflect on our sorry state. But we must not grow despondent. We must channel that gloominess to drive us to repent for our sins which cause us to remain in this golus state of limbo. As we stare in the mirror at our oily and unkempt hair, we should reflect on the sinas chinom that prevents the arrival of Moshiach and resolve to become better people.

I remember the time I went fundraising with Rav Avrohom Golombeck zt”l, the mashgiach of the Philadelphia Yeshiva, who was niftar this week after a long, tragic illness.

He would go once a year to Pittsburgh to raise money for the yeshiva and twice I was selected to go with him. I was overcome by Rav Avrohom’s determination to help the yeshiva and how he wouldn’t let anything get in the way of his mission.

I recall going to a certain home one evening on behalf of the yeshiva. We knocked on the door and the woman of the house said she wouldn’t let us in. Not only that, but she sent out a big dog to chase us away. The dog stood there barking at us and I was petrified out of my mind.

Rav Avrohom said, “We’re not going anywhere. We are standing right here until her husband comes out, apologizes, and gives us a check.” I started walking away. He grabbed me and said, “You aren’t going anywhere. We are here for the yeshiva and the dog will not hurt us.”

As I stood there embarrassed to the core and scared of that dog, Rav Avrohom stood in all his glory like a proud Yid on a mission to support Torah.

Boruch Hashem, after what seemed like an eternity, the husband came out, apologized profusely, and wrote out a check for $100.

With that, thankfully, we got back into the car and headed to the next address on the list.

Rav Avrohom taught me a lesson that day that I have never forgotten. It was a lesson about who we are, why we are here, and the lengths to which we have to go to support Torah and bring the geulah.

Let us all do our missions without fear or fuss and prepare the world for the arrival of Moshiach speedily in our day.


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