Pain in the Heart-The Bulgaria Bombing & Tisha B’Av

We are now in the saddest period of the year called “The Three Weeks.” This period began two weeks ago on the 17th of Tammuz on the Hebrew calendar, the day that the walls of Jerusalem were first breached prior to the city’s destruction. And it will end in a week, on the 9th of Av, the day the Temple was destroyed, first by the Babylonians (2434years ago) and later by the Romans (1944 years ago). This entire period is considered a time of mourning, and the beginning and end of it are both fast days.

During this time we are forbidden to celebrate weddings, listen to music, purchase new clothing, and do anything material that brings us great joy. But let me ask you this. After close to 2000 years why are we still mourning the destruction of a … building?!

What did this building carry that would cause millions of people to continue grieving over its loss, and praying for its restoration until this very day?

Tisha B'Av does more than commemorate the pain of the destruction of the Temple that happened 2,000 years ago. Pain doesn't last that long. It dissipates. The point of Tisha B'Av, and the Three Weeks leading up to it, is to connect to the pain we are in right now because we don't have the Temple. The loss affects us today.

Tisha B'Av gives us the opportunity to refocus and remember that life today is not whole. We can bring that down to earth by thinking about the major conflicts afflicting the Jewish people today – the existential threats, the Mideast conflict, religious-secular divide, rampant assimilation, confusion and dissent – and realize none of them would exist today if we had the Temple in our midst.

When we had the Temple, there was no question about who had rights to the Land of Israel and to Jerusalem. No one doubted the existence of God. The Jewish people en masse strove to uphold and integrate the teachings of the Torah, becoming the role models of what it means to live a meaningful life. The world recognized Jerusalem as a unique fount of wisdom and connection to the transcendent.

In order to feel the loss of the Temple today, try this exercise. Write down a list of those things in the world that cause you the greatest pain. Write out the greatest threats, physically and spiritually, facing the Jewish people today. And make a list of your own personal issues.

Now think about how each and every one of these items would change if we had the Temple, G‑d's dwelling place, right here, right now. Create your own Tisha B'Av fantasy. We are suffering from all these travails because the Temple was destroyed thousands of years ago.

So on a deeper level, the answer is that the Temple wasn’t a mere structure of bricks and mortar. It was much more than even a life; it was life itself. The Temple was sha’ar ha’shomayim2– a literal gate to heaven. An interface between us humans and the divine. “Build Me a Sanctuary,” G‑d said, “and I will dwell among you.” And this is what we lost.

And as long as the Temple is not rebuilt, we continue to grieve over the loss of this gate that bridged heaven and earth, and pray – and do whatever we can – for the day when the third Temple will be rebuilt. As we are taught: “Every generation in which the Temple is not rebuilt, is considered to be one in which it was destroyed.”

The Talmud says, "All who mourn over (the destruction of) Jerusalem will merit to see her in her joy" (Taanit, 30b). If we realize what the enormity of the loss, we will achingly yearn for it and fully appreciate it when it is rebuilt. May it happen speedily in our days.