Why is it so difficult to mourn for the
? Our problem is that we view exile as normal. What's abnormal has become normal and because our historic memory has dimmed it's difficult to envision who we really could be without exile. The tragedy of the destruction was that it robbed us of our identity. I teach in Neve Yerushalayim. A significant proportion of students come to us after going on the March of the Living. What brings them to Neve is the question, why are our people always singled out? So many thousands of Jews identify themselves as victims. We've suffered so much. Therefore they now want to find out the mystery of why we suffer, as though victimhood is an identity. One cost that our long exile exacted from us is that we forgot who we truly are. Not only did we lose our identity, but we created a new erroneous one defined through suffering.
The identity we are meant to have is stated in the Torah. Hashem said He did not choose us because we were the most numerous of all nations. He chose us because of the merits of our patriarchs. Yet we destroyed our identity and our sacred self- knowledge long before anything external was destroyed. We destroyed the Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov within us. How? The Talmud tells us that the first temple was destroyed because of three major sins. The first was idol worship. You can't worship an idol and Hashem at the same time. An idol is anything you create either by hand or via your imagination to which you attribute control. We give control to many forces such as the medical, political, and financial community. This is not because there's anything wrong with them but because there's something wrong with our relationship towards them. Listen to how we talk- "The doctors say it's beyond help." Did they? And there's nothing else in the picture? Is Hashem's voice emanating from their mouth as though you can't have a direct relationship with Him? We are in exile because we lost ourselves.
There's a person in my shul who was diagnosed with a serious illness. The doctors gave him two weeks to live. Most people would say, "That's the end," and go into deep depression. He decided to be simple, not in the sense of being foolish, but in seeing things as they are. A month later, he's still around. If you ask him how he is he'll say, "Happy and content." This past week when he spoke in shul he said, "People ask me if I'm afraid." In the famous Rav Nachman story of the sophisticated and the simpleton, the story climaxes with the simple son, the one who is direct and clear minded. He knows the king while the sophisticated son is still questioning because he never met the king directly. The man then said, "If the king summons me, I'll be simple. I'll just go. Am I going to someone who hates me, who is going to treat me badly? No, I'm going to the one who I've been calling for years, my father, my king, the one who gave me life and sustenance and a family. Who am I afraid to face?" This person is not in exile like most of us are. If you worship idols, the Yitzchak in you is lost. Yitzchak was completely devoted to Hashem. He took the moment of the
and was able to say, "I'll give myself over to Hashem not only in the great dramatic moments but every day." He initiated spiritual self -discipline. We also lost Avraham who recognized a unifying force and then set out to bring this force into the world by living a life of kindness and justice. A person who has Avraham within him can't be immoral because all immorality is exploitive. If you see the world as beautiful gift from Hashem and you want to be a giver you can't possibly exploit someone. Yaakov was a man of truth. He saw the truth in everyone. If you have Yaakov living inside of you, you can't possibly murder. Before the destruction we lost all this. We were already distant and in exile before we were in exile.
While non- Jews see time as an artificial devise lending structure to life, Judaism views it as having its own force and power. The number nine signifies absolute dissolution and distance from unity. The ninth of Av was a day set aside from the time of creation to be a day of mourning and because of that, horrifying events took place that day. Tisha bav is a time of mourning with all of the divisiveness that hides Hashem's unified presence from us.
means father. In reality it was a time of
(father and son), a time of binding when Hashem's closeness to us was manifested through destruction because we lost our identity. Destruction is something we need consciously. Although we resisted it externally, our souls wanted it. All souls want rectification. The road was cut off by our bad choices. Our souls said no and Hashem did for us what was needed. Beneath the surface any Jew would rather be what our enemies are not and we had to face this confrontation to know that. If one asks where the suffering took us, one must take it back to the destruction of the
which came as a result of losing our identity.