As we approach the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, we are once again asked and called upon to mourn over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. This particular year, the notion of mourning for a tragic event that took place nearly two thousand years ago seems more distant than ever. Yes, of course, the destruction of the holiest site in Judaism was a terrible tragedy but one can fairly ask with everything going on in the chaotic times of 2020, we have more pressing things on our mind. From a raging pandemic that’s wreaking havoc across the globe with vast numbers of people succumbing to this new illness and countless folks around the world in economic ruin, it seems a little bit out of place to mourn over a tragedy that occurred nearly two thousand years ago!
It’s important to remember that the mandate to mourn on Tisha B’av is not simply for the destruction of the Jewish Temple/ Beis Hamikdash. That tragic event reflected a new world order that we are still suffering from. The world at that time when into a state of Hester Panim or G-d’s concealed face. The basic understanding of this is that although G-d’s presence is always in this world, the manifestation of His presence is far less profound and significant than in earlier generations. The destruction of the holiest site in Judaism reflected the reality of a spiritually bereft world. Unfortunately, we have only slipped further in our state of Hester Panim. This somewhat explains an issue that has vexed our community of faith for centuries. We struggle to reconcile how a just and benevolent G-d can allow such pain and tragedy to occur in this world. While this question can never fully find a satisfactory answer, understanding the concept of Hester Panim gives us some context. This spiritually bereft world with G-d’s hidden face begins to explain (but not fully) how there can be such pain and tragedy in the times that we find ourselves in. The partial removal of His presence allow blessings to be absent and curses to multiply. When we sit on the floor and mourn on Tisha B’av it would be worthwhile to not only reflect on the awful consequences of Hester Panim but also to pray for the day when G-d’s face is no longer hidden from us but revealed to us in the fullest way possible with our people reunified in a rebuilt Beis Hamikdash in Jerusalem!
Have a Peaceful Shabbos,
Rabbi Yaakov Fisch