Alternative Thoughts for the Three Weeks

A Question for all Jews

MONDAY, 30 JULY 2012 22:05
Train Tracks

In a recent response regarding fasting on Tish’a b’Av, I wrote:

On this day we do not just commemorate past events; we examine ‘Am Yisrael’s failure to live up to its mission to establish a nation-state based on the principles and precepts of the Tora, and plan how to rectify this state of affairs.

I was somewhat surprised when a reader questioned this statement and requested to know on what basis it was made. Frankly, I wasn’t just surprised; I was perturbed. The reader clearly felt that on Tish’a b’Av we commemorate a tragedy that occurred nearly 2000 years ago, a periodic maintenance of our national memory bank… and that’s it.

But that’s not it at all. What is the purpose of mourning an ancient calamity if not to awaken us to action?

Rambam z’l writes that the purpose of these fast days is to “awaken our hearts and lead us to T’shuva”, because the recollection of our sins and those of our forefathers’, and their concomitant negative results, will cause us to mend our ways (Hilkhoth Ta’aniyoth 5:1). Hazal teach us that HASHEM saw the heart-felt repentance of the people of Nin’we, not their sackcloth (see Yona 3:10; Mishna Ta’aniyoth 2:1; Mishna B’rura 549:1). Fasting is not the purpose; it is a means to an end.

The question is: On what should we be focusing?

The Talmud (TB Yoma 9b), acknowledging that the Jewish people put much energy into the study of Tora during the Second Temple period, asks why the Miqdash was nevertheless destroyed. The initial answer given is Sinath Hinam (baseless hatred).

Some people take this to mean that the sin we are required to address during these days is Lashon HaRa’. Their rationale is that if people cease speaking Lashon HaRa’ there will be less hatred between us, and then…..

And then what?

The unspoken assumption is that the Miqdash will then somehow miraculously materialize. This is why every year, during the month leading up to Tisha’ b’Av, posters appear all over my Jerusalem neighbourhood exhorting people to study the Haphess Hayim’s books on Lashon HaRa’. It is no coincidence that in the background of these posters one will always find an image of the Beth Miqdash. The equation goes like this: Sinath Hinam=Lashon HaRa’, ergo no Lashon HaRa’=no Sinath Hinam=Miqdash. The way to build a Miqdash is to refrain from Lashon Hara’.

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From Machon Shilo, here.

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