Throughout the year, many of us do not usually think too much about the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, but the Talmudic Sages wanted us to.
They suggested we always leave a part of our home renovation unfinished to remind us of the destruction and to break a glass at the conclusion of a wedding to keep us focused on the Temple. We observe rabbinically instituted fast days to commemorate the destruction.
So why was this so central for the Sages?
Put otherwise, why should we still be upset over the fact that we don’t have a Temple today?
I have thought about this for a while and — putting aside for now the whole (important) animal sacrifice piece (trust me, as a vegan rabbi I do have a lot to say on this!) — for me, this can be answered on a personal, national and global front.
Here are a few reasons why I will mourn the loss of the Temple on Tisha B’Av – which will be observed tonight, July 29, and tomorrow, July 30 — based on the promises of the Bible and the Sages regarding the future messianic days.
On a personal level, our lives in future days will be me much more enhanced, relaxed and enjoyable. In the later stages of the Temple period, our suffering will be alleviated. We will be able to earn a living in a respectable way. There will be great opportunities to learn Torah and progress in spirituality.
Extreme closeness to Hashem will be easier for all of us to achieve.
“In that era,” Maimonides tells us, “there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor strife, because good will emanate in abundance and all delightful things will be accessible as dust. The one preoccupation of the entire world will be solely to know G‐d.”
In these later stages of the messianic period, people will just get along. We will finally be able to rest and feel secure. And we will be free to use our energies to maximize our potential and grow in spirituality.
On a national level, the Temple will be something special. Imagine a physical center that the world looks to for blessings and Torah, the most beautiful building with amazing services. An open and friendly center: everyone who wants to can come in and pray there.
We will have our own physical building and center to be proud of. Years and years of wandering will culminate in a country that is flooded with Torah and a center of spirituality about which it is said, “My house will be a center of prayer for all of the nations.”
This will be a great source of national pride, bringing immense honor and respect to Hashem.
And on a global front, all that we have always hoped for humanity will come true. We want to get rid of sickness. We want to be happy and get along with each other.
We want to enjoy peace.
Regarding these days, Isaiah proclaims, “And it shall be at the end of the days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be firmly established at the top of the mountains. … And he [God] shall judge between the nations and reprove many peoples, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
This will be a time when we will all get along, one country with another. Imagine getting along, or at least not being at war, with other nations.
Imagine the poor and famished, on different parts of the map, finding cures for their ailments, living in good health.
Imagine connecting to people with whom you never thought you could. So much unity. We talk a lot about tikkun olam, repairing the world. This will be the quintessential time for tikkun.
These are all lofty ideals, and we should make an effort to think about them as we mourn over the Temple this year and its destruction. I offered a few directions, but you can come up with your own as well.
Think of how the future will improve life on these different fronts. But perhaps more importantly, maybe we can use these aspirations moving on and out of the Tisha B’Av fast.
People talk about having an easy and meaningful fast. Let’s make it meaningful by using the power of the fast to improve our world and bring these anticipated days one step closer.
Rabbi Dr. Eli Yoggev is a spiritual leader at Pikesville’s Beth Tfiloh Congregation.