Judaism: 9th of Av: What Does G-d Want From Us?
Levi ChazenLevi Chazen is the Director of the English Division of Yeshivat HaRa´ayon HaYehudi in Jerusalem. He has been working tirelessly over the years in the yeshiva´s many charitable projects in Jerusalem and nationally.
There once was a king who had a beloved servant, who was like a son to the king. One time, the servant angered king, so the king removed him to a foreign land. The servant was beside himself for making the king angry, and so every year on the date the king removed him from the palace, he would sit on the floor, rip his garments and go without water and food for 24 hours.
A few years later, the king recalled his beloved servant and opened the palace doors to him once again, inviting him back "home"
But lo and behold, the servant, instead of rejoicing and returning to the palace, continued his practice of sitting on the floor and fasting. Try as he might, the king was not able to convince his beloved servant to return home and the servant continued his strange behavior,sitting and mourning on the floor. . .
For more than two thousand years, the Jewish people, no matter where their exile, have been mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple. After the destruction of the First Temple, the prophet Ezekiel foretold the prophecy of the details of the Third Temple, as we find in the last nine chapters of the book of Ezekiel.
Ezekiel said before G-d: Isn't it enough that the Jewish people are suffering in exile? So why teach them now about the details of the rebuilding of the Temple, something that is not relevant to them? G-d answered by saying: let them be busy with the details of the Temple and I will look upon this as if they have rebuilt the Temple.
Certainly, the message is clear! In the exile, far from our beloved home in the Land of Israel, let the Jews sit, mourn, fast and learn the details of the Temple - it is as if they will be rebuilding the Temple. Why? Because under the circumstances, this is the most that they can do to rebuild the Temple, but certainly it all stays in the category of "as if". For all the mourning and studying the details of the building can never replace one actual brick in the holy Temple.
Today, with the return of the Jewish people to their homeland, we have the opportunity to go from the category of "as if" to actually doing something concrete in the building of the Temple. First, though, we have to realize that the rebuilding of the Temple is a commandment in the Torah, just like every other commandment given over to the Jewish people. As Maimonides writes, it is a positive commandment to build a House for G-d, one of the 613 commandments listed in the Torah, and the Talmud adds that in every generation that the Temple is not rebuilt, it is as if it was destroyed in that generation.
And G-d said: I will not enter My heavenly Jerusalem until the Jewish people make the first move and enter the earthly Jerusalem. He is waiting, so to speak, for us.
What, then, does it mean that it is a commandment to build the Temple? The nature of this commandment, as with all commandments, is for the Jewish people to act, do and fulfill G-d'swill. This is what a commandment is. They were given over to the Jewish peopleso we could do (and must do) what G-d requests and demands from us. If it wouldbe humanly impossible to fulfill a commandment for whatever reason, then G-dwould not have commanded us to do it. The mere fact that G-d did command us,means that it is within our power to fulfill.
Maimonides, who notes thebuilding of the Temple as a positive commandment, goes so far as to give the small details of this commandment, e.g., who does the actual building and a twhat times of the day is the Temple built, etc. Certainly if it was not in our hands to construct the Temple, then it would not be a commandment and we would have no need to know all the small details of the construction of theTemple. Yes, certainly there are many difficulties in this project, but since it is a commandment there are also solutions for every problem, and it is in our hands to find them, for G-d would not have commanded us with the rebuilding of the Temple if it could not be done.
Ezra and Nehemiah, with a few men and resources, returned from the exile of Babylon and went to work in constructing the Second Temple.They did not sit around waiting, saying it's an impossible task, but used what they could and got the job done.
It is time for us, too, to arise from the floor. Enough "as if" building! It is time for us to join together in the construction of the House of G-d!