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I Will Make Jews Out of You Yet

By Tzvi Fishman
7/15/2009, 12:00 AM

There are those who complain when I write about the importance of sexual modesty. Others complain when I write about aliyah. So to make everyone happy, we are going to change the subject during the Three Weeks and write about Jerusalem, the Temple’s destruction, the pain of the Shechinah, and the exile.

Seige of Jerusalem

Everyone can understand that to rectify Jerusalem’s destruction, it must be rebuilt, and that’s just what we are doing today. To rectify the destruction of sovereign Jewish nationhood in Israel, then Jewish nationhood in Israel must be reestablished, and that’s just what we are doing today. To rectify the scattering of the Jews to the four corners of the globe, they must be re-gathered in Israel, and that’s just what we are doing today.

All of these things help to soothe the anguish of the Shechinah (the Divine Presence) which mourns over the destruction of her holy abode and the exile of her children. For a person who has not been privileged to actually physically participate in these rectifications by returning to Israel and helping to rebuild the nation, or by financially supporting people and organizations that do, he can participate in Brooklyn, Toronto, or LA, by rising out of bed at night to recite Tikun Hatzot – the Midnight Lamentation.

"Wake up, wake up, sleepy head"

The next few blogs will focus on this important aspect of serving G-d. During the Three Weeks, the custom is to recite the prayer not only at midnight, but also in the afternoon, to give extra comfort to the Shechinah which cries out in even greater pain at this time of the year. Both Tikun Rachel and Tikun Leah can be found online, along with some of the laws regarding their recital.

Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi leading Tikun Hatzot at the Kotel

The following is an essay by the holy Kabbalist, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, to get our learning underway:

“Rising up at midnight is essential for every Jew, to weep and lament over the destruction of the Temple, and to afterward recite the praises of the Jewish People who are afflicted with great tribulation. My cherished friend, you should know that all of the sorrows that our holy Jewish People suffer in the violent and bitter exile, indescribable horrors and grave sicknesses that strike with a frightening constancy, and especially the carnage and murder of our time, all of this stems from the fact that we don’t feel in our hearts the need to rise at midnight to participate in the anguish of the Shechinah.

“Alas at the shame and reproach when a mother is suffering and gravely ill, and her son sleeps peacefully in his bed, luxuriating in a deep slumber, not at all concerned with his mother’s plight. The behavior of a son like this towards his mother borders on a grave transgression, seeing that she slaved and sacrificed herself days and nights for his sake, in caring for all of his needs, and what is her reward? Close to nothing!

“No, my dear friend, it is the Shechinah that upheld us and toiled over us unceasingly day after day, night after night without respite, and you, her son, are obligated to honor her and to participate in her tribulation over the destruction of her Temple, over the diminishing of her Heavenly unifications, over the sufferings of her children which come upon them from all sides,  over the evil forces that sap her strength, and over the evil decrees that fall upon her children each day and month – and all of this is due to our many sins.

“And you, my son and friend, a servant of G-d, lay comfortable in your bed, bundled in your blanket, in a sea of bliss, first lounging on this side, and then on the other, for another minute, another hour more, without giving up on your comfort. In so doing so, you have without thinking become a partner of the Destroyer. You have fallen into the web of the evil inclination, the Satan, who causes you to sin and who brings death in his wake, to remove you from this world as soon as he can, so that he might cast you forth into the suffering of the next world where you will have to give an account of why you wasted your precious time in this world for nothing - for the vain and illusionary comforts of sleep, instead of having paid attention to the most important thing of all, to return to the love and service of G-d, “For these are our life and the length of our days, and in them we will contemplate day and night.”

“Had you understood this, you should have torn your heart in twelve places, and cried out and wept with all of your strength to your Father in Heaven, that He have compassion on our life-giving Shechinah, and on the Jewish People who are drowning and anguishing in every type of tribulation, evil decrees, and sicknesses. You should have cried out in tears that Hashem be zealous for all of His people, and for His land, and immediately rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, the palace of the Shechinah, that He redeem us with a total and true redemption.         

“This is what a loving son should do, and if, G-d forbid, he does not do this, knowing that all that we have written is true, then the pleasure that this world of vanity brings him will be transformed, G-d forbid, into a plague, and he will have to make an accounting fore this when in some future time he will lay on his bed in sickness and terrible sufferings, may Hashem have mercy, until he will have paid for all of the pleasures that he enjoyed for himself in his transitory life, when he slept comfortably in his bed and did not take to heart the anguish and pain of the Shekinah.

“Thus, a son who honors his Father in Heaven will get up at midnight and recite the Tikun Hatzot. If he can learn Torah afterwards, how well and good. If it is difficult for him to rise at midnight, at least let him rise some time during the night, wash his hands in the proper fashion, say all of the morning blessings, and afterwards recite the Tikun Hatzot with tears. For everyone who rises at midnight to say the Tikun, a thread of G-d’s kindness will be drawn over them, and their doings will be recorded in the King’s book of remembrance for goodness, for blessing, and for salvation, may it come soon.”