Final Fire

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21 Jul 2022
The Three Weeks

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Adapted by Channie Koplowitz Stein

As we begin mourning the destruction of Yerushalayim and the Beit Hamikdosh, we also hope for and anticipate our return from exile and serving Hashem in the rebuilt, permanent, third Beit Hamikdosh. How will that third Beit Hamikdosh be built? According to the Gemarrah, the edifice will descend fully formed from heaven. However, according to Rambam, Melech Hamoshiach will build it. How can we understand these two apparently contradictory perspectives?

Rabbi Schwab quotes Zechariah 2:9 that says that Hashem’s presence in Yerushalayim will be visible as a fiery wall, for He Who set the fire that destroyed Yerushalayim will also rebuild it through fire. What is the image of fire meant to convey?

In the time of the Beit Hamikdosh, eating of the new grain crop was not permissible until the omer offering was brought on the first day of Pesach. The Talmud discusses the question if today, without a Temple, one could eat the new grain already in the morning.  The view of R. Yochanan Ben Zakai is no, because perhaps the Beis Hamikdash will be built.  How do we understand this, if the construction of the Temple does not override Yom Tov?  The answer that is offered, is that the Temple will come down already built from heaven.  But if Hashem built the Sanctuary, how can we fulfill the command, “Make for Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them?”

Here Rabbi Schlesinger cites the text of our Festival liturgy, “Veharainu bevinyano vesamchainu betikunu/[Hashem] will show us [the Beit Hamikdosh] being built and will gladden us with its completion.”  There is a verse in Eichah, “Its gates sank into the earth,”  The Midrash notes that the gates were not captured by the enemies.  Rabbi Schlesinger notes that although the structure of the Beit Hamikdosh will descend from heaven, Moshiach will have the task and the privilege of digging up and attaching its doors, gates. Therefore, as it says, he who completes the project is credited with having done the project.  Hence, the Tefila according to the Gra is understood, that we should be privileged to see Hashem’s building, and we will rejoice with our ability to put up the gates, and complete the structure.

While so many of the utensils and structural parts of the Beit Hamikdosh were carried away by the enemy, the doors of the Beit Hamikdosh did not suffer that fate. Homiletically, the gates were rewarded for showing honor only to Hakodosh boruch Hu, for lifting their “heads” and opening only to allow God’s presence to enter (Tehillim 24). Therefore, as Tehillim 30:2 proclaims, “I will exalt You, Hashem, ki dilisani/for You have lifted me up,” can be read with an alternate translation of dilisani, You have given me doors, the doors of the Beit Hamikdosh at its inauguration. So too do we have to work on our own “gates” to merit rebuilding those gates.

 For forty years before the actual destruction, Hashem gave Bnei Yisroel many omens of the impending disaster. For example, the westernmost wick of the menorah would not always stay lit beyond all the other candles, as it had done until now. Even more obvious, had Bnei Yisroel questioned the occurrences, the gates/doors of the hall opened by themselves without the guards unlocking them. The gates of Yerushalayim always had guards protecting the walls, yet this holiest of places had its doors thrown open, unprotected. Along these lines, except when we need to remove or return Sifrei Torah to the Ark, or when the Ark is open for designated parts of the liturgy, the doors of the aron kodesh remain closed, protecting the Sifrei Torah within.

On the seventeenth of Tamuz, the walls of Yerushalayim were breached, beginning the final assault that would destroy the Temple.

We are not mourning only the breach of the walls 2,000 years ago; we are mourning the breach of the walls that insulated Jews from the influences of the outside world, writes Rabbi Reisman in Why We Weep. Especially with modern technology, these negative, secular influences invade and corrupt our homes, our families, our children. The broken walls deprive us of all sense of modesty and privacy.

The breakdown begins with one small breach, writes the Siach Eliyahu, but each year, the hole grows. It is time to repair the breach.

What was the kedushah of the Beit Hamikdosh? Even more than the sanctity of the structure that Shlomo Hamelech built was the sanctity of the idea, the longing and the plans that Dovid Hamelech invested in its construction, albeit Dovid did not physically build the Beit Hamikdosh, writes Rabbi Reisman. Therefore, we sing of chanukat habayis leDovid, dedicating the Beit Hamikdosh, not liShlomo, but to David. Today our tears and yearning for the Beit Hamikdosh are the bricks that will build our third and eternal Beit Hamikdosh.

This is the fire that Hashem will send down into the third Beit Hamikdosh, built by Moshiach, but ignited by the fiery passion of Bnei Yisroel for its rebuilding, writes the Shvilei Pinchas, quoting the Aruch L’ner.   Hashem will infuse the  neshamah, the Godly spirit within the walls that we will build.

This is the avodah, our work for the three weeks, to strengthen our desire for our Beit Hamikdosh. Focus on that idea before reciting each Shemoneh Esrai, suggests the Netivot Shalom, and in our Birkat Hamazon after meals, adds Rabbi Arieli. When we tell someone sitting shiva that he should be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim, we are acknowledging that we are all mourners, and that the source of our suffering is the destruction of the Temple.

We are not like the other nations of the world whose existence is governed by the laws of nature. Unlike other nations, we will return to our land in spite of our current exile. Hashem established two covenants with mankind, one with Noach that governs all the nations, and one with Avraham that governs Avraham’s descendants, Bnei Yisroel. In recording the covenant with Noach, the Torah uses the word brit/covenant seven times, the number associated with nature, writes Rabbi Shapiro in Chazon Lamoed. But in the covenant established with Avraham Avinu when Hashem commanded him to perform circumcision, the word brit appears thirteen times, to parallel Hashem’s thirteen attributes of mercy that go way beyond the laws of nature and govern Hashem’s interaction with Bnei Yisroel.

This connection began with our redemption from Egypt, culminating with our acceptance of the Torah and Hashem as our Sovereign at Sinai. In Eretz Yisroel, it was most openly manifest in the miracles of the Beit Hamikdosh. During this three-week mourning period we call bein hametzorim/between the borders, the Torah readings all record aspects of entering the Land of Israel and establishing its borders. Hashem’s love for us in Eretz Yisroel was clear. How can we feel His love now during our extended exile?

From the Talmud in Taanit 29 we get the well known statement, “Just as when the month of Av begins, we decrease the joy, so when the month of Adar begins, we increase the joy.” While we can easily understand the pervasive emotions connected with each of these months, the joy of Purim in Adar in contrast to the grief over the temple’s destruction in Av, what is the connection between the two that is is indicated by the phrase, “Just as..?”

Rabbi Shapiro begins this discussion in Chazon Lamoed by pointing out that the miracle of Purim was a concealed miracle, a time when Hashem’s face was hidden from us. Yet, in that time of darkness, Hashem showed us His love. The basis of our mourning during Av is also Hashem’s concealing His face from us. Yet it is incumbent upon us to recognize Hashem’s love for us even in these dark times, just as His love was still manifest in the concealed miraculous salvation from Haman’s plot.

The cherubim covering the Ark symbolically proved this point. While the enemy entered the Holy Temple, they witnessed the cherubim in an embrace, still showing love even through the destruction. That is cause for joy.

Tehillim 79 describes the terrible events of the destruction, yet it is called a mizmor/song and not a kinah/elegy. Rabbi Schlesinger explains that we recognize that the pain of the destruction is mitigated by the joy of knowing that Hashem punished us through destroying the physical structure representing His presence, He left the intensity of the Beit Hamikdosh, but His love still remains as He watches over us from a concealed vantage point. [One of my favorite verses is from Shir Hashirim 2:9: “… There He is, standing outside our wall, looking in through the windows, peering in through the lattice.” CKS]

One of the best known elegies recited, usually sung, on Tisha b’Av is the contrast between leaving Mitzrayim and leaving Yerushalayim. When we left Egypt, we became Hashem’s special nation and intensely felt His presence. We should feel that same connection when we left Yerushalayim, the only difference being whether it was concealed or openly manifest.

What is the essence of fire? It is above nature in that it consumes everything in its path. Hashem destroyed the Beit Hamikdosh with a fire he sent from above. During the moments of the destruction, He was with us, present, but concealed in the fire. And with fire, the Temple will also be rebuilt. In retrospect, through that fire we will see that all that happened to us was from love. We will be comforted through Hamakom, as we will totally feel His presence again.

In truth, the churban destroyed only the physical manifestation of Hashem’s presence, but His presence is still among us. We just have to do teshuvah to earn it, writes Rabbi Feivel Cohen. What we had in the Beit Hamikdosh was a “face to face” encounter with Hakodosh Boruch Hu, the experience of a true, full life, as we had experienced it at Sinai, Writes Rabbi Mordechai Silver. We must reawaken this desire within our souls, for this is our true essence. As the verse in Eichah states, interpreted homiletically, “All who pursue Hashem, can reach Him during the period of bein Hametzorim/these three weeks. While the Beit Hamikdosh was the physical place for this pursuit and connection, we can still strive for this connection and invigoration even without the physical supporting structure.

When we can view our personal challenges as a reflection of the troubles of the world, our personal tefillot become very powerful. We can then say liyeshuatcha kivinu kol hayom/ for Your salvation do I yearn all day long with a sense of yearning that encompasses both personal requests and our national yearning for Moshiach, that asks to see Hashem’s presence manifest and recognized by all, by both the Jewish and the secular world, writes Rabbi Elias in Ani Maamin.

When Hashem commanded Moshe to collect a half shekel from every member of Bnei Yisroel, He showed him a fiery coin. Rabbi Zvi Meir Silverberg sees the fire of this coin as representative of the fire within each of us in our desire to connect to Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

Yes, we yearn and pray for the physical Beit Hamikdosh. Let this desire within us ignite a constant passion to connect to Hakodosh Boruch Hu, for Hashem is always with us, although His presence is hidden from us. Let us observe the mitzvoth with passion, and may we merit to see the rebuilt Beit Hamikdosh not just within our lifetime, but within the next week. The Moshiach may already be born. We need to ignite the fire within his soul and within our own to bring the immediate redemption.