I have this fantasy.
I gather together Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, Mahmoud Abbas and Ban Ki-moon and take them to visit the brand new Beit Hamikdash, the third holy Temple that just descended onto Jerusalem's Temple Mount. There they witness the coronation of the new king of Israel, and the Vatican's return of the ancient gold menorah, to be reinaugurated by the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest.
Imagine how that would affect negotiations and the claims that the Jewish people “have no historic ties to Jerusalem.”
My fantasy continues. I take Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Hawking, leaders of the new atheism, on a tour of the new Temple where they have a chance for the first time in their lives to directly experience the transcendent power and majesty of the Divine. God's palpable presence is inescapable, and they leave with an entirely different outlook on life. So much for The God Delusion.
And finally I imagine myself entering the gates of the Temple. My internal doubts, questions about suffering, and the veracity of Divine providence simply vanish as I come into direct contact with the overwhelming reality of God Almighty Himself.
But there is no Temple, and we live in a world where Israel is embattled from within and without, where God and His Torah are ridiculed, where confusion and licentiousness reign. . And that's why I mourn on Tisha B’Av.
Tisha B'Av does not commemorate the pain of the destruction of the Temple that happened 2,000 years ago. Pain doesn't last that long. It dissipates. The point of Tisha B'Av, and the Three Weeks leading up to it, is to connect to the pain we are in right now because we don't have the Temple. The loss affects us today.
The point of Tisha B'Av is to connect to the pain we are in right now because we don't have the Temple.
Compounding the tragedy is that most of us don't really feel that we are missing anything. We are like the sick child who has spent his life in a hospital. He doesn't even realize his existence isn't normal, that there is a whole different way one ought to be living.
Tisha B'Av gives us the opportunity to refocus and remember that life today is not whole. We can bring that down to earth by thinking about the major conflicts afflicting the Jewish people today – the existential threats, the Mideast conflict, religious-secular divide, rampant assimilation, confusion and dissent – and realize none of them would exist today if we had the Temple in our midst.
When we had the Temple, there was no question about who had rights to the Land of Israel and to Jerusalem. No one doubted the existence of God. The Jewish people en masse strove to uphold and integrate the teachings of the Torah, becoming the role models of what it means to live a meaningful life. The world recognized Jerusalem as a unique fount of wisdom and connection to the transcendent.
In order to feel the loss of the Temple today, try this exercise. Write down a list of those things in the world that cause you the greatest pain. Write out the greatest threats, physically and spiritually, facing the Jewish people today. And make a list of your own personal issues.
Now think about how each and every one of these items would change if we had the Temple, God's dwelling place, right here, right now. Create your own Tisha B'Av fantasy. We are suffering from all these travails because the Temple was destroyed thousands of years ago.
The Talmud says, "All who mourn over (the destruction of) Jerusalem will merit to see her in her joy" (Taanit, 30b). If we realize what the enormity of the loss, we will achingly yearn for it and fully appreciate it when it is rebuilt. May it happen speedily in our days.