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To Be Holy in Our Land

To Be Holy in Our Land

After returning to Israel, why continue to mourn the destruction of the Temple?


After the creation of the State of Israel, the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, and the influx of Jewish immigrants from the four corners of the earth, is it possible that Jews continue to mourn the destruction of the Temple as if nothing had happened in the interim?

At the simplest level, the question would seem to be based on a false premise: that we are a sovereign people in our Land. The clearest evidence to the contrary comes from the site of the Temple itself. Though the Temple Mount has ostensibly been under Israeli control since 1967, successive Israeli governments have stood by helplessly while the Muslim Wakf has worked unimpeded to destroy archaeological evidence of the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount.

The Wakf converted Solomon's stables and the Eastern Hulda Gate passageway into the largest mosque in Israel, capable of accommodating 10,000 worshippers. The Western Hulda Gate passageway was also converted into a mosque.

Thousands of tons of dirt were unceremoniously dumped.

After receiving permission to build an emergency exit to the larger mosque. the Wakf took advantage to excavate an enormous hole from which thousands of tons of dirt were dumped unceremoniously into the Kidron Valley. A three-foot long stone fragment found among the rubble was, according to one archaeologist, "the most important artifact ever recovered from the Temple Mount…"

The massive building campaign of the Wakf has been conducted in clear contravention of the Antiquities Law, which requires archaeological supervision of all work conducted at ancient sites.

The mourning of Tisha B'Av is not for the loss of political independence but for the destruction of the Temple and the consequent loss of connection to God. Political independence and the possession of the Land are, for Jews, means – albeit vital ones – not ends.

The Jewish nation is the only one to have received its law prior to possessing a land. The law-giver Moses never entered the Land. Prior to our entry into the Land, Moses warned against falling prey to the illusion that our prosperity was a function of our own military prowess or our own cunning.

"Judah was sent into exile because it prized land and soil as the bulwark of its freedom and belittled the Torah," writes Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. Each time the Jewish people returned to their Land, they were tested anew to see whether they had learned from the experience of exile. Would they, as soon as their feet touched the earth, once again begin "revering as gods... the political independence, the social freedom and the civil rights that this soil provides... committing afresh the old sins that brought upon it the destruction of its state and Temple."

We were granted land and independence in order to become a "holy nation" that would be a light to the nations. Israel's achievements in many areas – medicine, military, high-tech – are nothing short of remarkable for such a small country under constant external threat from the moment of its birth.

Yet not for these did we pray. We prayed for the opportunity to create a society that would reveal to the world the transcendental dimension of life. A holy people striving to model a holy life and live with the awareness of God.

In this regard we have in large part failed.

Israel has one of the widest income gaps in the Western world. Our school system has one of the highest rates of violence. Not surprisingly, Israeli teenagers, according to the World Health Organization, are the unhappiest in the world. Their lives lack a sense of purpose or meaning. Sadly, the list could go on.

Our problem is not that we mourn our current situation too much, but that we – all of us – mourn too little for what we are lacking.

Cry for Millennia

"They shall make for me a Sanctuary so that I may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8). The verse does not say "in it" – i.e. in the Sanctuary – but rather "in them." Each of us is a microcosm of the Temple.

In the Temple, the Divine Presence was felt by the entire nation. That same Divine Presence dwells, however, in each of us. Just as the nation caused the Divine Presence to go into exile through its sins, so too do we cut ourselves off from that Presence through our individual sins.

And just as God promised the Jewish people that even in exile, He would never allow them to be destroyed completely, so too the spark of His presence is never fully extinguished from our hearts.

When we cry for the Temple, we rectify the estrangement, both collective and individual.

Our biblical ancestors cried in the desert on the night of Tisha B'Av. Those tears expressed a feeling of estrangement from God, whom they were convinced by the Spies hated them for their former idolatry and was bringing into them into the Land in order to wipe them out at the hands of far stronger nations. Because they cried needlessly out of a failure to recognize God's love, their descendants were doomed to cry on that same night for millennia.

But if those original tears brought destruction and exile, our tears today are the corrective. When we cry for the Temple, or for our alienation from the inextinguishable point of divinity within us, we rectify the estrangement, both collective and individual.

"All those who mourn for Jerusalem," say our Sages, "will one day see her in her rejoicing." May it be soon.

August 6, 2011

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Visitor Comments: 7

(4) harold, July 16, 2013 1:53 PM

A bit harsh

The article is correct but is a misleading. Israel, in terms of its light to the world is a massive success, not just for the 3rd highest patents rgistered of any country, its contribution to technology, its contribution to medical science, but morally, on the amount it helps other countries with water advice, rescue teams that help people in disaster zones out of all proportion to the population.

We are building on the moral standing, and Torah is penetrating Israeli society more every year, but even Secular Israelis have massive parts of Torah in them without knowing it.

Israel is a great success and will be more successfull in the future and will only grow.

(3) Rob Porter, October 28, 2011 11:21 AM

Why does Israell allow such an afront?

What on earth is wrong with "successive Israeli governments", and thus the present Israeli government, that they have allowed the Muslim Wakf to work "unimpeded to destroy archaeological evidence of the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount." Why does Israel allow wretched Muslims who hate Jews and Israel, to run roughshod over it right in its own back yard? To me it is bewildering and disgraceful. Does there exist in Israel, or more specifically, in Israel's government, the quaint notion that if Israel takes no action against what is deliberate insult, and just another demonstration of Muslim hatred, the Arab world will somehow hate Israel and Jews less and make Iran less determined to wipe Israel from the face of the earth? Israel should end this insult, take control of the Temple Mount, send the Wakf packing, restore Solomon's stable and the Eastern Hulda Gate passageway, destroy the mosque that replaced them, and regret the day it did not in 1967 destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque and reclaim for Israel that sacred ground. In the meantime Israel should wake up to harsh reality regard the mindset it confronts among Arab Muslims. It is no different among Muslims Arabs here in Canada from where I write. Their Qur'an teaches them to hate Jews and Christians, 'the people of the book' and well-intended 'tolerance' - in reaction to all the intolerance Jews have suffered over many centuries - is not going to change a thing. Right now the the Muslim Wakf is laughing in the face of Israel and regarding successive Israeli government as cowardly.

(2) Andrew Ferenczi, August 9, 2011 4:43 PM

History must be adapted, not rewritten

Although I am as fervent a Zionist and advocate for the plight of Jews all across the world than the writer and other readers, I must stand in staunch opposition to the argument put forward in this article. I do not believe that exacerbating a stagnant situation that has been prolonged for far too long already is going to be the novel, innovative response expected of Israel. If we truly want to "be a light unto nations" we can not relentlessly cling to every detail delineated in the Torah. We must use the Torah as a moral framework and as a crucial guide in our spiritual, personal, and professional developments. In fact, all of what are now considered "Western" values stem directly from the values exposed throughout the Torah and Talmud. But to return to the immediate point, Israel must truly take a pragmatic approach to solving the territorial issue. Banging our heads against a 2,500 year old wall is simply going to feed the fires of criticism waged against Israel and Jews everywhere. I think also there must be a degree of respect for the processions of history and the countless decisions that were taken throughout its passing. Just liek we expect the world, and specifically Arabs, to respect our historical rights to our land (and moreover our legal right to it now) we must also cope with the situations that ensued for 2000 years on our land and adopt it into our new society rather than weed it out. You are proposing that Israel conduct the same policies that Jews deplored throughout their existence, none knows of its evil better than our people and for that reason I think it is unfortunate that we are trying to impose that same rhetoric on others.

Nechama, August 10, 2011 10:14 AM

To Andrew Ferenczi

You stated that the Torah serve as a framework for our values but we should not cling to every detail mentioned therein. For people who sincerely believe that the Torah was written by the Almighty, this is not an option. In order for you to fully understand how people can so believe, I suggest that you attend a seminar of "Arachim" just to get this issue straight. You stated that the author shows no respect for the rights of others and supports a biblical stand on ownership of the land of Israel. The author did not express any political views or any opinion as to one state/two state solutions. He explicitly described the situation on the Temple Mount which is dispicable. Can you imagine any non Catholic agency digging up the Vatican, even if it were proven that the area belonged to them? The whole world would be up in arms. Or maybe the Israelis dismantling the grotto in the Church of the Nativity, even if they could prove that it belonged to them? That's ridiculous and unthinkable. But the Moslem Wakf has been digging up remnants of our Holy Temple for a very long time and no one seems to give a hoot. The antiquity department takes the prize for hypocrisy. They won't let you build a building anywhere in Israel without having the ground checked first for some possible shards or pitchers or whatever but when the Wakf throws millions of dollars worth of columns and vessels into the garbage, that's fine. Talk about being politically correct. All the best, Nechama

(1) Gershom May, August 7, 2011 1:47 PM


STOP ALREADY - The strong emphasis on - the mourning for an edifice and a city. For several millennium - we have mourned their loss. Without full redemption. NOW - we need to focus on - WHY? - hasn't G-D - granted us - a complete redemption? YES - Jerusalem and the Temple - they were important. But - as the prophets told us - they were taken away before - because - we used them as shields. YET - we continued - to sin - as though we had total immunity. We justified ourselves - and called sin - by another name - making it - more palatable. Maybe - it's because we haven't recognized that. And - we haven't focused on the true loss. Our loss of RESPECT for G-D - and our TRUE SORROW - for not keeping His Mitzvot - as He gave them to us. That we haven't merited full redemption. So - just as the article stated: - Judah was sent into exile because it prized land and soil as the bulwark of its freedom and belittled the Torah," writes Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. Each time the Jewish people returned to their Land, they were tested anew to see whether they had learned from the experience of exile. Would they, as soon as their feet touched the earth, once again begin "revering as gods... the political independence, the social freedom and the civil rights that this soil provides... committing afresh the old sins that brought upon it the destruction of its state and Temple. We need to consider - ARE WE PASSING THE TEST? Will G-D - once again - send us into exile? Though today - we have a portion of the Land Of Israel - that He gave us. We still allow ourselves to be led - by a horribly secular government - devoid of Torah Value. We allow - those flaunt themselves before G-D - committing Torah Violations - and abominations - that are justified - with humanistic - hedonistic rationalization. So - if we are tested each time we come back to our land. And as now - we have flagrant disregard for G-D and the Torah. What's to prevent Him - from sending us back into EXILE?

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