Jewish mourning on Tish’ah B’av is not only for the terrible military and political defeats traditionally ascribed to that day, but also for the loss of the palpable sense of Divine presence that the Temple generated.
Now the reestablishment of a Jewish state in part of Biblical Israel generates a religious responsibility to express celebratory gratitude to G-d, and serious halakhic scholars have suggested compellingly that we accordingly need at the least to amend those sections of the Tish’ah B’Av that describe Jerusalem as desolate and unpopulated, lest we seem to be undervaluing the great opportunity G-d has given us to build an authentically Jewish society that embodies our religious values. But honesty requires the admission that we are a long way from achieving such a society, and the Divine Presence is not yet hovering openly. So there is still ample reason to mourn.
At the same time, it is vitally important to remember that the Temple was not destroyed by accident; it was destroyed because we did not deserve it. Furthermore, the prophets at times identify the Temple as a source of corruption in a society unworthy of it, as it generates complacency and a focus on spiritual experience at the expense of social justice. Unless we have actually improved, the rebuilt temple would have a minimal life-expectancy, and the Divine Presence would be felt in renewed destruction.
Accordingly, we should mourn the Temple precisely because the Jewish people once again have sovereignty, and therefore social and religious responsibility, in the Land of Israel, and so the message of the Destruction is yet more relevant. May it inspire us to be worthy of the Temple's rebuilding and eternal endurance.
Yes, and we do all the time.The underlying question here is how do we interpret the significance of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70CE and later, the establishment of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.
The destruction of Jerusalem and Second Temple is the single most important event in Jewish history (aside from the Exodus and giving of the Torah, if we want to call those “historical” events).The Roman destruction of Jerusalem greatly contributed to the dispersion and of the Jewish people around the world, the decentralization of the Jewish ritual and halakhic (legal) traditions, and to a general spiritual disposition of longing and alienation.Pre-70CE Jerusalem and the Temple, which embodied the blend of a pure concept of priestly ritual and Rabbinic teaching) have come to represent an idyllic Jewish environment only to be matched by the messianic era, which has yet to come.
In truth, Rabbinic Judaism, which developed, flourished, and created the non-biblical Judaism that we practice today, was actually sparked from the embers of the Temple ruins.That is to say the destruction had some unanticipated positive consequences, many of which include common practices of Temple and ancient Jerusalem remembrance, such as: 1) central prayers, e.g., the Amidah and Birkat Ha-Mazon; 2) declaring, L’Shanah Haba’ah b’Yerushalayim – “Next year in Jerusalem” at the end of both the Yom Kippur service and the Passover seder; 3) facing toward Jerusalem during prayer; and 4) minor fasts and the holiday of Tisha B’Av itself (literally, The 9th of Av), the saddest day of the Jewish year, during which we fast and read the Scroll of Lamentations.
To argue that the establishment of the State of the Israel in 1948 supersedes or disqualifies the remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple would in some way put into question the entirety of the Jewish religion as post Second Temple spiritual tradition, which it is.
Given that there is no way to go back to a pre-70CE Judaism (nor would most of choose to do so), we can ask instead: How does the establishment of the State of Israel have an impact upon our narrative since the destruction of the Temple? What is our spiritual disposition today?Should we eliminate or amend some of rituals of remembrance and longing for the ideal of Jerusalem that we once possessed?What is the theological dimension of the establishment of the State of Israel how is that reflected in our practices?
Conservative Judaism holds two simultaneous positions on such questions and they primarily have practical import on Tisha B’Av and minor fast days – no one is suggesting eliminating blessings for the rebuilding of Jerusalem or cutting our L’Shanah Haba’ah b’Yerushalayim.One is that the establishment of the State of Israel is cause for celebration and, therefore, keeping the full account of mourning rites on Tisha B’Av and other minor fasts would slight the significance of the Jewish nation that exists.Adherents would suggest ending the fast early and eliminating other acts of self-denial, but not the reading of Lamentations. The second position maintains that all of the traditional mourning observances should be upheld.That is, although the State of Israel is a homeland for Jews, it has yet to become truly secure, to know lasting peace, or to fulfill the messianic promise of which the longing and mourning over Jerusalem and Temple are inherently connected.
When someone asks the question “Should WE…?” it always makes me wonder who the WE is? And, when it comes to memorializing the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the WE really matters.
From my perspective, in the Reform Movement, one hope is for the coming of a Messianic Age and not a particular Messiah. In making this shift in perspective, the Movement made a choice to let go of the idea that we would need a third temple in Jerusalem to bring about this possibility. The idea that Judaism is centered around the world and that from this vantage point we can bring about great change, including peace and healing, negates the need for a Temple in Jerusalem to support that change. In fact, a Temple in Jerusalem would just confuse the matter as it would call for a reinstatement of the priestly cult and ritual sacrifice, both of which would conflict with much of liberal Jewish belief and practice around the globe. Rebuilding the Temple also brings with it the threat of world war, as it would require destruction of 2 of the most important Mosques in Muslim tradition.
The answer is complicated by the diversity of Jewish movements and the diversity of expressions within those movements. I suggest searching around to see how each movement, beyond the Reform Movement, views the resurrection of a Temple in Jerusalem and the priestly cult that goes with it. It can be an interesting study, one that could begin with looking at the internal conflicts our movements present with prayer books that pray for rebuilding and sermons that defy it.
On another note, I heard a great line from a rabbi today. He said that one of his traditional rabbinic teachers said, about mourning the destruction of the temple, “I said Kaddish (the mourner’s prayer) for my father for one year and I said Kaddish for my mother for one year… enough with mourning the Temple already!”
Finally, ‘sovereignty’ does not preclude the religious question of Temple reconstruction. Israel is a real, political, national entity maintaining a separation of “Temple and State”, at least on paper. Rebuilding a Temple in Jerusalem has more to do with what Judaism will mean in this and the next generations than what Israel means as a homeland for the Jews. In fact, many who support Israel might find themselves in conflict if the national religion included a dedicated Temple cult in the capital and others might choose to see the country as finally complete with the Temple rebuilt, where now the country is a only a holding place for their ideal Israel.
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