Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Destruction of ‘Sticks and Stones’

Today is Tisha B’av. And as I do every year, I find myself sitting on the floor contemplating the sadness of this day and all the tragedies that occurred to the Jewish people. But the essential mourning of the day is for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Both the first and second Beis HaMikash were destroyed on the exact same day on the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av.

Our sages tell us that when the Messaih arrives and the third Beis HaMikash will be built - Tisha B’Av will turn into a great day of joy for us.

Tisha B’Av begins with the reading from the Book of Lamentations, Megilas Eicha.

The theme of Eicha is a lament for the destruction of First Temple and Jerusalem by the Babylonians and it describes the suffering of its inhabitants during and after the siege. It recognizes that it was the sins of the people which brought about this great tragedy and Eicha ends with a prayer that God restore our former glory and return us to our days of old. And so we long for the building of the third Temple.

The Sefer, Torah L’Daas has a nice explanation of Billam’s blessing that connects to this.

The sages tell us that God took his wrath out on the Eitzim V’Avanim, the 'sticks and stones' of the Beis HaMikdash so that His people Israel would survive: 'God has completed his wrath. He poured out his fierce anger and kindled a fire in Zion which consumed its foundations.' (Eicha - 4:11).

It is said that the first Temple was built in the merit of Avraham from who Yishamel came and therefore it did not merit lasting into eternity.

The second temple was built in the merit of Yitzchak from whom came Esav, so it too could not last.

The third temple will be in the merit of Yakkov who was also called Israel. All of his children were entirely God’s chosen people and no other progeny issued forth from him.

'How goodly are your tents Jacob, your dwelling places (Mishkenosecha) , Israel.' This is the blessing Billam gave to the people of Israel. The dwelling place - is the Beis HaMikdash.

Billam’s intent was to destroy the Jewish people with his blessing. By blessing the dwelling places his hope was that if God became angry He would have no other option but to destroy the people. But in blessing Israel’s house, it was the Bayis Shlilshi, the 3rd Temple, which was the one God intended for eternity... making only that one - and not the first two - immune from destruction. The merits of Avraham and Yitzchak were not as great as Yaakov’s. God therefore took His wrath out on the the sticks and stones of the first and second Beis HaMikdash and did not destroy His people, Israel.

May it be God’s will that the next Tisha B’Av be celebrated in joy and feasting in Jerusalem with the Temple rebuilt.