What Are We Mourning For?
by Rabbi Dovid Ostroff
Rabbi Dovid Ostroff was born in South Africa and moved to Eretz Yisroel many years ago with his family. He is a Moreh Hora’ah in Har Nof. He taught in Bnos Sarah for several years, and is currently a Rav and Co-Menahel in Me’ohr Bais Yaakov. He lives in Yerushalayim with his wife and family.
We are always told that a Yid must be besimcha, how is that harmonious with three weeks of mourning?
Atzvus and depression are supposed to be anathema to Yiddishkeit, but isn’t that the essence of the three weeks?
The possuk says נשכחתי כמת מלב I am forgotten from the heart like the deceased, because there is a g’zeira that one forgets the deceased, why then are we constantly reminded of the Beis Hamikdash?
Supposedly, the time of the churban was the epitome of Hashem‘s wrath against His people, and yet the enemy found the keruvim embracing each other – a sign of Hashem‘s fabulous love for us, how is that compatible with what we believe?
The Slonimer Rebbe says that our crying and mourning are of a different nature than regular mourning; it is one of hope and longing. It is with aspiration to bring back the glory of Hashem and the Beis Hamikdash.
It is this mourning that will restore the Beis Hamikdash. A seed planted in the ground first rots to almost nothing, and from this nothingness grows a beautiful plant. But it is only because it became nothingness is it able to grow. When Am Yisroel realize that they are at rock bottom without the Beis Hamikdash and Hashem‘s constant presence, their prayers will restore the Beis Hamikdash.
But how does it work, why will mourning restore the Beis Hamikdash, and more important, what are we lacking? The Beis Hamikdash was destroyed so many years ago – it is called aveilus yeshana – old aveilus, so what’s the point? What do Chazal want from us?
As long as one mourns the loss of a loved one, it demonstrates that the loved one is sought after and missed; when the mourning ceases, the loved one is no longer yearned for. We continue to mourn and mourn, because we must never think that we can manage without the Beis Hamikdash. But what do we lack?
We mentioned that the foremost purpose in life is to cling to Hashem – ובו תדבק, and this is done by adhering to His Mitzvos, with Shabbos at the peak. An extraordinary tool to cling to Hashem was the Beis Hamikdash.
Picture yourself coming from different parts of Eretz Yisroel and upon reaching Mevaseres, the hill overlooking Yerushalayim, you gaze towards the “Old City” and you see a pillar of smoke rising high into the sky, straight as an arrow. It is raining heavily, the wind is blowing and lo and behold, the pillar of smoke is not phased by the rain or smoke. Rising proudly to our Father in heaven, the scent of our korbanos pleases Hashem Yisborach – ריח ניחוח.
Oh how we want to belong; how steadfast are our commitments. We suddenly feel that our regular, mundane battles with the Yetzer Hara are so puny, so belittling, how could we allow ourselves to succumb, and so easily?
We almost swear that we will never let ourselves be led astray again, never will we let ourselves do anything but רצון ד’.
We draw near; we join the throngs of people entering the “Old City” and the excitement, the tension builds up. We see Cohanim, running with a holy fervor offering korbanos, uttering holy prayers, and we are caught up in this holy fervor; forgetting our silly problems, the overdraft in the bank, the row we had with our neighbor. Oh they are all so unimportant, so ridiculous. How could we occupy our da’as with anything but our raison d’être?
We enter the Holy Courtyard, only to see adults, of all sizes and ages, prostrating before the Kodesh Hakodoshim. The line moves quickly and soon it becomes our turn to lie flat in front of Hashem. OMG – but He sees everything inside me. He knows when I thought bad thoughts, had wicked intentions, did not feel like serving Him. How can I bow down before Him, I’ll turn to ash, I’m so impure…
I must be better, I must improve, and this is the last chance. With a pure, deep resolution, I decide to change, to never be the same. I will be totally dedicated to doing Hashem‘s will without any self-centered motivations – everything for Him. It is now someone else’s turn and I stand up a different person.
I hand over my sheep to the Cohen, who immediately checks it and tells me to lean on the sheep’s head with all my might. I do, and at that instance I transfer my entire being into the animal and when the Cohen slaughters the sheep, I feel as if every ounce of gashmius is banished forever, drained with the sheep’s lifeblood.
I walk out in a daze. I see a fellow Jew who needs help, and without a moment of hesitation, I rush over and fulfill his every need. I do not have a single self-centered desire left in me; I did not look to see what I was to gain from that encounter.
I continue walking and my eyes are tempted to look at something I’m not supposed to. In a flash I turn my head and fill it with love and admiration for Hashem Yisborach, my father in heaven. To upset Him? To Cause Him anguish? I now live for a different cause, other than to fulfill my heart’s desires.
This, my dear friends, is what we’re missing. This incredible tool to bind us to Hashem Yisborach is lacking.
We mourn and pray that it will return soon, speedily in our days.
When we daven ולירושלים עירך, we must say to Hashem that we need the Beis Hamikdash to be able to get close. We don’t want to constantly have petty battles with the Yetzer Hara, nor do we want to be so self-centered, and it is the Beis Hamikdash and Hashem‘s presence that will aid in our growth.
During these three weeks, whenever we encounter ירושלים in our prayers, or in bentching, we must think these thoughts and yearn for a better future for all of us.
ממקומך מלכנו תופיע because מחכים אנחנו לך. The Slonimer Rebbe says that longing for Hashem will bring the Beis Hamikdash.
It is therefore crying and mourning of hope, of longing, not of despair and atzvus.
May we be zoiche to greet Moshiach Zidkeinu bimheiro b’yomeinu – all of us together in Yerushalyim.