Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer at Diaspora Yeshiva, is not only a popular speaker and teacher, but also a dynamic thinker and writer. A student of Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Harav Gedalia Schorr, Rabbi Sprecher was granted smicha (rabbinical ordination) by Torah Vodaath Yeshiva. Prior to his current position, Rabbi Sprecher was a professor of Judaic studies at Touro College in New York. In addition to his duties at Diaspora Yeshiva, Rabbi Sprecher writes a regular column on various Judaic topics in the Jewish Press, and lectures regularly at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem.
Why Mourn For A Temple We Never Saw?
Published: Sunday, July 24, 2016 11:02:10 AM
Number of views: 1830

We all encounter grief and mourning in our lives. When a relative or friend passes away, G-D forbid, we mourn him. Even when we experience other kinds of loss, we feel pain and sorrow. However, with regard to the destruction of the Temple, many find it hard to understand what we are mourning. What are we lacking when the Temple is not standing? Or in other words, when the Temple is rebuilt, how will it contribute to our personal lives?

These are basic questions. Without examining them and trying to answer them, we can't truly mourn.

First, we must reject a commonly held notion-that the Temple was only about sacrifices. Sacrifices occurred in the Courtyard of the Temple, but were not the only reason for its existence. Furthermore, the Prophets rebuked those who believed the main reason for the Temple was sacrifices. As Yishayahu says, "Of what use are your many Sacrifices to Me? Says G-D." (1:11).

Another fallacy that must be corrected is that the Temple was meant for G-D. This concept was rejected by King Shlomo when he said, "But will G-D dwell on the earth? Even the Heaven and the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain You, much less this Temple that I have built." (Melachim 1 Ch. 8).

So what then is the purpose of the Temple? What are we supposed to be mourning on Tisha'a BeAv?

The Torah tells us, "And they shall make for Me a Mikdash and I will dwell in their midst." (Shemot 25). The Torah says that G-D dwells in our midst, rather than in the Temple. G-D does not live in the Temple, but in the hearts of each and every person of Israel.

This is why the Temple was built, as a tangible symbol that G-D dwells inside our personal temple, which is our body and soul. When people came to the Temple, they connected to their soul's deepest yearnings and longing for G-D. This experience brought about an intimate connection with the Creator. This purpose was reflected in the blessing recited by the Kohanim when they completed their Service in the Temple-"May He whose Name dwells in this House, make love and peace and friendship among you." (Talmud Brachot 12). This is the message that the Prophets repeated again and again. There is no value to the Temple when it only expresses ritual and external actions. If a person does not behave with integrity, is not compassionate, then the sacrifices and ritual ceremonies lose all their value. The purpose is to walk in the ways of G-D, the path of justice, integrity, TZEDAKAH, and CHESSED.

The Talmud in Yoma 9 asks, "Why was the Temple destroyed, because the Jews were guilty of baseless hatred." That the Jewish people were engaging in baseless hatred proved that we did not internalize the true message of the Temple-which is to walk in the ways of G-D.

This is the reason why we still mourn for the Temple, because unfortunately, we still suffer from SINAT CHINAM (baseless hatred). The way to defeat SINAT CHINAM is through AHAVAT CHINAM (unconditional love) for every Jew.

The Talmud Ta'anit 30 states, "Whoever mourns over the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, will be privileged to behold her joy." May it be speedily in our days, AMEN.

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