On the night of Tish’ah be-Av(July 29), when the Jewish people devotes itself again to mourning for all that
it has lost during
exile; after everyone is seated on the ground and before the Kinot(lamentations) are recited, the custom is that the one who leads the prayers
rises and proclaims to the congregation, "Today marks such-and-such many years
since the destruction of our Sanctuary.” For the essence of the mourning over
the great catastrophe, over the years of exile and all that they have entailed,
returns to the focal point of this mourning – to the destruction of the Temple
and city of Jerusalem.
destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple is for us more than the destruction of
our historical capital and our most sacred site. It is not merely a memory of a
tragic event that occurred long ago. Rather, it is a blow to the vital center
of the Jewish people.
What is more, the whole world is
stricken and cannot return to its normal and rectified state until the city of
Jerusalem and the Temple are rebuilt; for Jerusalem is the center point of the
The Midrash describes Jerusalem’s
essential place in the world: "Abba Hanan said in the name of Samuel Hakatan:
This world is like a person’s eyeball. The white of the eye is the ocean
surrounding the world; the iris is the inhabited world; the pupil of the eye is
Jerusalem; and the face [i.e., the reflection of the observer] in the pupil is
the Holy Temple. May it be rebuilt speedily in our days.” (Tractate Derekh
Eretz Zuta 9, end).
of Jerusalem is for us the ruin of all of existence, and ever since a curtain
of sadness and darkness has covered the face of reality.
The mourning over Jerusalem is more
than a one-time memorial of a once-a-year day of mourning. All of Jewish life
is continually suffused with mourning – in remembrance of the hurban(destruction).
For us, the sharply worded verses
"If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill; let my
tongue adhere to my palate if I fail to remember you, if I do not raise
Jerusalem above my highest joy” (Psalms 137:5-6) are not mere
oratory; they are a living reality, practical and actual guidance on the path
of life, in remembering Jerusalem at all times.
sorrow and loss should be recalled at all times, even in joyous moments. When
the table is set to host guests for a meal, something should be left
incomplete, in remembrance of the hurban. When a house is built, it must
not be completed entirely. Part of it should remain unplastered, in remembrance
of the hurban. The memory of Jerusalem should be raised at the forefront
of every joyous occasion. Even amidst the joy of a wedding, ashes are placed on
the groom’s head. Even under the huppah (marriage canopy), before all
eyes, a glass is broken. For it is impossible for us to rejoice fully, as long
as Jerusalem lies in ruins.
Thus, the mourning over Jerusalem
has continued for nearly two thousand years, like a thread of tears running
through our lives.
All mourning – even the deepest
sorrow – tends, with time, to be forgotten. With the increasing passage of
time, people learn to reconcile themselves to the sorrow and the loss.
This is equally true of both the
private mourning of individuals and the communal mourning over the Temple. So
many years have gone by since the destruction of the Temple that the sense of
its absence has eroded. Nowadays, heartache over the destruction of the Temple
is found only in one whose soul is attached, even today, to the Temple in its
built state. Only one who "lives” the Temple and the anticipation of its
rebuilding and restoration can feel in our time the pain of its absence.
This problem – the weakening of
the evocative power of the various remembrance days – is not new. Megillat
Ta’anit, "The Scroll of Fasting,” which was compiled at the end of the
Second Temple period, contains a list of festive days commemorating events of
salvation for Israel and victories of the kingdom of Israel during this period.
This Scroll officially ceased to be authoritative, because in later generations
it lost its power to evoke the national memory. The course of time and a host
of new troubles and woes erased the memory of the former events and
increasingly diminished the significance of the days commemorating them.
Those remembrance days that
remained in effect through the ages endured not because of the magnitude of the
events nor even because of the enactment of one halakhic authority or the
other, but because the days took on a broader and deeper message that remained
meaningful in every generation.
Tish’ah be-Av is a day on which many troubles
occurred, one after the other: the destruction of the first and second Temples,
the destruction of Beitar and, in later generations, too, the expulsion of the
Jews from Spain, the expulsion of the Jews from England, the outbreak of World
War I, et al.
the accumulation of tragic events is not the only cause of the intense mourning
on Tish’ah be-Av. The day has become a focal point through which allof Israel’s troubles throughout the generations have been concentrated and
remembered. That is to say, the day not only commemorates events that occurred
on Tish’ah be-Av itself, but also includes every episode of general
be-Av has ceased to be a Remembrance Day for a specific event and has
become an all-inclusive symbol – a remembrance day for Israel’s troubles
throughout all the generations and throughout the world.
is why among the Kinot of Tish’ah be-Av we find commemoration of
all the tragedies suffered by our people ever since it was exiled from its
land: kinot lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem as well as kinotcommemorating the Crusades, the public burning of the Torah, Israel’s exiles in
eastern lands and the evil decrees against them.
During the six years of the
Holocaust, all the tragedies of the hurban, in all their terrible
ferocity, reappeared upon the very body of the Jewish people ̶ the
humiliation, the torture, and the cruel destruction of the whole Jewish world
in Europe; and above all, systematic and total extermination unparalleled in
all of history.
The Jews were once again put in
the terrifying isolation of a scapegoat, a target for the seething hatred of an
entire world – the fathomless cruelty of the world and its indifference. All
the ancient images, all the lamentations of generations gone by, once again
became a living reality. Once again, we
sensed Jewish distinctness and all the pain that it entails, the hurbanin all its significance.
of this cries out to us to be remembered and not forgotten – if not every day
of the year, at least on the day designated for this purpose. And there is no
day on the Jewish calendar that can express all of this like Tisha B’Av,
the remembrance day of national mourning, which, in all its customs and in its
whole essence, has become like a day of private mourning.
Remembering the Holocaust on Tisha
B’Av would likely arouse and intensify the feeling of mourning on this day
among our contemporaries by lending relevance to the mourning over Jewish
suffering in all generations. In addition, the Holocaust would be linked with a
day that will continue to be observed in the Jewish future. Thereby, the memory
of the Holocaust would be linked with the day of mourning for all the
tragedies experienced by the Jewish people throughout history. And perhaps the
flashes and glimpses of the redemption that are inherent in Tisha B’Avwould be able to cast a clearer light on the Holocaust.