By Yochanan Gordon
Before any meaningful juncture throughout the year, there is usually no shortage of articles and speeches to help us prepare, morally and mentally, to make the most of that time. However, perhaps more important than being prepared coming in, we really have to know how to carry on with our lives after these spiritual rendezvous have passed by.
I used to be a serious sports fan. I say “used to be” because I find that lately I have been tuned out to what is really going on. From time to time, out of curiosity, I will check the Mets homepage to see how they did the night before and how the standings look in general. However, during the years when sports played a pivotal role in my life, it was saddening when the baseball season ended in September. Being a Mets fan meant that they finished playing before the post-season games. This meant having to wait even longer for any potential victories, which made matters kind of dull.
Needless to say, it is never constructive to let valuable time pass by. Indeed, all time is valuable and there are ways to constructively utilize our time. Just waiting from the end of one occasion to the start of another is not good. Just as waiting too long at some train stations makes one more susceptible to being robbed, waiting around can rob us of our time–and once time is taken, it is never returned. On that note, what is our approach to the days when we fast and mourn over the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in a three-week period beginning with the Seventeenth of Tammuz and ending with the Ninth of Av?
People often treat fasting as a hurdle to overcome or a momentous achievement of sorts. There used to be a popular bumper sticker that says, “This car climbed Mount Washington.” I have yet to see one that reads “I survived Yom Kippur,” but I cannot say I would be surprised if I were to come across it.
We have to realize that we created the need to fast. The Temple was destroyed because of our sins. And if you think that you were not involved, I would say to think again, for, as Rambam writes in Hilchos Beis HaBechirah, “every generation that does not rebuild the Temple is responsible for its destruction.”
In a previous article, I mentioned the advice of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, o.b.m., to learn the halachos of Beis HaBechirah to become more familiar with the Beis HaMikdash. We need to review what it means to us as a people–not only on a practical level, but as an edifice which acted as the heart of the people. The Beis HaMikdash was the place where Heaven met Earth; it was indeed Heaven on Earth. How can we expect to have feelings for something that we know nothing about?
Not only would it be an effective form of preparation to learn the laws of the Beis HaMikdash and how the kohanim conducted their daily obligations in and around the Beis HaMikdash specifically during this time, but being that it is obligatory and expected of us to rebuild the Temple in our days, we should learn the laws of the Temple on a daily basis as our bid towards actually achieving that goal. This will also enable us to recite the korbanos portion before davening every day with more concentration and really bring to life how the Jews lived during those days.
Following the Three Weeks and our fasting, we really have to focus on showing Gâ€‘d that after sitting on the floor lamenting all the tragedies that befell our people during these weeks throughout our history, we have an interest in moving on. We have to prove in our own lives that we’ve had enough sadness and mourning and that it is not a necessary component for making us focus on things that really matter and make a difference in life. Because if not, then we may have survived the fast, but its message has not yet seeped in.
When we complete the Pesach Seder and say “Next year in Jerusalem,” is it said with any measure of excitement? Or is it said tiredly, as we are on our way to bed for the night? After reading about the backbreaking slave labor that our ancestors endured over a period of 210 years with insights, stories, and commentary lasting well past midnight, we should certainly come out with a real feeling for redemption and freedom. The next year when as a family we yet again read the same story with practically the same commentary, do we feel amazed that we are not in Jerusalem, having asked for it the year before? Well, it is not about surviving the holiday, but about living it and wanting to live it forever.
I’m sure most of you have attended a memorable concert at some point in your lives, the type of concert at which you found yourself and everyone else in attendance shouting for an encore. Three hours of an emotionally charged stellar performance can make you feel like keeping that scenario alive forever. If there is enough of a push, the performer may choose to play another number–but he has to feel the interest. If not, why should he waste his time and energy? Imagine sitting half asleep, you really want to leave, but halfheartedly you start mumbling, “encore, encore,” sounding as if you were already on your way to something else–chances are you would not change anything. To get an encore, you have to really want it.
Gâ€‘d loves us and He wants to see us happy. He is waiting to give us everything that we need to succeed, and He certainly wants us redeemed so that He once again can rest His glory and splendor over Jerusalem with all of His children together once and for all. But we have to show Him that we want it and we will not take no for an answer.
Before you know it, the High Holy Days will be near and we will be blowing the shofar–not to entertain the kids, but as a reminder for some serious introspection. It is another chance to ascend another rung on the ladder towards Gâ€‘dliness. It is another opportunity to get that much closer to reuniting with our ancestors and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple speedily in our days, when we will achieve eternal joy without sorrow, with the coming of Mashiach and our final redemption.
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