Monday, August 11, 2008

The Chronicles of Ehav Ever - Tisha B'Av

Yesterday was Tisha B'Av and this was the scene last night at the Kotel i.e. the Western Wall in the Old City in Jerusalem.

That was the scene and I was right there in the middle of it. It was crowded, but in a very good way. There were thousands of Jews there from all over praying and hoping for the day that we can one day rebuild the Temple that once stood on the Temple Mount.

What Exactly is Tisha B'Av?

Tisha B'Av (Hebrew: תשעה באב or ט׳ באב, "the Ninth of Av,") is an annual fast day in Judaism, named for the ninth day (Tisha) of the month of Av in the Hebrew calendar. The fast commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, which occurred about 656 years apart, but on the same date.

Artist rendition of the Destruction of the Temple

According to the Mishnah (Taanit 4:6), the Tisha B'Av commemorates five events: the destruction of the Temples, the return of the twelve scouts sent by Moses to observe the land of Canaan, the razing of Jerusalem following the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, and the failure of Bar Kokhba's revolt against the Roman Empire.

The Tisha B'Av fast lasts about 25 hours, beginning at sunset on the eve of Tisha B'Av and ending at nightfall the next day. In addition to the prohibitions against eating or drinking, observant Jews also observe prohibitions against washing or bathing, applying creams or oils, wearing leather shoes, or having sexual relations (also displaying physical affection).

The Book of Lamentations is traditionally read, followed by a series of liturgical lamentations called Kinnot. In Sephardic communities, it is also customary to read the Book of Job.

The Difference

There is a big difference between observing Tisha B'Av here in Israel vs. Tisha B'Av when I was in America. I remember when I lived in America Tisha B'Av had some meaning for me, but for some reason it simply was another day we fasted. I remember being at the synagogue and hearing the older men cry during our prayers and when we read the books of Lamentations and Jeremiah, which describes the events that lead to the destruction of the 1st Temple as well as the emotions of the dispersed Israelites afterwards. I remember seeing my Mori (teacher) crying and sobbing in the synagogue, and not clearly understanding why. I remember wanting to feel something, and I remember feeling a little something. Yet, it was just another fast day, because some Jews observed it and some didn't. It was just a day where I was tired, and hungry.

Now that I am here in Israel the entire day is more real to me. I have felt down for the last few weeks leading up to Tisha B'Av because living here you really see how far off Israeli society is without a Temple. You know in your heart that we have so many possibilities, and you live through the questionable times, the hard times, the good times, and the times of blessings. You live through it knowing that if we return to Hashem (G-d), He in turn will meet us half way and return to us.

During the entire fast I was not tired nor was I hungry. In fact as the fast went on I felt stronger. This was especially true when I walked to the Old City of Jerusalem on my way to the Kotel. As we all began to pray in different groups, I felt even stronger than before, and even afterwards as I left to go back to my car and head home to Maale Adummim I felt even stronger. It wasn't until I ate and drank later in the night that I began to feel tired and exhausted.

Here, even if a Jew does not observe our religion, or our traditions it still affects him/her in some way. There is a certain respect that days like this have, even for those Jews who don't particularly do much else in Judaism. Here in Israel, it is hard to be Jewish and deny that on some level without our Temple something is missing.

I had a conversation with a guy at work yesterday, who didn't fast, but the day itself resonated with him. He mentioned that during the first Gulf War, when Iraq fired scud missiles into Israel for no reason what so ever, he was praying that one of the scuds would land on the Dome of the Rock and then we Jews could take over the Temple Mount and rebuild the Temple. He mentioned, that more than likely we won't get it back that easy.

For those who don't understand the situation, it is a bit of a long story. The best way to understand what the Temple has always meant to us Jews, as well as our need for the Temple to be rebuilt you visit The Temple Institute.

Back To Last Night

I haven't been to the Kotel in a number of months, just because of time. I have to admit that I have missed praying there. I miss the feeling of being at a place that is not 100% what it should be, but it has the potential to be something so much more. I missed being in a place where there is some level of joy and some level of sorrow over the hope that one day we will no longer simply pray at a wall, but will have The Temple, like in the days of old.

King Solomon praying that The Temple would he a House of Prayer for all nations

It is sometimes a hard pill to swallow that the Temple Mount, where the Temple of Solomon once stood is controlled by Arabs who are now constantly denying that an Israelite/Jewish Temple was ever there. This stance, only started within the last 20 or 30 years. It is a hard pill to swallow that particular Muslims who currently control the Temple Mount have made it illegal for non-Muslims to pray on the Temple Mount. A non-Muslim who attempts to pray on the Temple Mount can actually be arrested for the simple act of praying. Even moving your lips like you are praying is illegal on the Muslim controlled Temple Mount. While at the Kotel i.e. the Western Wall, anyone can come and pray. All of this when King Solomon's prayer to Hashem (G-d) was that the Israelite/Jewish Temple, on the Temple Mount, would be a house of prayer for all nations.

It is just as hard to swallow the idea that after Israel won the hard fought 6 Day War, we gained control of the Temple Mount, and Jews no matter what their beliefs felt something. Only to have those feelings cast to the rocks when Moshe Dayan gave up the Temple Mount to the Arabs.

The best way for a Muslim to understand this is if an army came into Mecca destroyed it, then control of Arabia went from kingdom to kingdom. Eventually a kingdom came into power and took over Mecca and then claimed there was never a Muslim presence in Mecca. It is like Muslims who fight to free Mecca win Mecca back and then a fellow Muslim gives it to a kingdom who had no connection to it. Most of my Muslims friends would agree that Muslims would never sit back and allow such a thing to happen, they would fight day and night to get Mecca back since it is their holiest site.

No one knows why Moshe Dayan did it, or why there simply wasn't a rebellion against him. The only conclusion we can come to is that it wasn't the time. When the day comes we Jews will know what to do, and we won't allow anything to stop us. Not the media, not western opinion, not the Arabs, and definitely not ourselves.

The Final Analysis

So here I sit at 2:21 a.m. inspired from yesterday, yet knowing we have a long hard road ahead of us. Here I sit, understanding why the older men in the synagogue used to cry because a part of myself is also now crying. Here I sit, like the Temple Mount, not 100% the Israeli or the Jew that I want to be. Yet, like the Temple Mount here I sit with so much potential and opportunity. Here I sit with the hopes of so many people resting on me, like the Temple Mount. Here I sit, praying for the day that we Jews will wake up and never fall asleep again. Here I sit.

Yet, until that day comes, maybe I don't have to sit. Maybe I need to stand up and do something. I am not sure what, but maybe it is as simple as preparing myself. Maybe it is as simple as getting people to understand why. Maybe it is just that simple, and maybe it isn't. Maybe I need to stand up for something because as my co-worker said "We don't get it that easy." No matter how I, I am sorry, we proceed we will be hated. Yet, it comes with the territory. We Jews have been hated when we didn't have a land of Israel and when we didn't have control of our destinies. Now we have a land and the possibility of controlling our own destinies and we are still hated. The future will not be easy, but nothing in life ever is.

Maybe it all boils down to that scene from The Dark Knight:

Bruce Wayne: People are dying, Alfred. What would you have me do?
Alfred Pennyworth: Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They'll hate you for it. But that's the point of Batman, he can be the outcast. He can make the choice that no one else can make, the right choice.

When I think of a future where the Temple will be restored enduring to the end sounds like the best option that Israelis, we Jews, and the world has. Just like now I am stating my beliefs, and there are some who may not like it, but I have to endure. I live here in the Middle East, in one of the smallest countries in this region. In a country that is surrounded by nations that ae bigger than we are, have more population than we do and either want to destroy us or simply endure us for the moment. So I, I mean we, endure.......

The Israelite Temple on the Temple Mount

The Chronicles of Ehav Ever will continue.


Laisha said...

Shalom Ehav,
This post makes me feel sad because of my distance from the Land. I can certainly relate to how you felt observing Tisha B'Av outside the Land. I feel somewhat disconnected observing many holy days outside the Land.

Rachel said...

May we merit to see the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash soon.

Thanks especially for posting those pictures of the Kotel on Tisha B'av. It means a lot to see it for those of us who aren't there.

Ehav Ever said...

Laisha - I can tell you that everything has a different feel to it here. That is why some people stay and some people go.

Rachel -Hi Rachel. 100% may Hashem give us the strength to rebuild in this generation.

No problem.

Batya said...

amazing post

Ehav Ever said...

Thanks Batya.