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Our Sacred Mountain

After the Temple Mount came under Israeli control during the six-day-war, one of the first actions of the Israeli government was to hand over control to the Muslim Wakf. Ever since they have been engaged in a systematic campaign of destruction, to eradicate any trace of Jewish settlement on that site. The archeological remnants of our flourishing history are being removed in front of our eyes.

One positive outcome that we can attribute to the Wakf is that they've finally brought some unity to the Jews – on this issue, the archeological community and the ultra-religious community are as one.

The truth is, though, that the perspective of the archeologists is not exactly identical to the religious. An archeologist depends on artifacts to create and confirm history. When artifacts are destroyed, the history goes along with it.

From a faith-based perspective, however, there is no need for a tangible remnant to confirm our history. These artifacts are priceless treasures, to be sure; but the real source of our faith is the Torah, the teachings and customs that have been handed down generation after generation. We have in our hands a living tradition, a living history; an artifact can enhance that but can never supplant it.  What truly causes pain and outrage is not so much the ongoing destruction of the Temple Mount by the Wakf—but the fact that the 3rd Holy Temple hasn't been rebuilt yet. The rebuilding of the Temple has been the aim and the dream of our ancestors for generations – when will we finally see it fulfilled?

*

This Tuesday, on the 9th of Av, if G-d forbid the Redemption should be delayed, we will mark 1943 years since the destruction of the Holy Temple. For 1943 years we have fasted and mourned on this day, which is deeply engrained in the Jewish psyche. For many of those years we did not even have access to the Western Wall, and thus had no archeological evidence whatsoever that our beloved Temple ever existed.

In Judaism, we are taught that there is no pain and grief without a purpose. Our purpose is to turn the pain into action, and bring this exile to an end. Our sages say that if the Holy Temple is not rebuilt in our generation, it is as if it was destroyed in our generation. And for this reason we fast and recite mournful dirges on the 9th of Av—to stir ourselves into action, to awaken our yearning and longing for the rebuilt Temple. We need to awaken ourselves out of complacency, and do whatever we can to rebuilt the Temple.

*

Our efforts to rebuild the Temple do not refer to work in the physical or political sphere. The actual rebuilding will be done only after Moshiach's revelation. What we can do is in the spiritual realm: to increase in Torah study, particularly the topic of Redemption and the Holy Temple. Also, an increase in mitzvot, particularly tzedakah, will rebuild the Temple, as the prophet says, “Zion will be redeemed with justice, and its captives [returned] through tzedakah.”

The book of Zechariah writes that when the Redemption comes all our days of mourning will become holidays. We believe firmly that in merit of the good deeds of all the Jews over the generations, the Redemption will come immediately, and we will not fast this Tishah b'Av but celebrate it as a holiday.

 

 


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