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The Rebuke of the Propehts

On the next Thursday, if G-d forbid the Redemption is delayed, we will mark the fast of the 9th of Av. On this date, the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed, 490 years apart.

When we study the history of this period, we are faced with a baffling question: How did our ancestors do this to themselves? Why couldn't they read the handwriting on the wall and recognize that they were bringing destruction upon themselves? They had the power in their hands to prevent the destruction, if they had only mended their ways.

At a certain point, they did indeed try to prevent the churban. They fought many fierce battles to hold off the invading forces, particularly in the time of the second Temple. They also won some spectacular victories, but in the final view, none of their military exploits were enough to stave off the inevitable.

Perhaps our ancestors could have avoided all the trouble from the start. If they had listened to the rebuke of the prophets and sages and returned to G-d in complete teshuvah, He would not have brought these calamities upon them.

Even after the invaders laid siege to Jerusalem, it was still not too late to do teshuvah and lift the siege. There was historical precedence for this: Sanheriv the king of Assyria besieged Jerusalem with a force of 185,000 soldiers. Due to the prayers and strong faith of King Hezekiah, G-d performed a miracle: in one night, all the soldiers of Sanheriv died!


Of course, hindsight is 20-20. From a comfortable distance of 2000 years, it's easy for us to look back and wonder at what they did or didn't do. The fact remains, however, that despite the warnings of the prophets and Jewish leaders, the Jews continued in the same path which led to destruction.

It is a fact of human nature that despite foreknowledge of the outcome of our actions, we often choose to override the voice of reason and follow our whims and desires regardless of the consequences. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, the well-known defender of Israel, used to say that if all the temptations of the world were found in a book while the rewards for mitzvot were apparent right before our eyes, nobody would sin. Similarly, the destruction of the Temple and subsequent exile must have appeared similarly abstract to the people of the time, who were preoccupied with their own political and personal struggles.


 We cannot turn back the wheels of time--and thank G-d for that. Considering the decline of the generations, and our spiritual status compared to our ancestors, it is difficult to imagine that we would have handled the situation any better than they did.

However, nothing is preventing us from learning the lessons of history. Like our ancestors, we find ourselves now at a crossroads. We have heard a clear prophecy of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, King Moshiach, that we are the final generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption. Are we doing everything in our power to make the vision of Redemption a reality?

One day, our children will stand before us, just like we stand before our ancestors, and ask, "Did you listen to the words of the prophet of the generation? Did you take his words to heart?" This time, we will be able to answer them without shame.

And in this manner we can ensure that this year, the 9th of Av will not be a fast day, but a day of rejoicing, when we celebrate the final Redemption.


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