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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Ninth of Av

Linking the "Ninth" with the "Tenth"

The number ten symbolizes the peak of completeness and community, the height of sanctity. The destruction of the Temple began on the ninth, but it was on the tenth of Av that it reached its fiery peak. On that day, the Savior of Israel was born.
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Dedicated to the memory of
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1. Never-Ending Mourning
2. Absolute Exile, Complete Redemption
3. Israel's Consolation


Never-Ending Mourning
The point of departure of our mourning over the Temple's destruction on the Ninth of Av is itself astonishing. How is it possible to mourn destruction for two thousand years? There is a legend that goes that Napoleon once entered a Synagogue and found everybody sitting on the floor weeping. He was told that the cause of the weeping was that the Jews' Holy Temple had been destroyed. Napoleon, taken aback, inquired as to whom had done such a thing in his kingdom without consulting him. When told that it had in fact taken place two thousand years ago, the monarch expressed astonishment at this extraordinary people, capable of sustaining their mourning for so many hundreds of years.

In Jewish law, the obligation to mourn the deceased does not continue for longer than one year. This was decreed in order to allow the mourner to forget the deceased as much as possible and to move on in life. However, when it comes to the Temple, we continue to remember and to weep for thousands of years. The Temple's ruin is continuous and never-ending. Life is lacking and will not be rectified until the Temple is rebuilt. Our mourning is not merely a response to the sorry plight of the Jewish people in exile: their persecutions or other physical hardships there. We mourn over the spiritual ruin of our people. The Talmud explains that the absence of the Holy Temple has led not only to weeping in the "outer chambers," but has had an equal effect upon the deep "inner chambers" of the spiritual realm as well.

Because the Holy Temple is absent, the entire Jewish nation is in spiritual disarray. "Since the destruction of the Temple," say the Sages, "the sky has not been seen in its full purity." Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook explains that with the destruction of the Holy Temple the sky, the lofty spiritual realm, was stripped of its authenticity, its "purity." True spirituality, where Torah is firmly bound to worldly existence, cannot exist without the Temple. The essence of the destruction, then, is the destruction of the Torah. Destruction of the Torah for the Jews implies a complete and ongoing destruction. It does not come to an end with the passing of a year. Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo, better known as the "Gaon of Vilna," refers to this sort of destruction as the "rotting of bones," a situation comparable to actual death.

Absolute Exile, Complete Redemption
Yet, deep in the inner recesses of this exile there is a cry for a great and all-encompassing redemption. We mourn and fast on the ninth day of the month of Av. Nine represents the height of individualism. It is the largest of all numbers to stand independently without attaching itself to another digit. As such, it represents both a dispersal of the nation, as well as a dispersal of spiritual harmony. In the Talmud, Rabbi Yochanan claims that if he had lived in the generation of the destruction of the Temple, he would have set the fast on the Tenth of Av. Complete redemption, which was born of the tenth, is what made the ninth which preceded it a necessity. Though the destruction reached its peak on the tenth of Av, it would be inappropriate to fast on that day, for on it, as we have said, the redemption was born.

Israel's Consolation
The immorality of an entire community is ordinarily rectified through reproach. Nevertheless, says Rabbi Kook, our time calls for the consolation and comforting of Israel.

What was the reason for the Destruction? A crisis in the gut of the nation. The iniquities that led to the Jewish exile were of the sort which eat away at unity: unfounded hatred, and non-observance of the laws of the sabbatical "Shmittah" year. Unfounded hatred represents division in the nation; keeping Shmittah represents the healthy life and organic behavior of the nation working its land in sanctity. The two of these aspects together spell out the nation's complete and healthy sacred existence.
In our generation, we find the Jewish people reasserting themselves, and reclaiming their God-given land; we can be certain that destruction and exile are coming to an end. Indeed the destruction and the Redemption are intimately bound.

Rabbi Yehudah Liva, the "Maharal of Prague," explains in his book "Netzach Israel," that the Jewish fasts - 10th of Teveth, 17th of Tammuz, and 9th of Av - appear at unbalanced times. They fall either during periods of excessive heat or excessive cold. They therefore possess great might, and are ripe for ascension and elevation. They possess the capacity to push the world forward to a higher level. It is this characteristic that binds the "ninth," the dispersal, division, and destruction, with the "tenth," which unites, bonds and builds. This is a truly unique time, decisive for the Jewish people. It is a time that refuses to settle for partial redemption, only complete redemption is viable - to transform these times of mourning to days of joy and gladness. This comes by virtue of the destruction - destruction that brings redemption. In the words of our sages: "One who mourns [the demise of] Jerusalem, merits seeing her happiness."

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