Thursday, September 8, 2016

539 - Tisha B'Av

Many of the kinnos read on Tisha B'Av were authored by Rabbi Elazar HaKalir. In the twelfth kinnah (Ohali Asher Ta'avta) he concludes each stanza with different pesukim, each one ending with the word "poh" (here). His intention was clearly not merely for poetic style. Rav Wolbe explains (Alei Shur vol. II p. 411) that he was encapsulating in this word the tragedy of the destruction of the Bais HaMikdosh and also conveying to us an important message.

When the Bais HaMikdosh stood, Hashem's main abode was "here" on earth. We literally lived with Hashem in our midst. Despite His infinite holiness and loftiness, He resided in a house of wood and stone. The Bais Hamikdosh was the site where the physical and material were sublimated and fused into spiritual elements. This spirituality extended to Klal Yisrael and their lives were focused entirely on the spiritual. With the destruction of the Bais HaMikdosh and Hashem's departure from our midst, this all changed drastically. He is no longer "here" and consequently, it feels as if spirituality was relegated to the heavens while we were left to contend with an extremely materialistic world. 

Yet, there is another idea that The Kalir was imparting via the choice of pesukim which end with the word "poh". The following are but a few of the pesukim paraphrased in the kinnah: "But as for you (Moshe), stand with Me here" (Devarim 5:28). "Whoever is here standing with us today before Hashem our G-d, and with whoever is not here with us today" (ibid. 29:14). "Why is My beloved (Avraham) [here] in My Temple?" (Yermiah 11:15). "Is there no longer a prophet of Hashem here?" (Melachim 22:7). 

In the pesukim of the kinnah, the word "here" is used almost entirely with people, and not just anyone but specifically righteous people: Bnei Yisrael as they stood before Hashem, Avraham, Moshe and the prophets. Who decides whether Hashem rests His Shechina here on Earth? Human beings do. If we are up to par in our spiritual level, then Hashem resides amongst us, and the opposite situation brings negative results.

In Mishlei (27:8), Shlomo HaMelech declares, "Like a bird wandering from his nest - so is a man who wanders from his place." Rashi explains the pasuk as referring to a Talmid Chacham who wanders from his studies and fails to review the Torah that he learned. When a person wanders from his proper level of spirituality, he can no longer be found in "his place". Hashem comes looking for him and he is no longer "here" where he is supposed to be. If an entire generation of people is not "here," Hashem will have no place to rest His Shechina. 

This was the question posed to Adam HaRishon after he transgressed the single commandment he was given: "Ayekah?" Where are you? Where has your heart gone? Chazal (Bereishis Rabbah 19:9) draw a parallel between the question "Ayekah?" and the lamentation of "Eichah." The lamentations on the destruction of the Bais HaMikdosh begin with a pointed question to every generation - those who suffered the destruction then and those who suffer now from the aftereffects of the destruction - "Where have you gone?"

After we sit on the floor on Tisha B'Av and listen to the reading of Eichah, we should take a moment to contemplate the question left hanging in the air. Where have 'you' gone? How come Hashem cannot find us to rest His Shechina upon us? Why have we abandoned our proper place of Torah, Avodah or Yiras Shamayim? Practically speaking, it is a question of "Where are we going in life?" Where is our focus? What is important, what takes precedence and on what do we put emphasis? Maybe when we were younger we had goals and aspirations for a more spiritual life and since then we have wandered away from them?

There is much free time on Tisha B'Av. The very least we could do is attempt to answer the above questions. If we can answer these questions and realign our lives, then we will b'ezras Hashem merit seeing the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdosh speedily in our days!

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