Parshas Devarim-Tisha B’Av
with Rav Avigdor Miller
Rebuilding the Ruins
Part I. The Destruction
The Churban Beis Hamikdash, although it took place thousands of years ago, is of such significance that the entire Am Yisroel together observes it every year in a national day of mourning. And the truth is it’s not only Tisha B’Av; on numerous occasions throughout the year we remind ourselves of our mourning. It’s on the mind of every loyal Jew every day. It’s in our daily tefillos too.
Now, if this subject is so important then it’s not enough to merely go along with the impression that we gained as little children and to continue living with those same childish impressions. When we approach the mitzvah to mourn, it’s important to prepare at least somewhat beforehand; and then when Tisha B’Av comes we won’t walk empty handed into that important day on the Jewish calendar. And we won’t walk out empty handed either.
Now, the truth is that even if you’re just sitting on the floor and saying the kinnos along with everyone else it’s valuable. Even if you don’t understand the meaning of the words, just the fact that you’re joining in the national mourning, that already is something. Of course, it’s good to take a peek at the translation once in a while if you have it. You can get a translation of the kinnos and of Eicha and study it beforehand. But even if you didn’t, you’re sitting on the ground and you’re saying words of mourning that our people have said for thousands of years – that’s already something.
Mourn and Gain
But the best thing is to think; to take advantage of Tisha B’Av.We have to listen to the advice of a great man, Shlomo HaMelech, in Koheles (ch. 3): לַכֹּל זְמָן – There’s a time for everything. It means that for every kind of perfection of character, there’s a zman, a time. There are so many different times during the year and each one is an opportunity to accomplish a different kind of perfection. It’s up to you, however, to know that when the time comes you have to make use of it.
Tisha B’Av, you have to know, is a time to sit down on the ground and weep. Not to look at the clock and see how many hours it is until supper time – no. You have to weep on Tisha B’Av; mourning on Tisha B’Av is a shleimus. And the more mourning, the more perfection. Like it says in Yeshaya (61:3): לַאֲבֵלֵי צִיּוֹן לָתֵת לָהֶם פְּאֵר תַּחַת אֵפֶר – The more eifer, the more you put ashes on you, the more pe’er you’re going to get, the more perfection of character.
Loss of Shechinah
And so we should analyze, at least superficially, the elements that we can discern in the matter of the Churban Beis Hamikdash. When Shlomo built the Beis Hamikdash the Shechinah came in and filled the entire heichal. אָז אָמַר שְׁלֹמֹה, When Shlomo saw that he said, הַשֵּׁם אָמַר לִשְׁכֹּן בָּעֲרָפֶל Hashem said He’s going to dwell in a thick cloud, and everybody saw the Shechinah (Melochim I, 1:12). That’s what Hashem promised us: וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ – They shall make for me a Mikdash, which means a holy place, an especial place for Me,וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם – and I shall dwell in their midst. In a nutshell that’s what the Beis Hamikdash meant: We felt that Hashem lives with us. That feeling, that awareness, was something that transformed the lives of the Am Yisroel.
Just a visit to Yerushalayim transformed a person; the Torah says that’s the reason for bringing maaser sheini to Yerushalayim. You know, maaser sheini means that every year – almost every year – you separate one tenth of your produce and you bring it to Yerushalayim to eat. And it takes some time before you consume all that food; a tenth of your produce! Sometimes you have to spend weeks in Yerushalayim before you can eat it up. And what’s it for? The Torah says (Devarim 14:23) it’s for the purpose of לְמַעַן תִּלְמַד לְיִרְאָה אֶת הַשֵּׁם – so that you became more and more aware of Hashem’s Presence every minute you are there.
All day long you were in the shadow of Hashem’s Home. That was the greatness of having a Beis Hamikdash. The knowledge that the Shechina lives with us!
Loss of Strength
Now the Binyan Shlomo was the pride of our nation. It was perfect in everything. The kohanim gedolim were anointed with the shemen hamishchah. They had the two luchos habris. The stone tablets were there inside. Everything graced the first Beis Hamikdash and nobody ever dreamed that the hand of a gentile could ever touch it. לֹא הֶאֱמִינוּ כֹּל יֹשְׁבֵי תֵבֵל כִּי יָבֹא צַר וְאוֹיֵב בְּשַׁעֲרֵי יְרוּשָׁלִָם, nobody ever dreamed this could happen (Eicha 4:12). נוֹרָא אֱלֹקִים מִמִּקְדָּשֶׁיךָ, You Elokim are fearsome when You come out of Your sanctuary (Tehillim 68:12). Constantly you find such expressions in Tanach. From the mikdash the power of Hashem came forth to defend His people. It was unthinkable that it could be destroyed.
Butfinally that dreaded day came when the nation saw the Beis Hamikdash set to the torch. The House of Hashem; the house where our Hashem lived with us is burning! It was a great day of mourning never to be forgotten. And that’s why to this day when we mourn, it’s mostly for the Churban haBayis.
Loss of Enlightenment
However, it wasn’t only the Beis Hamikdash that fell. The loss of the Sanhedrin in the lishkas hagazis is a tremendous irreparable loss. It was the Torah center from which the Toras Hashem flowed out to all the corners of Eretz Yisroel. The lishkas hagazis in the Beis Hamikdash was the center of the Torah nation – and that went lost along with the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.
We have to mourn for the loss of nevuah. Ahh, the prophets, the nevi’im! What a great gift that was; when the Shechina was shoreh b’Yisroel and the nevi’im spoke words of truth. The Word of Hashem enlightened the eyes of the people. When the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, nevuah ceased and we lost that great opportunity. We don’t have the great teachers, the pathfinders, the guides, that we had in the days of old. That’s something to weep over.
Loss of Happiness
What about the loss of our national happiness? We have to picture how our forefathers went up to Yerushalayim three times a year in masses. Every town had a little army of men and their families who set out to Yerushalayim three times a year. They would march on the roads with the cattle and sheep that they intended to bring as offerings.
They put on their Yom Tov garments, and they took along musical instruments and they sang and played music on the road. And soon they heard from another road the same sounds of festivity and they were joined by a band from the next town as the roads merged. As they continued, the army swelled and became a huge multitude and soon the roads were clogged. You could barely move. But they were all singing and dancing on the road.
They were oblivious to the time. They didn’t realize that the minutes were passing by. To them it seemed that time was standing still. They weren’t in Yerushalayim yet but they were already enjoying the Presence of the Shechinah. Like Dovid describes in Shir Hama’alos (122:2): עֹמְדוֹת הָיוּ רַגְלֵינוּ בִּשְׁעָרַיִךְ יְרוּשָׁלִָם, suddenly we discovered that our feet were standing within your gates, Yerushalayim. And the memunah in charge of the group said, “Halt. We’re already here.” They were standing in the streets and Yerushalayim was mobbed. There were millions in the city. We know this from the secular historians. The city was jammed with Jews, and it was all in a festive mood.
Loss of Joy
Now that happiness of ancient Yerushalayim is a subject worth studying. Oh, there were so many happy occasions when the nation gathered there. וְאָכַלְתָּ שָּׁם וְשָׂמַחְתָּ לִפְנֵי הַשֵּׁם אֱלֹקֶיךָ – You will eat there and rejoice before Hashem (Devarim 27:7). They ate meat of korbanos which they roasted and they drank wine and they danced with simchah until the spirit of Hashem came upon them and many became prophets.
The nation was happy! What was the mark of the days of old? They were times of joy. מִי שֶׁלֹּא רָאָה שִׂמְחַת בֵּית הַשּׁוֹאֵבָה, לֹא רָאָה שִׂמְחָה מִיָּמָיו (Sukkah 50a). No matter what joy the world attempts to accomplish in its festivities, it doesn’t approach the simchah that our forefathers enjoyed when they gathered together with Hashem in Yerushalayim.
And so when we look back on the happy times of the days of old we mourn for that joy that we do not experience today. You should think about that while you’re sitting on the floor on Tisha B’Av. We look back with regret and we mourn the simchah that departed from our people. We mourn for that song of joy which now became silent.
Loss of Pride
Now included in that happiness we possessed, was our pride in Hakodosh Boruch Hu. We knew who we were – the nation chosen by the King of the Universe. And therefore another element of our weeping is the honor of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, al kevod shimcha hamechullal, His great Name that was profaned when the gentiles marched into the sanctuary and destroyed it.
They ridiculed us. “Where is your G-d?” they laughed. They put a torch to the Mikdash and slew the sages, and the Name of Hashem was profaned in the world. The pride of the Am Yisroel, our pride in Hashem, went lost to a very big extent.
After the Mikdash was destroyed, the false religions, the imitating religions, arose – Islam and Christianity – and they belittled our people; they mocked us and they said that we are living in darkness and error and that they have the truth; and they blamed us for persisting in our refusal to accept their new truths. And because we were in golus now, so we had to be silent. For generations, all over Europe, instead of living in the shadow of the Mikdash we lived in the shadow of the cathedral, and we were considered subhumans, outcasts of society.
So Many Losses
The gentiles made it their business that we should live in the very worst of social conditions. Pope after Pope issued decrees that the Jews should not be allowed to lift their heads. “Don’t kill them,” the Pope said, “but don’t let them lift up their heads.” It was considered a kindliness when they didn’t extinguish our lives. And by the way; they didn’t always follow the Pope’s advice to leave the Jews alive.
And in the Muslim world as well, they spat upon the Jew. In Yerushalayim just a generation ago there was an old rav who walked in the street. He was from a distinguished rabbinical family, the Bardaki family, and an Arab was passing with a little donkey carrying some merchandise. The Arab stopped the old rav and he put everything on the back of the old rav, even the little donkey. The Arab was riding on Rabbi Bardaki with all the packs from the donkey on him and he sat on the rabbi’s shoulders. The rabbi had to keep quiet. He couldn’t do anything against the Arab. And he took the Arab to his house and he humbly deposited him at his doorstep and he went home. He thanked Hashem that he remained alive. In Yerushalayin Ir Hakodesh!
And so when we weep on Tisha B’Av we think about these things – there is so much to think about – and we look back on our glorious history and see what we once possessed and what went lost afterwards. And we hope for the time when once again we’ll be zocheh to what went lost from us.
Building with Billions
Now, we have to understand the purpose in looking back at the Churban Beis Hamikdash. When a man looks back and he mourns, we have to ask him, do you know why you’re weeping? Is it merely to express aveilus for all those great eras and great possessions which we once had?
Yes, certainly! But it’s more than that. It’s also a way of looking forward. I’ll explain that.
Suppose it’s possible for you to go tomorrow to Eretz Yisroel and rebuild the Beis Hamikdash. Let’s say you have billions and billions of dollars and you could buy off the Arabs; they would obligingly remove themselves and give you the opportunity to rebuild the Beis Hamikdash. Imagine that because of you the Israeli government would resign and the Gedolei Yisroel would take over. Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Satmar Rav also; all the Roshei Yeshivah. You’d bring them in and they’d all sit together to make decisions about building the Beis Hamikdash.
Now some things they couldn’t do because you need Eliyahu Hanavi to answer some questions, but very many practices could be restored immediately. שָׁמַעְתִּי שֶׁמַּקְרִיבִים אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין מִקְדָּשׁ. The Mishnah (Eduyos 8:6) says you can bring korbanos even today. I’m not giving any piskei halachos, but superficially we can say that many things could be done before Moshiach comes.
Now imagine a man who has the power to organize all of that. But instead of doing anything, as soon as Tisha B’Av is over, he goes back to his ordinary life. On Tisha B’Av he sits on the ground all day long weeping for the lost Beis Hamikdash; the tears are flowing. And then on Motzei Tisha B’Av he gets up from the floor and wipes the dust off his pants and he goes home. He goes back to his job and back to normal living.
Can we say that this man was weeping sincerely? Did he even know what he was weeping about? It can’t be! A person cannot be considered a sincere aveil on the Churban Beis Hamikdash unless he makes use of the opportunities he has; unless the mourning spurs him to look forward and to rebuild.
Actually, that’s what happened at the time of the churban. Our forefathers weren’t yotzei with just mourning. They didn’t throw up their hands and say, “We give up.” You know what they were doing? As soon as the churban took place, they began building immediately; that was their reaction to the destruction.
Rebuilding in Yavneh
While they were burning the Beis Hamikdash in Yerushalayim, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai was sitting in Yavneh and making takanos for the future of the Jewish nation. The Sages were establishing Yavneh at the time as if it was a substitute for the Beis Hamikdash. They blew shofar in Yavneh on Shabbos like they did in the Beis Hamikdash, and the people were summoned to be oleh regel to Yavnehthree times a year instead of to the Mikdash. It was an innovation, something new.
Now, you might think, how could Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai do that? He should sit and mourn! He should have been heartbroken!
The answer is that certainly he mourned, absolutely. But in the midst of his mourning he was a very active builder. He was very old, by the way, and old people usually are the ones to give up in desperation. But not Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai. He understood what mourning means; you appreciate what went lost so intensely, that you’re doing whatever you can to replace it.
And so, with his eyes to the future, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai was as busy as could be preparing for the future. He brought in a young nasi, Rabban Gamliel, and he appointed him to take over the job. And he told the older chachomim, “You obey him. He’s the boss.” He was building and he encouraged all the chachomim who were his disciples to build along with him.
The Mishnah Mikdash
While the Beis Hamikdash, the center of Torah life, was burning, they sat down to rebuild the spiritual Beis Hamikdash. They began now to review all the mishnayos and to argue about every letter, every detail. And many halachos were clarified in Yavneh. They built up the Torah sheba’al peh at that time soit should be a solid building for generations.
And then when Rabeinu Hakadosh came along after the churban of Beitar – the Rambam says Beitar was even a bigger churban than the Mikdash. So Rebbi didn’t say, “What can we do? We’re so sad” and that’s all. Of course he asked Hakodosh Boruch Hu that He should restore the glory of old. But he wasn’t yotzei with that. Rebbi called together all the chachomim and for years and years they sat and counted every ois until finally the Mishnah was sealed by Rebbi.
The churban that took place didn’t stop them from building a new Beis Hamikdash, and the new Beis Hamikdash was the Torah sheba’al peh, the Mishnah. And the Jewish nation now lives in that Beis Hamikdash. We are housed in the Mishnah.
And then along came the chachmei hadoros, Rabbi Yochanan and all the other chachmei Eretz Yisrael, the amora’im. And then in Bavel came Rav and Shmuel and then Rav Huna and Rav Yehudah and then Rabbah and Rav Yosef. There were many others.
And then came Abaye and Rava, and these were the builders of the Talmud Bavli. They were building up the Beis Hamikdasheven more. They put stone on stone. They made doorways. They made roofs. They made chambers. Each mesichta is a huge lishkah in the Beis Hamikdash. And finally came Rav Ashi and his great assemblage of chachamim, and they made a Chanukas Habayis and they concluded the Talmud Bavli.
The Talmud Bavli, you have to know, is our sanctuary. The Jewish nation lives in that Beis Hamikdash even more securely than the generations of old lived in the physical Beis Hamikdash. To this day the Jewish nation lives in the Talmud; we rejoice in the Talmud. We pass in and out of those doorways. We breathe the air of the Talmud. We live with the aspirations and the ideals of the Talmud. We look at the world through the eyes of the Talmud. And therefore Rav Ashi and all those that came before him were building in the midst of their mourning.
And so we see now what the subject of Tisha B’Av really is. What is the function of mourning? Building! If we really mourn for the past, if we regret what we lost, then it means that we are full of interest, full of desire and ambition to build everything that went lost. We want to rebuild the Torah nation.
Geulah for Torah
Now, some people when they hear this, they are confused. Is that really what we’re talking about when we mourn for the Beis Hamikdash and look forward to Yemos Hamoshiach?
So we open up a Rambam. The Rambam (Hil. Melochim 12:4) asks, what is it that the tzaddikim and the chassidim look forward to when they await the days of Moshiach? Is it that they want to come back to Eretz Yisroel and eat the beautiful fruits of the land and enjoy that happiness? No, says the Rambam. That’s not the happiness we’re yearning for. It’s not the physical joy which we once experienced that we want to re-experience.
Listen to what the Rambam says: We are looking forward to be free from the shibud malchuyos so we can achieve perfection of the mind and of character. We want to be free to study Torah and its wisdom in order to acquire Olam Habo.
Difficulties of Exile
Today we’re subject to the nations. They make us work for them. If you pay taxes it means that one day out of five you’re working for the government. Our lives are given away for programs that help loafers and criminals. College professors get grants of money from the government to go and study the most intimate details of how Aleutian Indians live. Tremendous grants of money from the government they get and we’re paying for it. So we’re giving away our lives for shibud malchuyos.
Besides, the shibud malchuyos is a very bad influence. We’re so busy struggling against the immorality we see all around us, the sheker of evolution in the colleges and the wildness of the youth. Every form of degradation we see in golus. That’s also shibud malchuyos.
And so we mourn for what we once had – the purity of Eretz Yisroel in the days of old – and we look forward to the time when Moshiach will redeem us from all this and we will finally be at leisure.
Limitations of Geulah
Now, what will we do with our spare time? You think you’ll sit in the mountains at a kosher hotel and eat three kosher meals a day? No, we’re not asking for that. The Rambam says we’re mourning because we’re looking forward to leisure time when we’ll be able to sit in the shtiebel or in the yeshivah all day long.
“That’s all?!” you’re thinking. “To sit in the yeshivah?” You’re disappointed. Maybe you’re too ashamed to admit it but that’s what you’re thinking. Oh, it’s a disappointment? It means we’re not mourning for the Beis Hamikdash. We don’t really mean it. Because once the Beis Hamikdash comes we’ll have to sit in the beis hamedrash all day long. There’s nothing else to do. You don’t have to work. You go out and work a little bit but the fields will give a great deal; וְנָתְנָה הָאָרֶץ יְבוּלָהּ – the land will yield its fruits. You’ll have easy parnassah and you’ll have a lot of time with nothing to do.
What will you do? You’ll travel to Switzerland? No; you can’t leave the land when Moshiach comes. Eretz ha’amim is metamei. It’s like tumas meis. You have to remain in Eretz Yisrael.
You’ll watch television? There won’t be television. Movies? No movies. In Eretz Yisroel not a single movie; nothing. No pizza parlors. Nothing to do. Even to drive around in your car, I don’t know if you’ll have that. There will be very strict laws because cars are dangerous. You know, according to the Torah, when you find a man dead in Eretz Yisrael, you make the biggest fuss with an eglah arufah. And you have to send from the Sanhedrin a committee to investigate. It’s a whole fuss if one man is found dead! So of course they wouldn’t allow cars to speed back and forth.
So in Eretz Yisroel everybody will be busy sitting in the beis hamedrash learning Torah. Everybody will troop out from the houses to the yeshivos every day. Come back at night and eat supper and go back to the batei medrashim. That’s what will be in Moshiach’s time. Every day, packed batei medrashim.
Governesses and Tutors
Women will be cooking meals for their husbands who are learning Torah and for their children. And they’ll be learning mussar and yiras shomayim all the time because women too will have a lot of free time. וְהָיוּ מְלָכִים אֹמְנַיִךְ וְשָׂרוֹתֵיהֶם מֵינִיקֹתַיִךְ – the gentile kings will be your servants to bring up your sons, and the queens will be governesses and tutors for your little children (Yeshaya 49:23). Not to teach them Torah but to teach them how to go to the toilet. The queens will take the little girls to the toilet, and the kings will take your little boys and teach them how to put on their shoes and stockings and they’ll tie the knot in their shoes. And we, the Am Yisroel – men and women, boys and girls – will be free to serve Hashem.
That’s what we really are weeping for, for the Torah nation that went lost. We’re looking forward to that great opportunity when we’ll be able to sing again. אָז יִמָּלֵא שְׂחוֹק פִּינוּ וּלְשׁוֹנֵנוּ רִנָּה!Then the Jewish nation will sing. When the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt we’ll sing songs of Torah, shleimus and perfection of character, with a crescendo that we could never reach in golus. It will be the highest and most beautiful song ever heard in history. We’re rebuilding now but at the same time that’s what we’re looking forward to.
Mourning and Marriage
Now, as important as it is to continue rebuilding the Torah nation, we should never lose sight of how we can participate in that rebuilding in our own private lives. When we sit down and mourn we should think about the opportunity we have to build a Beis Hamikdash in our own homes.
Now, I know that when you hear that you think it’s just an exaggeration, something I’m saying just to interest you in the subject but if you listen well you’ll see it’s not an exaggeration at all.
You have to know that at the time of the Churban there were some who began to say that there’s no use getting married anymore. They wanted to make a prohibition on having children (Bava Basra 60b). “Look how many people we lost to the Romans already – it’s no use having children any more. Let’s just die out gradually.” That’s how the weaker people mourned, by giving up. They sat on the floor and cried and they stopped looking forward.
Oh no! That’s a big mistake; that’s not how we mourn. Of course we look back and we’re sad but we should never stop looking ahead. And included in that is the Beis Hamikdash that we can still build today – that’s the Torah family, the Torah home.
The Gemara in Mesichta Pesachim (87a) is discussing a possuk in Tehillim (144:12): אֲשֶׁר בָּנֵינוּ כִּנְטִעִים – Our sons are like plants, מְגֻדָּלִים בִּנְעוּרֵיהֶם – they are raised up from their youth. That means our children are brought up in the Jewish home like plants. They’re watered carefully; they’re tended to and they grow into beautiful trees.And our daughters, the same. בְּנוֹתֵינוּ כְזָוִיֹּת – Our daughters are like corner pillars; they are the cornerstones, the supports, of our homes.
Now he goes on and explains further. “Our sons are like plants – אֵלּוּ בַּחוּרֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁלֹּא טָעֲמוּ טַעַם חֵטְא, these arethe Jewish youth that never tasted sin. You know in the olden days every Jewish boy was bashful; he couldn’t even talk to a girl. The truth is that to a great extent that’s how it used to be even fifty years ago. Our youth were brought up like pure saplings and they were watered with bayshanus, with yiras cheit. They wereinnocent boys and they married young. They never knew what cheit was. And it wasn’t just a few. That was the Jewish nation in the days of old.
Now we have to understand that he’s talking about yeshivos of today as well. Of course they’re not like they used to be, but today our yeshivah men are our pride. Yeshivah people, we are proud of them. They are bashful boys. They are modest. They are far from aveiros. Some learn more, some learn less, but still they have been trained in the way of Yisroel Saba and they go with tznius and yiras Hashem.
And our girls? מְחֻטָּבוֹת תַּבְנִית הֵיכָל – אֵלּוּ בְּתוּלוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל. These are the Jewish girls who maintain their tznius; they’re perfectly modest. Our daughters, baruch Hashem, are Bais Yaakov girls, Bais Rochel girls, Bais Rivka girls, beautiful girls. They’re covered up. They’re well dressed. They know that their job is to get married and be loyal wives and loyal mothers and they’ll be busy in their homes. That’s our pride.
Now, that possuk in Tehillim concludes with the following three words: מְחֻטָּבוֹת תַּבְנִית הֵיכָל – they’re being shaped with the shape of a palace. And listen to what the Gemara says about that. אֵלּוּ וָאֵלּוּ, on these sons and daughters, מַעֲלֶה עֲלֵיהֶן הַכָּתוּב כְּאִלּוּ נִבְנָה הֵיכָל בִּימֵיהֶן, it’s considered as if the heichal, the Beis Hamikdash, was rebuilt in their days. By having sons and daughters and raising them properly it is actually a form of rebuilding the Beis Hamikdash.
An Actual Sanctuary
Now let’s not get lost in meshalim, in a form of speech and metaphors. That is actually the binyan Beis Hamikdash. When people get married with the intention of raising big families, big frum families, they are the ones who are entitled to weep for the Churban Beis Hamikdash because they mean business.
Here’s a woman with ten children, all frum. She gave her life to raise those children. She was cooking all her life. She nursed them. She washed diapers for them. She cleaned the house for them. She saw to it that her husband went to learn and didn’t sit in the house in the evening wasting his time. She encouraged her sons to go to learn. The little boys had to know the Chumash. When they came home, she said, “Take out the Gemara and learn.” Her daughters dressed with tznius. She made sure they helped in the house. The father too. He’s out in the office working long hours so he could pay the schar limud but he’s watching over the children too. They keep every kutzo shel yud of the halachos. No muktzeh, no lashon hara. Everything is done with kashrus, with tznius.
And so our Sages want us to know that people who are raising such sons and daughters are not building the Mikdash al pi mashal. They’re actually, factually, building the heichal.It’s considered as if the Beis Hamikdash, the heichal was rebuilt in their days.
Holy Jewish Homes
That’s why the Gemara (Brachos 6b) says, כָּל הַמְשַׂמֵּחַ חָתָן וְכַלָּה כְּאִלּוּ בָּנָה אַחַת מֵחֻרְבוֹת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם. If you come to a wedding, a kosher Jewish wedding – men here, women there – and you add joy to the groom and bride so it’s as if you are rebuilding one of the ruined houses of Yerushalayim.
Because that’s something else we’re mourning for; besides the Churban Beis Hamikdash, there was also a churban of the Jewish dwellings, the Jewish homes. What the Jewish home was in the ancient times, we have no idea how holy they were. I’m always repeating what was said about seventy years ago or more by Rav Yerucham z”l, the mashgiach of Mir Yeshivah in Poland. “Mir kennen nisht farshtein,” he said, we’re not able to understand the greatness of our great-grandmothers and great grandfathers.
Now Rav Yeruchem lived in a time where there were many frum Jews yet. Not everybody, but there were many frum Jews and there’s no question there were still many beautiful holy homes of tzaddikim. But the homes of their great-grandmothers were something different. Not only we don’t equal the greatness of their grandmothers; he said, “We don’t understand them.” Mir kennen nisht farshtein, you can’t understand their greatness. They lived on such a different degree. Once upon a time the Jewish home was kodesh kodashim.
And so, we mourn the loss of the churvos Yerushalayim. Not just one Churban Beis Hamikdash, we mourn the loss of all those holy dwellings of our ancestors.
Rebuilding with Pomp
And one of the purposes of our mourning is so that we can understand what we lost and try to rebuild as much as possible. We mourn but then we get up on Motzei Tisha B’av and we keep building.
And so, let’s say you’re going to a chasuna next week, right after Tisha B’Av. You have to know what you’re doing there. When you come to a chasunah, what’s the function of being mesameach chosson v’kallah? What’s the purpose? The function is to let them know how important this occasion is.
Suppose they were getting married and nobody came to the wedding. The mesader kiddushin came and he brought with him two eidim. A few more Jews were there to make a minyan. It’s a good chasunah. It’s kosher veyashar. But it’sa lost opportunity. The chosson and kallah have to see it’s a major event. We have to see that it’s a major event. The truth is if we had the ability we should do it in a stadium and all the seats should be full. Hundreds of thousands of people should be present. Only that we can’t do that. People are busy. And the children can’t be left in the house alone and the father has to go out to the beis medrash. But we pack in as many as you can to impress on ourselves that there’s a very important occasion taking place now.
Because when you’re mesameach chosson v’kallah you’re telling them. “Listen you young people. You know what you’re doing now? You’re going to do something of the utmost importance in the Eyes of Hashem. You’re building a little Beis Hamikdash where the Shechinah is going to dwell.”
Rebuilding with Happiness
And therefore when you come and you make a big noise – the band of course is important; the orchestra is playing and you’re dancing and everyone is coming over to the chosson, “Mazel tov! Mazel tov!” And the chosson is thinking, “Oh look, my old friend from mesivta came by. And my second cousin from Detroit is also here dancing. It must be an important occasion if he comes such a big distance for my wedding.”
Yes, my friend, this is a very important occasion and that’s why we’re here being mesameach chosson v’kallah; that’s why we’re dancing so much. If you write out a nice check and give it to them, it’s also a simchah. It’s a big happiness to get a check. The bigger the check the bigger the happiness. But if you have no money to give them, you have to act wild, excited; you dance up a storm and show how important that occasion is. We’re building now one of the ancient Jewish homes of Yerushalayim. You’re rebuilding now! You’re participating, encouraging, supporting the rebuilding of Yerushalayim.
Your Mikdash at Home
How tremendous is the accomplishment of a home where a chosson and a kallah live together and begin to build a family. Whatever you can do is worth doing. Nobody is an angel, nobody is perfect, but every attempt to build a house with frum boys and girls where you’ll serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu together will be rewarded as if you rebuilt the Beis Hamikdash.
So if a man lives loyally with his wife and he has a frum Jewish home with idealism, avodas Hashem, gemilus chassadim, good manners, shemiras halashon, middos tovos, tzedakah, every form of avodas Hashem, and together they’re raising up fine children, sons and daughters and many of them, that’s building a Beis Hamikdash.
It’s not merely a form of speech. Don’t say, “But it’s not the real thing,” because what good is a Beis Hamikdash with korbanos and kohanim and everything else if the Jew is sitting in his house and he’s mechallel the Torah in his house? The purpose of the Mikdash is so that the holiness, the inspiration, the Torah attitudes, should flow from the Beis Hamikdash to the homes. And so whether or not there’s a Mikdash in Yerushalayim, your home is where it matters most.
It’s All Coming Back
And even though you’re married a long time already, an old chosson and kallah who got married fifty years ago, try from now to start climbing the ladder upwards; try to build your house with the glory that once dwelled in the Jewish homes. It’s never too late. Even old people, if they decide from now on they’re going to try to live with the utmost derech eretz, utmost politeness – of course you have to add the l’sheim shomayim; you want to build a house of kedushah where the Shechinah will dwell among you – they can start rebuilding their homes in the spirit of the churvos Yerushalayim, the kedushah of the Jewish family.
And the time will come that asid Hakadosh Baruch Hu lehachziro lanu; Hakodosh Boruch Hu will bring back His Shechinah to Tzion and we’ll see again all of the original glory that went lost. And we look forward to the day when it’ll be rebuilt in the most literal sense. And on that great day everything that went lost at the churban – the Beis Hamikdash and all of the holy institutions that came along with it, the awareness of Hashem’s Presence among us, the pride we had, and the holy Jewish homes – all of that will be returned to us forever and ever.
Have A Wonderful Shabbos
Mourning and Building
In various lectures, Rav Miller recommended sitting on the floor briefly every night in mourning over the churban. This week I will bli neder sit on the floor every night and review the ideas I learned in this booklet. 1. The great losses we suffer in Golus. 2. True mourning is marked by a desire to restore what was lost. Thus we must seek to erect a palace of Torah. 3. Jewish Homes are also sanctuaries and places of Hashem’s Presence.