Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tisha B'Av 5770-Why are we still in Exile?

There's been something I've been wanting to get off my chest for a while, and I thought that today would be an appropriate day to do so.

One of the biggest highlights in my life over the past few week's was welcoming our friends the Adler's to Israel, finally making Aliyah.

I went to Ben Gurion Airport to greet them and the other 200+ olim from the United States, and having been here for almost 2 years, I still felt the incredible sense that history was being made, that there was something incredibly significant about what was happening.

I couldn't put my finger on it until today.

While going through the Kinnot in shul the first section is about the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, but the the Kinnot that follow this section are different. They start to describe the other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people over the last 2000.

The first time period the Kinnot describe is the beginning of the Crusades. I was looking through some of the commentary, and saw a disturbing parallel between what happened then and what's happening now.

There was a dialogue between the Brisker Rav, Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitshik and various other Gedolim following the destruction of European Jewry to decide if there would be a new national day of mourning over what had been lost.

The response was to look at the 25th Kinnah.

The 25th Kinnah is about the destruction of the communities of the Rhineland-Worms, Speryer and Mainz. The point of that Kinnah was to stress that every single tragedy that befalls the Jewish people is not considered a new tragedy. All of our problems come from one source, the destruction of our Holy Temple.

During the destruction of the Crusades, there was a stark dialogue between the Jews of Worms and the Jews of Jerusalem. In a nutshell the Jerusalem Jews were calling their brothers in Exile to come home and join them and help them build something great. The Jews of Worms responded, "You stay where you are in the great Jerusalem, we will continue to stay in our little Jeruslaem."
Something similar would be said almost 1900 years later about Berlin, Germany.

But the true tragedy here is not that the Jews of Worms and Berlin (and today America) couldn't handle moving out of their affluence and living in a land that they thought (think) would be difficult to live in. The tragedy is that they no longer understood why living in Israel was so important.

The first Tisha B'Av took place shortly after the Jews left Egypt. The spies had gone into the land and brought back an evil report. The Jews then spent the whole night crying, and Hashem's response was "If you're going to cry over nothing, I'll give you something real to cry about on this night instead."

Something in this story doesn't make sense. Hashem had just brought the Jews out of Israel, split the sea for them, given them the Torah, and was about to give them Eretz Yisrael, and because of this response he's going to make them suffer throughout history? What happened to Hashem being a merciful G-d?

The key to understanding this is to look at the language the spies used. Their words were, "We were like grasshoppers to them in our eyes... We will die when we enter this land."

"Like" grasshoppers. The inhabitants did not see the spies as grasshoppers, the spies just felt that they did, and that's were the mistake was. They didn't say they were weaker, they said they felt weaker.

Hashem said they would enter the land, wage war and defeat it's inhabitants. The Jewish people heard this report and said, "We can't do it, it's too hard." Hashem said, "what gives you the right to say you can't? I'm saying you can!"

These false tears, Hashem was telling them, will be what causes your destruction, not because of me, but because of you.

The mistake the Jews in the desert made, the mistake the Jews at the time of the Temple's destruction made, and the mistake that the Jews of Worms, Berlin, and New York made and are making, is the mentality of "I can't."

Hashem said you can be a better person, you canmake a difference in the world, you can live in Israel, you can bring the Beis Hamikdash. The only thing keeping us back, is because we think we can't.

What we're mourning on Tisha B'Av is the destruction, yes. But what we're also mourning is the attitude that after 2000 years still nothing has changed. We still think we can't. We still don't believe in ourselves.

That's why we're still in Exile.

That's why I was so moved by the Nefesh B' Nefesh flight, because 200+ Jews said "Yes, We Can."