Tisha B’Av Today
Our feelings on Tisha B’Av today differ vastly from those of our ancestors. Our ancestors mourned something that was a distant memory, while hoping for no more than an imagined future. Today, all Jews — young and old — can walk the streets of Yerushalayim and daven freely at the Kotel. Most of us have visited Israel many times and know it and its beautiful development intimately.
Some have even suggested that this difference makes fasting on Tisha B’Av anachronous. Support for this position is brought from the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (18b) which states that in a time of shalom, the fast days become holidays. Based on Rashi’s explanation that shalom means Jews achieving independence,1 one might conclude that Tisha B’Av should now become a day of celebration.
Why We Still Fast
There are two reasons why this position is rejected: The first is that many explain that the independence to which Rashi refers is a situation in which Jews live without fear.2 Sadly, we have not yet arrived at this stage.
The second reason is that Rabbeinu Chananel3 believes that “peace” means the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash. Even if we completely controlled and lived in absolute peace in Israel, we would still need to fast and mourn over the missing Beit Hamikdash.
A close reading of Rashi (and the Ritva) reveals that he mentions both independence and the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash as conditions for a transformation in the status of Tisha B’Av.4 I think this is because the two are inextricably linked. Recent Jewish history has shown us that even the founding of a Jewish State (and even the willingness to make major concessions for the sake of peace) have not put an end to Jewish suffering. Rashi’s linkage accounts for this by explaining that true independence and peace will only be achieved with the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash.
The Significance of the Churban Hamikdash
Continued antisemitism and Jewish suffering stem from the world’s lack of recognition of Hashem and us as His chosen people. This will end only once God clarifies the world’s purpose and our place within it. All this will be indicated by the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash.
Tisha B’Av commemorates not only the suffering at the time of the destructions of the Batei Mikdash, but Jewish suffering throughout the ages (Crusaders, burning of sefarim, destruction of communities and the Holocaust, etc.) because it all stems from the destabilization of our relationship with God, as reflected in the continued Churban Hamikdash.
Tisha B’Av’s message is much broader than just mourning for the lost Beit Hamikdash; it also includes the recognition of the reason for and the implications of the continued Churban.
Tisha B’Av as a Religious Zionist
Religious Zionists feel additional pain on Tisha B’Av. Viewing the return to Eretz Yisrael as the beginning of the redemption process makes the process still feel unfinished, even more frustrating. When we read of the Churban, we feel closer than ever to completing the process of rebuilding the Beit Hamikdash — yet, it continues to elude us.
Hashem has returned us to His Land. Though we are not yet fully worthy, He still opened the door to us. He awaits our complete return to Him in a way that justifies the completion of our redemption with His rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash.
May we fast and reflect on Tisha B’Av in a way that can facilitate the realization of the dreams of 2,000 years’ worth of Jews around the world and throughout the generations.
Rabbi Reuven Taragin is the dean of overseas students at Yeshivat HaKotel.
1 D”H Sheyeish. See also Rashba D”H B’zman and Rambam Hilchot Taaniyot 5:19 (and Hilchot Teshuva 9:2).
2 See for example: Torat Ha’Adam of the Ramban page 243.
3 D”H B’zman. See also Torat Ha’Adam of the Ramban ibid.
4 D”H D’amar and especially D”H D’talinhu.