This past Thursday, we began what is known as the Three Weeks of Mourning which culminate on Tisha B’av. It is a time to reflect upon the exile from Israel and the destruction of the Temple. Every year at this time, I am asked, the State of Israel was established over 70 years ago, Jerusalem has been in our hands for over 50 years, why are we still observing these days of mourning? The Three Weeks are passé! And every year I respond that we are not praying for sovereignty alone, but for the rebuilding of the Temple and all that it represents. The Bait Hamikdash is more than a building, it is an idea. It represents a return of Godliness into this world and all that His presence brings along; peace, justice, harmony, the love of kindness, and overflowing blessing. When we yearn for a rebuilding of the Temple, we are yearning for personal and universal redemption from a state of brokenness. In other words, I respond to their question by suggesting that the Three Weeks is not about Israel alone, its focus is on a far larger and more universal picture.
While my first inclination this year is to focus on the big picture – you do not need me to tell you how broken our world is today – I think we would be remiss if we do not take a moment to think about Israel. It is true that we have sovereignty, it is true that Israel’s military is mighty, it is true that the economy is strong, and it is true that Jerusalem is ours today more than it ever was before. However, there is a growing voice of dissent overtaking the Western world. Thinly veiled anti-Semitism seeking to delegitimize the State of Israel is rampant. It is being espoused by sports players, musicians, and intellectuals alike. It has muddied the waters of social justice movements and become the de facto viewpoint on many college campuses. Israel may be stronger than ever but those seeking to tear it down have grown frighteningly vocal and organized.
So as we reflect on our losses these Three Weeks – and there is much to reflect upon, let us also think about and speak up on behalf of our beloved ancestral land. The State of Israel is far from perfect, we are confident enough to admit our shortcomings. But we must also give voice to the fact that the State of Israel has tried and tried and tried to make peace but received violence in response. We must give voice to the fact that we have 3,000-year roots in the land. We must give voice to the fact that Israel has avowed enemies and it cannot afford be flippant about its security. We must give voice to the fact that though there is corruption, Israel is a beacon of democracy and a world leader in human rights and freedom.
May God hear our voice – of protest and of prayer – and may He wipe away the many tears that have been shed for our personal setbacks and losses, for the land of Israel and for our people, and for the world at large. May we merit to experience a true redemption speedily in our days.