I got the following question from a friend who listens to my podcasts:
I’ve just listened to your this week’s Parsha podcast and I can honestly say even at the age 52 which I am, I have never felt so well prepared for Tisha B’Av as I now feel after having listened to your podcast. However Arele please can you help me on the following. Lets face it as much as even children are aware of the history of the Jews and what we have endured and still today it is possible to witness an elderly Yid rolling up his sleeve to put on Tefillin only to notice you know what, not an eagle,loveheart or dinosaur but a number. However the fact is that although anti-semitism is forever hovering over us but nevertheless while in exile we are at least legally able to get up to go to our shuls to daven and learn. We are able to get Kosher food unhindered ,we don’t have to hide Yiddishkeit for fear of being arrested for having committed a crime of any sort. Especially at this time of the year when holidays/vacation follow immediately after Tisha B’av and for instance in the Shuls , notice boards are full of adverts of where minyanim can be found in parts of e.g. England, Wales destinations where holidays are taken or general adverts about holidays French Alps, Spain or camps etc. I also remember when I was in Yeshivah soon after the end of the fast it wasn’t long before the spirit of Tisha B’Av soon dissolved to be superseded by the Bain Hazmanim spirit [myself included] . All these things at least talking about myself only stand in the way of properly looking forward to Moshiach. Just imagine what was going on in the minds of the three boys who were imprisoned in Japan [Unfortunately Yaakov Yosef Ben Raisel is still there as you may well be aware.]Most probably hardly a minute went by without them thinking when will we be back home. Ideally if only we would have the same frame of mind with Moshiach. In fact even in my own personal history at the place where I once worked and suffered there immensely and desperate to see the end I also used used to feel the same. Finally I have been married for 27 years and only about two to three times did we ever go on a family holiday, it was just beyond my means. However now I can say it was a blessing in disguise because as a result it becomes easier to concentrate on Inyono Deyoima. I would be grateful to have your response.
This was my response:
Thanks for your thoughtful email. You know, I think your question is indicative of the fact that we are in a very unique time. Personally, I believe that we are already over the threshold of Moshiach, that the age of Moshiach began already following the Holocaust. It is an age that takes time to be born and come to maturity, just like a child. But I think your question is based on the confusion we experience, as we see a certain redemption. How do we refer to Yershualayim as “שממה מאין יושב” – desolate with no one to live there? Jerusalem is no longer desolate. It is a sprawling growing city with almost a million inhabitants! Isn’t Rebbe Akiva’s vision already fulfilled – the city sees elderly people walking in it with their canes, and children playing in its streets! Unbelievable!
But, of course, the physical redemption that has been developing for the last 200 years or so is being followed ever so slowly by the spiritual redemption, which is not as obvious, yet.
That is reflected in a mosque which rests on the Har Habayis, in a Western Wall – which we only see a very small piece of – the rest serves as a wall for Arab homes! There is Torah, there are minyanim, but there is no heart! There are daf yomi siyumim but there is a deep emotional disconnect. There is so much on a superficial level, but our youth are running away because we do not have anything spiritual and emotional to offer them.
This is a great tragedy that we can cry about. And we find it hard to cry about it, because we are so detached emotionally. This is the darkness and weight of the end of the gallus – our lives are covered with a deathly pallor at the emotional level.
This is why the Navi talks about the sasson v’simcha of the future, and why it is so painful for me, as I spoke about in the podcast. It is because the future will contain such vivid and overwhelming emotion. The death-dream will be over, and we will literally be dancing together through the streets of Jerusalem, arm in arm, all of us as one. It will no longer matter what type of yarmulke, or even if there is a yarmulke on one’s head. All that will be experienced is the ultimate triumph of goodness, that spark which is inside every Jew will be revealed.
Can we cry in recognition of the contrast between how it will be and how it is?
I wish you a moving and meaningful Tisha B’av, which I hope will be transformed to Sasson and Simcha!