The Western wall, Jerusalem Photo: Jacques Vinonska
On this Tisha B'av I ask myself, have we learned the lessons? Have we taken the time to draw the necessary conclusions from perhaps the most traumatic event in our people's history? The Holy Temple was set ablaze, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed, the Jewish people were exiled, and a very dark period commenced, bringing with it crusades, expulsions, pogroms, blood libels, and finally – worst of all – the Shoah. It would not be incorrect to maintain that the Shoah actually started on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av in the year 70 CE.
Noted historian Barbara Tuchman maintained that throughout history, nations and leaders persisted on acting in direct contradiction to their strategic interests. Similar observations can be found in the writings of Josephus Flavius (Joseph Ben Matityahu) regarding the Jewish revolt against the Romans.
Two thousand years have elapsed since the destruction of the Temple – surely enough time to learn, draw conclusions and change course – enough time to learn what baseless hatred, informing, social imperviousness, alienation, and divisiveness can cause.
Have we used this time wisely and done so?
Two millennia have passed, but the reasons for the fall of Jerusalem sound all too familiar to contemporary ears. The Gemara maintains that Jerusalem fell because of avarice, greed and internecine hatred; in other words, economic and social gaps as well as absence of a moral rudder can result in great tragedy.
We understand that the lesson of Tisha B'av must be learned for our generation as well as for the benefit of future generations and that the price we pay for a house that is bitterly divided – a society whose various components despise and hate each other - is intolerable.
Have we learned this lesson? Are we passing it on to the next generation? I fear that the answer is not encouraging. Apart from the obvious reasons, because Tisha B'Av falls during the summer vacation, schoolchildren are not exposed to Tisha B'Av and the lessons inherent in this national tragedy.
It is true that the destruction of the Temple happened thousands of years ago. It is also true that the people of Israel returned to Jerusalem and the city today is the capital of the reborn Jewish state. It is a holy city for the Jewish people, as well as for the Christians and Moslems, who live side-by-side in a rebuilt and flourishing city, where tourists fill the streets and children play in the parks.
Yet Tisha B'av is a milestone that must remain burned into our collective conscienceless, an inseparable part of our national DNA forever.
The lessons of Tisha B'Av need to be learned and taught.