In the heat of the summers of my youth, on the 9th day of the month of Av (Tisha B’Av) I would go to the synagogue, remove my shoes and sit on the floor and by the light of a lit candle I would read the lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah (Aicha) , weeping for the destruction of our holy Temple by the Babylonian armies of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the ruination of King David’s capital city, Jerusalem, and the beginning of the great exile to far-away Babylon.
Refraining from all food for the Fast of that solemn day, I only thirsted for cool water to quench my dry mouth, slow sips at a time, with the small bottle of water hidden in my jacket so that no one would see me sipping.
All that came to an end in 1967 with our great victory in routing the Jordanian army out of Jerusalem and re-uniting our divided city from which during the nineteen years of Jordanian occupation, prayer visitations to our holy places were prohibited by the occupying might of the Hashemite kingdom’s military.
One could remember, of course, the past history of our ancient tragedies, but for me it was now time to rejoice in our modern overwhelming victory.
I no longer observed the Fast of the 9th of Av in keeping with the words of Israel’s great prophet, Isaiah.
In chapter 62 verse 6 and in chapter 66 verse 10 the prophet urges us to rejoice.
“Sisu et Yerushalayim gilu va, gilu va kol ohaveiha”… Rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in her; exult in her all those who love her
As one who loves Jerusalem, I took the wise advice of Isaiah and I exulted. No Fast but much exultation.
I have no wish to see an attempt to rebuild our holy Temple on its original location on Har HaBayit. To do so would bring the armies of a billion Muslims from more than 25 nations to wipe us, the “infidels”, from off the face of the earth.
And from past experience, many of us remember the crazed act of a young Australian man who attempted to destroy the Al Aqsa mosque and the Mosque of Omar.
It is Jewish custom to respect religious houses of worship of the monotheistic faiths. In Biblical times it was permitted, even commanded, to tear down the pagan altars and shrines to their many gods. But like us and the non-trinitarian Christians, Islam is a one hundred percent monotheistic religion. We respect it.
With the long years of exile in Babylon, the Jews were faced with three problems.
1) Without our holy temple, where can we pray?
2) Without our priesthood, who will teach us the laws of Moses?
3) Without temple and priesthood, how can we offer sacrifices to God?
It was the wisdom of the exilic prophet Ezekiel who provided the answers and whose answers opened the doors to a new form of Jewish worship.
He taught us: in place of our temple, we will pray in our own communities (synagogus, in Greek);
Without the priesthood we will appoint teachers (rabbonim/rabbis).
And without animal sacrifices, we will offer the sacrifices of our hearts (prayer).
The prophets emphasized the words of Hosea who taught us that God does not need nor delight in animal sacrificial offerings.
What God does love and want is that His chosen people should love justice and mercy and should walk humbly before their God.
Our ancient prophets set us on the proper path. There is no need to rebuild the destroyed Temples. But there is a great need to gather in our communities (synagogues), to hear the wise words of wise rabbis who share Torah wisdom with us, and to offer to God the very personal and meaningful prayers from our heart.
“Hashem yashmiainu b’yom korainu”… God will hear us on the day that we call out to Him.
Therefore, on Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of Ab, a day of fasting and mourning, I will not fast nor mourn. But I will call out to God and I pray that He will hear and will answer my prayers.
Sisu et Yerushalayim, gilu va, gilu va kol ohaveiha.
Rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in her; exult in her all those who love her.