KosherTorah School for Biblical, Judaic & Spiritual Studies

Tisha b'Av Today, a Warning for the Future

by Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright © 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

Jewish history records, in shameful detail, the disintegration of Israelite society in the final days of the Second Temple period.

Wisely did the Talmudic Sages blame the devastating destruction of Jerusalem, and the Temple, on one single cause. That cause was called in Hebrew, “sinat hinam.” Sinat hinam is the complete disrespect, and baseless hatred towards everyone different from oneself.

In old Israel, the political factions of the day divided and subdivided, with each considering the others to be bitter enemies, worthy of death. Thus, when one group finally provoked the Roman government to intervene, a blood bath ensued. Instead of the numerous groups joining forces to face the common Roman foe, they instead chose to fight one another to the death, essentially fighting Rome's battle for them.

By the time the Romans breached the wall of Jerusalem, and entered the city for their final assault, there was no organized resistance left to confront them. Indeed, once inside the city, the Romans quickly discovered that the zealot extremists of the different groups were no longer any threat, not to each other, and certainly not to Rome. The surviving stragglers were slaughtered with almost no resistance whatsoever. The zealots had beaten the fight out of each other, leaving themselves with no strength left to fight Rome.

What a bunch of mindless fools! Anyone with the slightest amount of common sense knows all too well that, “united we stand, and divided we fall.”

We cannot change what happened long ago in the past. What we can do, is to take the advice of George Santayana, and to remember the mistakes of the past, to learn from them, and not repeat those mistakes in either the present, or in the future.

But who today is learning anything from history, more than a boring lesson about the past, a past that is believed to hold little meaning for the present. It is because we do not see the past in its true light that the pain and suffering of its harshness is destined to return and haunt us again.

Let's look at the facts. Today, Israel is not only completely rebuilt, it is built bigger, and better than it ever was in history. Israel today is more populated, richer, and stronger than any time in history. Jerusalem is fully built, and inhabited. Things are good the way they are.

We do not need a theocratic Israel. We do not need religious rule, and we certainly do not need a new Temple. Religious theory and dreaming is nice, but once certain elements want to materialize their religious dreams in today's harsh realities, we have crossed the line into dark territory.

Religion must first rule in the human heart before it can ever even try to rule in human society. Lacking individuals of true and sincere religious humility, we will also always lack true religious expression in society.

So what if there is no Third Temple in Jerusalem today! What made the Temple of Solomon special was the presence of the Holy Ark, and the Divine Presence. Both of these would be absent in any Temple built today, just as they were absent in the Second Temple in Roman times.

The presence of the Second Temple certainly did not promote spirituality, blessings, abundance and enlightenment. The Second Temple certainly did not bring about, or promote peace. On the contrary, the Second Temple was a hotbed of contention, strife, and religious hypocrisy. It was a blessing to the nation for it to be taken away.

Who on Earth is foolish and blind enough to believe that a Third Temple, built in the way, and after the pattern of the Second Temple would be anything more than the Second Temple was? All the religious and political hype on this matter is so terribly delusional, that it reminds one of the delusional zealots in Second Temple times who also tried to tempt fate to force Heaven to send Mashiah.

Mashiah did not come then, and millions died. There is no guarantee that Mashiah will come now with a Third Temple, therefore, any talk or efforts to build one will only result in millions of people around the world becoming endangered. This lunacy must end!

The holy writings of Judaism, the rationalist Talmud, and the mystical Zohar, both concur that when the Mashiah finally does come, he will bring the Third Temple with him, already built, and descending from Heaven. This is in God's Hands. Let God handle what is in His Hands, and let us handle what is in our hands!

Today, we fast on the Ninth of Av. We remember episodes of the past, of persecution, suffering, destruction, and death. Jewish history, especially in Europe, is not a pretty picture. Yes, we mourn the past, but hear this, and hear it clearly. WHAT USE IS IT TO MOURN THE MISTKES OF THE PAST ALL THE WHILE THAT WE CONTINUE TO REPEAT THEM IN THE PRESENT?

As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The political, and social environment that led to the terrible destruction of Israel, Jerusalem, and the Second Temple in Roman times, has been resurrected in modern day politics, and social strife.

Religious, political, and social groups are becoming more and more rigid in their world outlooks, excluding all others not like themselves. Violence between groups has already begun. Sinat Hinam is not dead, on the contrary it is alive, thriving, and growing.

Tisha b'Av today should focus on our own mistakes of the past, on the bad and wrong decisions that we ourselves have made, that allowed the terrible consequences of our actions to occur.

The Romans did not come out of the blue, without cause, to destroy the Second Temple. Even European antisemitism, and the Nazis, did not evolve in a vacuum. There are many things that certain Jewish individuals, and certain Jewish groups, did that stoked the flames that eventually turned on them, and consumed them.

I am not saying, “let's blame the victim.” I am not saying that the enemies of the Jews and Israel are our own creation, and thus our own fault. However, while our enemies would still have been there then, as they still are today, we do not have to make matters worse by feeding the flames with our own horrible behaviors.

Jewish religious extremism, Jewish religious fundamentalism, Jewish religious prejudice and racism, and Jewish religious hypocrisy are equally evil, bad and wrong, as is the extremism, fundamentalism, prejudice, racism, and hypocrisy held by others, be it against us, or against any other.

If we want to truly mourn the past, and learn the necessary lessons that the past teaches us, then let us learn, finally, to be honest with ourselves, to look at our own problems, squarely, in the light of raw truth. Let us admit our own faults.

Let us discover our own bad apples, and no longer cover them up, or make excuses for them. Let us make every effort to remove the bad apples from the rest of our bushel before all the apples are spoiled, and rotten. This did not happened in Israel in the days of the Second Temple. This is not what is happening in Israel today.

Nothing has changed. Therefore, the past points our way into the future. And the future, is therefore, very bleak. But it does not have to be this way! We can change things. There still is time. We can confront the bad core element festering in Judaism and Israel today. We can still root it out.

What we need today is courage, the courage to stand up against our own religious fundamentalists, extremists, and racists. We must not allow them to continue to hijack our Torah, and our Judaism, taking it again into dark and evil places. We must not allow our own to continue to cause us so much grief, just like they have always done in the past.

Learn the lessons from history. See what the fundamentalists, the extremists, and the bigots did to us then. Learn the lesson from history. Do not let them continue taking us down the road to perdition. If we learn the lessons of history, then we can void the mistakes of the past. Yet, if we continue to sit back and not do enough, we will again prove George Satayana correct.

It takes courage to see the truth. It takes resolve to confront what is wrong in our own midst. It takes tenacity to keep up the good fight, to stand out against the crowd, and to make every effort to stop the blinded masses from again going over the proverbial cliff.

Each and every individual fasting this Tisha b'Av should consider these things, and then resolve to chose wisely how to contribute towards the future, a future, which, in one way or another, will affect us all.


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