Tisha B’av: Rejoicing in Tragedy

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When the Jews saw the Temple burning, they rejoiced… Really? What was joyful about the destruction of the Temple? The Arizal, the great Kabbalist, uncovers the secret.

Lesson Contents:

This class dwells on a topic which was mentioned in passing in last week’s lesson: the idea that G-d demonstrated His profound love for the Jewish people by destroying the Temple—and not the Jewish people themselves.

A. The Temple Ablaze

Josephus describes the terrible events of Tisha B’av, and says that Titus didn’t actually plan to destroy the Temple (source 1). In the Talmud, we learn an interesting fact about the destruction: it took place towards evening, right before sundown at the close of Tisha B’av (source 2). This strikes us as interesting, because by Jewish tradition, the mourning actually decreases as we move into the afternoon. We begin to sit on normal chairs (source 3) and we recite the consolation prayers of Nachem during Mincha (source 4 & 5).

B. The Arizal’s Question

The Arizal asks: If the destruction took place in the afternoon, why do we lessen our mourning? (source 6).
The Rebbe cites the answer of the Arizal: By destroying the Temple and not the Jewish people, G-d demonstrated His eternal love for us. Despite being in the lowest possible state, G-d will never break His bond with His people. This is beautifully expressed, the Rebbe says, in the Talmud’s teaching about Mizmor L’Asaf. When the Temple was destroyed, Asaph sang —because he had finally seen the true depth of the love of G-d for the Jewish people.
In source 7 & 8, we read the sources about Mizmor L’Asaf in greater detail.

C. The Cherubs Intertwined

We find another expression of G-d’s love during the destruction:
According to the Talmud, the cherubs upon the holy ark in the Temple would face each other when G-d was pleased with the Jewish people, and when He was displeased, they would be back-to-back (source 9). Perplexingly, they were discovered facing each other at the very moment of the destruction! (source 10).
But with the Rebbe’s explanation, it all makes sense. The destruction was the greatest expression of G-d’s love for the Jewish people.

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