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Tisha B’av & The 3 Weeks 2019

The Philosopher Couldn’t Figure Out Why We Are Crying on Tisha B’Av

What are we supposed to feel on Tisha B'Av? Aren’t we crying over spilled milk? An article about a puzzle that even Plato couldn’t figure out …

| 31.07.17 | 18:16
The Philosopher Couldn’t Figure Out Why We Are Crying on Tisha B’Av
Why do we fast? Our sages say: "Every generation in which the Temple was not rebuilt, is as  if it was destroyed in their days." (Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 1:1)

The Temple was G-d’s House in the Land of Israel, where His people went to atone for their sins. It is where the L-rd heard our cries and we were close to Him. This year again we did not merit redemption and were not worthy of a Temple. We are still crying, because tribulations are still looming in the future, ready to join the thousand decrees that have already been decreed against us.

G-d could have built the Temple this year, even at this very moment, but He didn’t because we still don’t deserve it. This means that even if there was a Temple at this very moment standing tall in rebuilt Jerusalem, it would again be destroyed because of our iniquities.
So we are crying and fasting for the destruction of the Temple which is being destroyed right now because of our many sins. We fast and mourn the destruction that was, and still is, the destruction that began two thousand years of exile and which continues to this day. We are in a spiritual exile today. It was a destruction for both our ancestors and us. And with grief over what has been lost, we beg G-d to forgive His people and restore its former glory.
On Tisha B'Av we not only weep for what was, but also for what is. We weep for our sins, for the Temple that we are not worthy to rebuild this year. We weep for the Redemption which our nation is awaiting after thousands of years of suffering.
 
For the Holocaust that our people suffered
Every year we repress it, remember it a little and go on. Today there is no place to run, the memorial stands before us reminding us of all we've been through, the Holocaust along with a thousand other troubles, pogroms and atrocities. They all join together with all the torments that our people underwent in one thousand and another thousand years of exile. So how can you not cry on Tisha B'Av, when it is the true source of all our troubles? It was not just one terrible event that came and went, but an event that is still ongoing, that shapes our destiny, that joins a thousand torments to another thousand. One decree after another, one generation after another, with the heart about to burst from all the blows.
On Tisha B'Av we weep for all the tribulations that our nation underwent during the years of its exile, for all the horrors, the pogroms, the anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. Because the destruction of the Temple is the source of all the troubles that the Jewish people went through  and are still going through down the generations.
 
G-d is concealing Himself from us
Every day we ask in the Amidah prayer: "Return our judges as in the beginning, and our advisors as before."
Since the Temple was destroyed, prophecy ceased from Israel, the Sanhedrin of seventy-one elders was annulled, and we lost our greatest connections to G-d. Today we are in spiritual darkness, in need of advice and guidance, thirsty to hear the word of G-d. We cry and pray over our severed spiritual connection with G-d. We will continue to mourn it until G-d will bring back His House and His prophets.
Do you have it hard to make a living? Difficulties in finding a soulmate? Physical or mental pain? Prayers that are unanswered ... They all have one source: the loss of our direct connection with the Creator of the universe since the Destruction of the Temple.
G-d has His reckoning, He has not abandoned us, and everything He does is for our benefit, but all these reckonings are hidden from us since our exile began. G-d is concealing Himself from us, as the Torah warns us about: "And I will surely hide My Face on that day for all the evil that they did." (Deut. 31)

When a Father hides, He still is present and protecting us, even if we do not see Him. We have lost the direct connection with our Creator. Any difficulties that we have with our faith, all the confusion in the world, all the heresy and evil that is exulting around us, everything starts and derives from the spiritual destruction that was decreed upon us until we will be redeemed.

So when we cry on Tisha B'Av, we are crying about the difficulty to connect to the Torah and its commandments as in the days of antiquity, and about the open faith in G-d that we lost. We are crying for our Father.

There is no memorial day more relevant than Tisha B'Av. We should be asking not how to cry, but how not to stop the tears.
All misery, all physical and spiritual pain, all concealment of G-d, every prayer that was unanswered, all the insecurity that you experienced, every feeling of closeness that you lost because of the many sins and ordeals — put it all together, and then you will feel the destruction of the Temple, the source of our lack of connection, misery and suffering. That is why we are crying and that is why we ask that we shouldn’t have to cry next year.
 
The philosopher didn’t understand: Why are you crying over spilled milk?
And here we come to the most important part. It is the point which surprises the gentiles, and brings them to ask: Why are you crying over spilled milk for the past two millennia?
A legend tells that after the first Temple was destroyed, the famous Greek philosopher Plato visited Jerusalem. (According to historical sources, Plato indeed traveled to Asia and probably also visited Jerusalem). The legend goes that the philosopher met the prophet Jeremiah, and saw him crying and mourning over the destroyed Temple.
Plato turned to him in surprise and asked: "How can a great Jewish sage like you cry over wood and stones? You surely realize that it’s useless to cry about the past."

Jeremiah replied: "You are a philosopher, so tell me about your philosophical inquiries."
Plato replied that he has no answers for some of his complicated questions in philosophy and then told him several of them.
To his great surprise, Jeremiah proposed firm and clear answers to all his philosophical questions.
The philosopher was stunned and asked in amazement: "Where did you get this remarkable wisdom?"
The Prophet replied: "All this wisdom I accrued from the wood and stones over which I am grieving."
What about the question which the philosopher asked which we brought above?

Jeremiah told Plato: "You asked me how it was possible that a wise man should cry over the past. Unfortunately I cannot reply to this question, because you wouldn’t understand the answer!"

The philosopher, with all his great wisdom, couldn’t conceive of having a personal relationship with G-d. To the philosopher, G-d was the "source of nature and the cosmos", but to us, G-d is our Father, the closest thing to us. As G-d tells us in the Torah: "You are children to-the L-rd your G-d." (Deuteronomy 14).

Did you notice that when we say, "Hear O Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One", we say in the verse that He is our G-d — the G-d who brought us out of Egypt and chose us to be His people.

The great philosopher could not understand this simple thing that every Jewish child feels in his heart: If we would only cry hard enough, all the cries down the ages will join together until our Father will fulfill the wish of his sons, and build the Temple for us again.
As our sages said: "Whoever mourns for Jerusalem, will merit to see her rejoicing." (Taanit 30b)

Whoever wept and mourned over the Temple will merit to rise at the Revival of the Dead when the Temple will be built again. Whoever cried will merit salvation and consolation.

This means that we are not crying over "spilled milk", but we are crying for our future, which will really happen. In the merit of our grief, we will merit to get a new Temple.

The philosopher could not understand this, precisely because he was a philosopher and not a son. We, the sons and daughters, understand that our prayers join together, and there is hope for the Jewish people precisely because we cry to G-d as children and not as philosophers. We are crying to our Father in heaven.
 
Note
Many have searched for the source of the famous encounter between Jeremiah and Plato. The Rema (Rabbi Moshe Isserlis) wrote in his book "Toras Ha-Olah" that the Greek philosopher Plato came to Jerusalem with Nebuchadnezzar. Rabbi Yaakov Israel Stelle searched for the source to the full legend about the encounter with the prophet Jeremiah, and found it was first published in the book "Gan Yerushalayim" (1899, page 54) by Rabbi Nachman Gedaliah Broder of Lithuania, who heard it from Rabbi Israel Salantar based on a copy of an ancient Roman story.
Hidabrut —  All the lectures on the subject of Tisha B'Av - VOD