The Book of Genesis describes how Jacob mourned during the entire twenty-two years that Joseph was missing. Nothing consoled him. No one could comfort him. One would think that after 22 years the pain of the death of a loved one would somewhat lessen or ease with the passage of time, but in this case it did not. Why? Because there was no closure, no burial. Why? Because Joseph was not dead!
For over 2000 years the Jewish people have been mourning the destruction of the Holy Temple. At every festive occasion its loss is remembered. No wedding takes places without the symbolic broken glass. Ashes of mourning are placed upon the forehead of the groom and a section of a new home is left unpainted or unfinished, all in remembrance of the Destruction and the Exile from Zion. One might ask, “Why are they still crying after 2000 years?” Why can’t they get over it and move on? Why? Because there was never any closure, no burial. Why? Because the Temple’s bricks and stone have been destroyed, but the Divine Promise still stands, the Temple will be rebuilt and until that day Zion will never be forgotten.
One August day (it was on Tisha b’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, the day that marks the destruction of both the First and Second Temple) Napoleon was walking along a street when he stopped in front of a synagogue. He heard crying from within. “What are those Jews doing?” He asked the soldier at his side. “They are mourning over the destruction of their Temple.”
“When did that happen?”
“Around 2000 years ago.”
“They are still crying after 2000 years? A nation that mourns so long will never cease. They will surely return to their land and see the rebuilding of their Temple.”
What was is that Napoleon saw that gave him the confidence to make such a statement? He understood that the connection between the People and the Place is intrinsic. One cannot live without the other. Just as the Jewish People is alive, so too is Zion. A nation that will not allow itself to forget will also not allow itself to let go or give up.
The Jews are still crying after 2000 years because they realize the greatness of what was lost and they long for its return like a father who knows his child is missing, but who is not dead. They also cry in anticipation as they see the in gathering of the exiles and wait for when Zion will be restored to its former state and the Temple will be rebuilt.
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