(Artist David Roberts/Wikipedia)
Destruction of Jerusalem

On Tisha b’Av we read the Book of Lamentations and we ask: Why did God ignore the prayers to save Jerusalem? 

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

Tisha b’Av is the day we commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, and the exile of the Jewish people from their land.

The Book of Lamentations is read on Tisha B’av. It tells the story of the destruction, the wars and their aftermath. One verse reads, “Even when I cry out and plead, my prayer is blocked.”

This verse refers to the many people who prayed to God to reverse his decree and not destroy the Holy Temple. As we know in hindsight, these prayers were “blocked.” The Temple was destroyed, and the Jews were exiled.

The question is asked: Why did God allow the destruction of Jerusalem despite all the prayers to save it?

The answer is very mystical.

We are told that there are two angels in heaven who are responsible for everything bad that happens in this world. The good news, however, is that these two angels are usually fighting with one another, and as such, they hardly ever get any of their work, namely destruction and calamity, done!

Unfortunately, however, at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, these two angels decided to put aside their differences and work together in order to destroy the Holy Temple and the city of Jerusalem. This partnership of evil was able to block the prayers of the Jewish people from being heard, and the vile plot was fulfilled.

The rabbis teach us that if these two angels managed to prevent God from receiving the prayers of the Jewish people simply by putting aside their differences in order to accomplish their evil in unity and harmony, how much more so could we gain many wonderful and positive achievements if we would only work together? We’re told that when people unite, they can conquer all the evil forces in the world!

Similarly, we are told that one of the reasons God decided to destroy the Holy Temple was because there was hatred and division among the Jewish people. It follows, therefore, that if there will be love and unity among the Jewish people, then God will rebuild the Holy Temple! May it happen speedily in our days!