Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mourning Jerusalem I

On Sunday, August 10,2008, the fast of Tisha B’Av will be observed by Jews worldwide as we mourn the destruction of both the First and the Second Temples, destroyed almost 2,600 years ago and 2,000 years ago, respectively. Why would we mourn for tragic events of such a distant past?

A brief history of Jerusalem and the First Temple may help us begin to understand:

When King David captured Jerusalem and made it his capital (c. 1040 BCE), he desired to build a sanctuary in which the Divine Spirit could dwell. However, G-d told David “You have been involved in war. Your son, Shlomo (Solomon), whose name means peace and will be blessed with peaceful times, will merit to build the Temple for Me.” (Chronicles I 22:8-10)

“Solomon’s Temple” stood for 410 years. It was a center of Jewish life in Jerusalem, to which Jewish pilgrims from all over ascended three times a year on holidays. Ethics of the Fathers (5:5) states that ten miracles occurred in the Temple on a daily basis.

After Solomon’s death, a northern kingdom comprised of ten tribes seceded while Judah and Benjamin remained in the south. Internal, brotherly strife between the two kingdoms, along with rampant idolatry led to foreign conquest. Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom around 719 BCE; Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar (586 BCE) conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and sent most of the Jews into Babylonian exile. The exiled and those who remained suffered traumatically as the nation was now bereft of its spiritual epicenter.

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