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Testimonials

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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Thursday, August 24, 2017

In all of our offices, for my entire life, there has always been one painting on the wall. It is the painting of a fine, distinguished and handsome man, my great grandfather Joseph A Bibi. I guess all our related family companies find their American origins in him, so it’s fitting that his image graces the wall. What I never noticed until I walked by my dad’s desk and checked the Yahrzeit (or as I was corrected by Dr. Stevan Dweck of California, I should as a Sephardic Jew be using the term Mishmar) list a few moments ago was that my great grandfather passed away in 1927. I always imagined that my father who bears his grandfather’s name had a relationship with the man, but I am not sure how much of a relationship they had in 2 ½ years. I do know that Joseph A Bibi was a world renowned Artisan who traveled the globe more than a century ago. He was a talmid hacham who studied the sodot of the Torah and as the patriarch of the family, who sacrificed so much and helped design his community, we owe him much. But when the 19th of Elul comes around each year, aside from giving a class in his memory and saying a hashkava or memorial prayer, I don’t really mourn his passing. The picture makes me think of him more than any of my other great grandparents and the stories I heard give me a connection, but its just a long distance connection. The Rabbis have a concept for this, its called aveylut yeshana – “old” mourning.

Chas VeShalom – heaven forbid – when someone passes away and a relative mourns for them, we call this “new” mourning or avelut chadasha. In halacha – Jewish Law – the closer one is to the tragedy the greater the level of mourning because we feel it. That person was here yesterday and now that person is gone. It’s tangible. It’s emotional. We have someone to mourn.

Hashem has created us so that over time following the loss of a loved one, we get over our mourning. We learn this from our forefather Yaakov’s mourning for his son Joseph. Our Rabbis teach us that we can only begin to forget someone, and start to feel relief from the pain of mourning, after the person dies. Yaakov continued to mourn his son Joseph, for a full 22 years, because Yosef his son, was not dead.

When referring to the Chorban – the destruction of the Temple – the Rabbis again use the term, “old’ mourning. The fact is that the chorban is difficult to relate to. The vast majority of us cannot begin to conceptualize the significance of the loss. We cannot imagine the enormous quantity of animals being slaughtered, cut and burned on the alter as smoke rose up. Even those who have gone through Daf Yomi and have at least briefly reviewed the Talmud cannot understand the Ketoret or incense offering. The fact is that the entire chapter of Jewish Law relating to the Temple is relatively unknown.

How does one mourn for that which one finds difficult to imagine? I see my great grandfather’s picture every day. I knew who he was, where he was born, where he lived, what he did and how it relates to me and still I acknowledge his passing, but without tears.

How are we to cry over a building?

Clearly, a mourner is sad because he has experienced a loss. In order for one to mourn the loss of the Bet haMikdash, one must realize what has been lost and how it relates to him individually, to the Jews as a nation and to the entire world.

And although the Gemarah is Sukkah writes, "one who has not seen the Bet HaMikdash has never seen a majestic building”, we are certainly not mourning the loss of a building, per se. In fact one of the reasons Hashem burned the stones of the Mikdash was to teach us that it’s not about the cover, it’s about what the cover encases and represents.

Pirkei Avot teaches that ten miracles were performed for our ancestors in the Bet HaMikdash:

1. No woman miscarried from the smell of sacrificial meat.

2. Sacrificial meat never spoiled.

3. No flies were present where they sacrificed animals.

4. The Kohen Gadol never had an emission on Yom Kippur.

5. The fire on the Alter was never extinguished by rain.

6. The pillar of smoke was never moved by the wind.

7. The Omer, the Two Breads and Lechem HaPanim (left in the Sanctuary for a week at a time, and eaten on the following Shabbat) were never found to be invalid.

8. The people would stand crowded but have room to bow down.

9. Snakes and scorpions never hurt people in Jerusalem.

10. No one ever said to his friend that there is no place for me to stay in Jerusalem.

Why are these so important? I believe that they show us that the Bet HaMikdash was the place where the Jew encountered Hashem. Imagine walking towards Jerusalem and seeing the Temple on the mount in the distance, knowing it was windy but seeing a column of smoke go straight without wavering. Then stepping into the gates and witnessing people from all walks of life looking to connect. Each of the miracles brought Hashem to life. Imagine being packed in and then seeing there was room for everyone to lay down. You were in a place beyond the constraints of time and space. Each miracle experienced, made Hashem’s presence real. They say that the time spent in Hashem’s house was one of heightened consciousness to the point that we encountered Him just by being there.

If you could meet anyone in history, who would that be? Choose anyone and I have a better choice, G-d! So we mourn the disconnection from Hashem.

And I think part of the problem is that so many of us only mourn the event once a year. We don’t take to heart, “If I forget thee Jerusalem”. It’s a song and a statement before breaking a glass and celebrating. We don’t feel ourselves break with that glass. We need to think of Jerusalem and mourn the loss each time we pray the Amidah in the blessings of Boneh Yerushalayim and Masmiach Keren Yeshuah. We need to feel a bit of pain every time we see the Kotel with a golden dome behind it. We need to say Tikun Chasot reading the words, “remember Hashem what we had … our inheritance has passed to strangers, our house to foreigners … we are orphans … why do you abandon us …” And if not Tikun Chasot at some point in the day, stop and try to imagine what we had and what we lost and what we want.

Sadly too many of us who call for Mashiach would probably tell him upon his arrival, “wait we need to take care of things, give us some notice and come back when we are ready”. We ignore the threats of our enemies which should prompt us to recall that we want and need Mashiach,

We must remind ourselves daily because by nature we forget.

Rabbi Abittan’s z’sl teacher, Rav Soloveitchik explained that a mourner is enjoined from crying too much for his relative because, as the Rambam writes death is part of the natural course of events in this world. But the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash was an unnatural event. The Temple was much more than a physical structure. It symbolized the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. It was the focal point of spirituality in the world. When we mourn the loss of the Mikdash, we are not crying for the wood and the stones. We mourn the fact that we no longer see Hashem’s presence as clearly in the world and that our relationship with Him is strained. We long for the day when the Jewish people will reunite with Hashem and feel his closeness once again. In other words, we hope for the day when the world will return to its natural state. That is why we are obligated to cry on Tisha B’Av ( and commanded to remember our loss every day) and there is no limit to our mourning because the loss of the Bet HaMikdash is a reality we can never come to terms with.

Think about that, “the loss of the Bet HaMikdash is a reality we can never come to terms with”.

We know that people are born and people die. We know we had ancestors, some we met, some we heard of and some who are both nameless and without story to us. We remember those we can, we respect them and mourn their loss.

But the loss of the Temple is not a loss of a building or even a relative. It’s the loss of a connection. It’s the loss of clarity. It’s the loss of reality.

May we all merit to properly mourn the Bet HaMikdash each and every day and especially on Tisha BeAv and therefore be present to rejoice in its rebuilding.

By: Rabbi David Bibi