Saturday, Jul 20, 2024

Tisha B'Av: Yerushalayim, The United City

The posuk at the beginning of Megillas Eichah states, “Alas, she sits in solitude! The city that was great with people has become like a widow.” The Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed and Yirmiyahu Hanovi lamented that the great city of Yerushalayim is all alone. He compares it to a widow who, unfortunately, must also stand alone, without the companionship of her beloved husband. Yerushalayim stands alone, without Klal Yisroel filling its streets with the sounds of life and the service of Hashem.

The Sefas Emes adds an additional point which reflects on the sense of solitude of this great city. The Sefas Emes cites theposuk in Sefer Tehillim (122:1) which states, “Shir hamaalosA song of ascents, by Dovid. I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the House of Hashem.’ Our feet stood within your gates, O Yerushalayim. The built-up city is like a city that is united together.” The Gemara in Maseches Taanis (5a) says that Hashem won’t enter the heavenlyYerushalayim until He enters the Yerushalayim of earth. The Gemara asks if, indeed, there is a heavenly city. The Gemara responds that there is. TheGemara bases this on the posuk in Tehillim of “like a city that is united together.”That which is united together refers to thechibur, or direct connection, of our Bais Hamikdosh and city of Yerushalayimon earth to the Bais Hamikdosh and Yerushalayim of Above. Rav Chaim Volozhiner, in his sefer Nefesh Hachaim, deals with this specific point.

The source of all that exits on earth is in Shomayim. The shoresh of the shefa of Hashem that flows through the Bais Hamikdosh is in terms of the Bais Hamikdosh Shel Maalah, the Bais Hamikdosh of Above. Hashem created man to live on earth yet to relate to that which occurs in heaven. Initially, this awesome ability was possessed by all of mankind. When Adam Harishon sinned by eating from the Eitz Hadaas, the spiritual status of mankind was drastically negatively affected. The avos, Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov, created a nation whose kedushah was able to relate to that of Adam’s before he sinned.


Chazal discuss the horrible sins committed by Titus and how he attempted to disgrace the most holy of places on earth. Whatever he accomplished was limited to earth; he had no ability to affect any sense of kedushah in the Bais Hamikdosh of Above. The capacity to affect the realm of heaven belongs exclusively to Klal Yisroel.


The Mishnah at the beginning of the second perek of Maseches Avos states, “Da mah lemaalah mimecha Know what is above you.” The basicp’shat of the Mishnah is to instill a person with the recognition that Hashem is aware of all that a person does. In Nefesh Hachaim, an additional understanding is offered: A person should recognize that mah lemaalah, what is above, is mimecha, from you. Klal Yisroel affects the heavens through their actions on earth. It is in these terms that theposuk of “like a city that is united together” is to be understood.


Chazal in Medrash Eichah state, “Kimcha techinah techinas,” meaning that those who destroyed the Bais Hamikdosh merely ground up ground-up flour. The Bais Hamikdosh that we once had is intended to be united with the Bais Hamikdosh that is in heaven, and the actions of the Bnei Yisroel unfortunately destroyed the Bais Hamikdosh of Above. We, through our aveiros, separated and defiled the Mikdosh of above, and, as a result, the Bais Hamikdosh of our world was able to be destroyed. The nations merely destroyed the “neveh mateh, the splendor of the world below, while we destroyed the magnificence of above.


There is an additional point which enhances our ability to understand the true results of our actions.


Yerushalayim and the Bais Hamikdosh are considered the center of the physical world. From there, all physical creation was born. The Even Shesia, the rock beneath the Aron Kodesh in the Kodesh Hakodoshim, is from where the world was brought forth. All physical life stems from there. Although it is connected to the Mikdosh of Shomayim, the Bais Hamikdosh also parallels something else that dwells in the center: the heart of man. It, too, pumps life to a person’s body and is considered the shoresh in man. It is the person himself who is referred to as an olam koton, a miniature world. The goal of the Bais Hamikdosh is to accomplish that “I (Hashem) will dwell in their midst,” referring to not merely amongst the people, but rather embedded within their hearts.


In “Kimcha techinah techinas,” we not only destroyed theMikdosh of above and thus enabled the destruction of theMikdosh of our world, but we destroyed the holy sanctuary that was to be our lev.Bilvovi mishkan evneh.” In my heart I will build a mishkan to sanctify and glorify Hashem, for this is the purpose of our temporary existence on earth.


We have suffered as a nation and we have endured tragedy personally. What we have gone through is meant to cleanse and to develop in us that which lies deep within our hearts. We are a spiritual people, and what we experience brings it from ko’ach, potential, el hapo’el, to its true realization and fruition.


May the widowed city soon hear that which is mentioned in the last bracha of the sheva brachos recited upon a marriage. Hashem, our G-d, let there soon be heard in the cities of Yehudah and the streets of Yerushalayim the sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride. May we be zocheh soon to that special day when there will once again be tears of joy gracing the face of the widowed city of Yerushalayim, reunited with its counterpart above.


Rabbi Rapps can be reached at




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