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The remarkable lesson of the Jewish commemoration of the destruction of our Temples many centuries ago is not only that this commemoration continues to pain us but that, ironically, it almost unexpectedly provides us with hope and fortitude for a brighter future.

This fact is emphasized to us in the statement of the Talmud that the time of the Messiah began on the day that the Temples were destroyed. Most nations of the world do not commemorate the days of their defeat. It is days of conquest and victory that are usually celebrated.
Those nations and empires that once conquered us and exiled us from our own land have long ago passed into the dustbin of history. The Babylonian empire and later the Greek and Roman empires are no longer around to commemorate their day of seeming triumph over us. They are remembered only by those who they conquered while the conquerors themselves have passed from the world scene.
At first glance this would seem to be incredibly ironic. Nations attempt to forget and not to allow recall of times of disaster and defeat. But it is the Jewish people that have kept the memory of our enemies alive and fresh in our minds and hearts, and on our calendar over the ages. Remembering that we are bidden to erase the memory of Amalek from our midst has served to constantly remind us of its presence in the world and of the danger that it still poses to us and to civilization generally. Apparently, it is only by remembering our enemies that we are able to truly erase their legacy from our people and the world generally.
One of the great rules of history is that there are no comebacks. However we also know that there are exceptions that exist to every rule. The exception to this rule was and is the survival and existence of the Jewish people. Commemorating the day of our defeats and disasters is again paradoxically the method of preserving our hopes and commitments to rebuild ourselves and our homeland.
I remember that as a child growing up in my father's synagogue in Chicago that on the afternoon of the ninth of Av an appeal for funds to support the fledgling and struggling institutions then being created in the Land of Israel. As a child, I then thought that it was rather incongruous for this to take place on that day of mourning and sadness.
Yet now I realize the genius of that custom, for it contains within it the secret of our survival and the understanding of the miraculous rebirth of the Jewish people over the past century. Matching all of the miracles that constitute the natural world of the planet that we inhabit is the miracle, unending and inexplicable, of the survival of the Jewish people over all of the millennia of our exile and in spite of disasters which have constantly befallen us. One has to be almost willfully blind and spiteful to be able to ignore this singular event in all of world history.
The rabbis have taught us that the ninth day of Av is destined to be a holiday and a day of rejoicing. It will be a day of vindication and of confirmation of our history and destiny. As such, even when it still is a day of mourning and sadness it already contains the seeds of its future greatness and hope.
Jews always viewed this day of sadness and near despair as being a day of renewal and a foundation for rebuilding our world, our land and our mission. No penitential prayers are recited on his day because of this nucleus of hope that the day contains within it.
The rabbis taught us that those who mourn for Jerusalem witness its rebirth and restoration. The idea here is that those who truly mourn and care for the welfare of Jews immediately see the beginning of the restoration of Jerusalem and the Jewish people to greatness and prosperity. So, in a strange way, it is a day of mixed emotions and different vision – one of a difficult and troubled past and the other of a more glorious and meaningful future.
The observance of the fast day may weaken us physically but it is meant to strengthen us emotionally and spiritually. The Shabbat immediately following the ninth of Av already brings us comfort and hope. Our generation, one that has seen wondrous events, surely will be privileged to gain hope and commitment from this day of disaster and destruction.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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