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Do we truly understand what was lost with the Temple's Destruction?

Temple Currency

Temple Currency

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Temple Currency
Do we truly understand what was lost with the Temple's Destruction?

With the fast of the 17th day of Tammuz begins the annual summer three week mourning period in connection with the destruction of the two Temples, one 2,500 years ago and the other over 1,900 years ago. The three weeks end on the 9th of Av. These days are not a time of good fortune for the Jewish people. When possible, it's best to delay pleasure trips and court cases. It is forbidden to get married, cut hair, shave, and listen to music, in order to emphasize the mourning.

At a Chasidic gathering after the Tammuz 17th fast one year, I heard this story from Rabbi Shmuelevitz of Beit She'an:

Once, a poor man made great efforts to put aside a few meager coins of his wages every day. After many years he was able to collect the significant sum of 1,000 rubles. He changed the coins into a single bill, which happened to have a picture of the czar, and hid it among his prayer books.

Sometime after this, he met a forester who was willing to sell a property for 1,000 rubles, though its actual worth was 4,000, since he needed cash. Overjoyed, the poor man agreed to close the deal in two days, enough time for him to rush home and return with the money. Amazed at his good fortune, the poor man dreamt of his new career in real estate and his eventual profit that he could make in selling the bargain property. He imagined his coming wealth and new lifestyle and so on.

Meanwhile, the young son of the poor man was playing with his father's books. The child found the bill and was enamored with the picture of the czar. The child held it close to the stove, lost his grip and the bill fell into the flames. He began to cry because he wanted to play more with the picture.

The husband…also began to cry once he heard about losing the money….

The wife of the poor man heard her son weeping and joined in the crying when she realized the money was no more and with it gone the security it provided. As the pair cried, the husband returned home, and also began to cry once he heard about losing the money and all his hopes and dreams for the future that vanished with it.

The story teaches us how to perceive this era. Some people, like the child, know there was once a Temple; it was a beautiful and holy building that was destroyed, which is tremendously sad. Some people, like the wife, understood what used to happen in the Temple - Priests brought offerings daily and for special occasions, Levites sang, and nation of Israel came and took part in all this holy work; all gone, much to our dismay.

Other people, like the poor man, deeply understand what the Temple meant. It was the place where G‑d's indwelling resided - something we today can not even imagine. It was a place where a person could enter and see miracles and connect with G‑d in a tangible way. In our generation, we make do without the Temple but the loss is crushing. The Temple will be rebuilt, please G‑d, very soon, but only in the merit of enormous efforts. Its loss is a tragedy that we must live with every day.

This is truly, truly sad. But I know through which of the three perspectives I wish to see.


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Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter is a co-founder, executive director and featured teacher of Ascent-of-Safed.
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