Friday, August 12, 2005

A Well Warranted Affliction

Why would a non-believer in Judaism mourn the fall of the Temple? It was merely the destruction of a building which's main purpose was to kill animals and serve the people's collective imagination.

While that is strictly true, I don't look at the 9th of Av or the days leading up to it as simply a time which commemorates the simple physical destruction of this one building, but I look to the wider scope of what went on and how the events affected Jewish history. The invasion of the Babylonians stole the last vestiges of independence from Judea, forced thousands of Jews into exile, and mercilessly killed thousands of Jews and looted the nation. A terrible tragedy worthy of remembrance even without the religious reasons.

The time of the destruction of the Second Temple was arguably worse. While the Jews didn't have independence at the time, so they couldn't lose it, the crushing Roman offensive killed hundreds of thousands of Jews, razed whole cities like Jerusalem, and removed Jews as a real political authority in the land until 1948. And not only that, but the Jewish Zealots were waging a civil war on the moderates and went about killing the Jewish leaders who were not as extreme as they were. The Zealots had burned the food stockpiled in Jerusalem in preparation for the Roman siege with the view that such resources were a security that would enable people to duck the fight. The Zealots intentionally starved the denizens of Jerusalem to force them to revolt against the Romans.

The Rabbis have said it was baseless hatred among Jews that caused the churban. In part, I would say. Although the Romans would have won even without the Zealots' war, a lot of death and suffering could have been avoided had they refrained.

We don't need to mourn the loss of a building or the supposed metaphysical disfavor the Jewish people have fallen under. There were real awful tragedies that occurred. Besides for the Holocaust, these events were the worst calamities ever to afflict the Jewish people.

So I don't listen to music, I don't shower with warm water, I don't eat meat or drink wine, I don't cut my hair or shave my beard, I keep a more somber attitude than I would usually because these terrible events were awful in their own rights without the religious projections added onto them. I mourn, not for the Temple, but for my ancestors' loss of life, liberty, and property. I commemorate what happened because they need to be and ought to be.

Too many Jews who will fast this coming Sunday will do it for a microcosm of the actual events. Even if you are religious, the Temple being destroyed is a minor event in the huge horror of what transpired. Widen your focus and you will find real reason to lament.

10 comments:

elf said...

If you have time before 3:00, I hope that you consider e-mailing Judith. This is an important side of Tisha B'Av.

Orthoprax said...

elf,

I emailed it to her..though I'm not sure this is the angle she was interested in...

elf said...

She obviously has a particular interest in the current situation at the Temple mount, but her topic "Tisha B'Av: its many meanings" opened the blogburst up to many different angles as well.

Anyway, good to see that you're up there.

Un-Orthodox Jew said...

Although your writing is indeed eloquent, I am puzzled why you would do silly rituals that were created by people who established them in the name of God?

If you were to fast as a symbol of unity with our people, somehow I can relate to that.
Not eating meat and using cold water in your shower seems way over the top!

Self-flaglation, was and is a pagan ritual that you should disdain, not participate in.

Orthoprax said...

unorthodox jew,

"If you were to fast as a symbol of unity with our people, somehow I can relate to that.
Not eating meat and using cold water in your shower seems way over the top!"

What's the difference? Those acts are pretty much on the same level for me. It's one thing just to feel sad and remember what was lost, but it is more meaningful if you actually act differently to commemorate it.

"Self-flaglation, was and is a pagan ritual that you should disdain, not participate in."

Luckily we Jews haven't had much of that in our history. ;-)

Alex said...

"It was merely the destruction of a building which's main purpose was to kill animals and serve the people's collective imagination."

And it was the home of the "Supreme Court."


"The Rabbis have said it was baseless hatred among Jews that caused the churban. In part, I would say. Although the Romans would have won even without the Zealots' war, a lot of death and suffering could have been avoided had they refrained."

It appears you are equating the "baseless hatred" with the "Zealot's war." Weren't there several other examples the rabbis give?

Thank you for the important reminder not to merely fast for "the building," but for what the building represented, and for the sake of reminding us to remove senseless hatred from amongst ourselves.

Orthoprax said...

Alex,

"And it was the home of the "Supreme Court.""

Not really. The Sanhedrin, which is more aptly called both a legislative body and a supreme court, met in Lishkat ha-Gazith, not in the Temple itself. But it did stop meeting after the fall of the Second Temple.

"It appears you are equating the "baseless hatred" with the "Zealot's war." Weren't there several other examples the rabbis give?"

I'm not equating, I'm making sense of what the Rabbis have confused. I think the Zealot's war is what the original people meant when they referred to baseless hatred and not the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza.

"Thank you for the important reminder not to merely fast for "the building," but for what the building represented, and for the sake of reminding us to remove senseless hatred from amongst ourselves."

People often don't understand why I observe days like this and they say that I have "no reason" if I don't believe in Orthodoxy. I, however, often think that I do things for more of a reason than they do. I'm glad I could transmit this important message and have it received so well. Hopefully it'll spread. ;-)

alex said...

I'm sure the entire Temple mount is considered when one thinks of the destruction of the Temple. But thanks for the clarification of the location of the Sanhedrin.

alex said...

"Temple being destroyed is a minor event in the huge horror of what transpired. Widen your focus..."

I can just imagine how your fellow Orthodox Jews would respond to this statement. "No, O.P., Tisha B'av is about the Temple and nothing else!"

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