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Are We Really Independent?

Are We Really Independent?

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Each year thousands of Jews converge on the Western Wall in Jerusalem to mark Tishah B'Av, our National Day of Mourning. On this day in history, both our Holy Temples were destroyed, we were exiled from our land, and a host of other calamities occurred throughout the centuries.

Some may wonder: why do we still mourn? Don't we have a sovereign state of Israel? Isn't Jerusalem united under Jewish rule today? Why are we still mourning?

The fact is that no Israeli rabbis have ever suggested that Tishah B'Av be deleted from our calendars. Nor have the staunchest, most zealous Zionists ever proposed doing away with the custom of breaking a glass under the Chupah. This tradition has always reminded us that our personal joy is incomplete until our nation's joy is re-established. And that requires the total restoration of our national life, including Jerusalem rebuilt.

Thank G‑d, since 1967 we are again able to visit the Western Wall. But as important as that sacred shrine may be, it is only a pitiful remnant of a glorious temple that once stood inside those walls. In fact, according to Torah law, when we visit the Wall we should rend our garments like a mourner because we are witnessing the site of the churban, the destruction of our Holy Temple.

So the reality is that although we have a Jewish state operating in our eternal homeland, the national state of exile is more than just geographical. Exile, galut, is a state of being and not a place on the map. It does not mean the Diaspora, as if to suggest that only Jews living outside the borders of Israel are in exile. Whether we live in Jerusalem or Johannesburg, we are all in exile. Until the era of Redemption arrives and the Temple is rebuilt the exile isn't over. You might live in an apartment in the old city of Jerusalem overlooking the Western Wall but you, too, are in exile because the entire Jewish People is still in a state of exile.

It is not only a question of place; it is a question of time. At this time in our history, the redemption has not yet arrived. We still pray three times a day that the Temple be rebuilt speedily in our time. And until those prayers are answered, I'm afraid we are all still in galut.

Sure, it would have been wonderful if David Ben Gurion's announcement in 1948 spelled out not only a declaration of independence but also real, practical and total independence. The truth, however, is that we are far from independent. We can proclaim our sovereign rights from today till tomorrow but we are still very dependent on America, on Europe, on public opinion, on the media and even, to a degree, on the United Nations.

We are certainly not yet independent of Hamas and Hizbollah with whom we are waging a real war as I write these lines.

When Jewish lives are being lost daily to terrorist armies, when our neighbors still dream of driving us into the sea, when they still deny us our basic legitimacy, when the international media challenges our right to defend our citizens, can we claim that we are really and truly independent?

Thank G‑d we have an army, navy and air force. Thank G‑d; they are fighting valiantly to thwart our mortal enemies' murderous machinations. But true independence means that our national security is no longer threatened and that a genuine and lasting peace has been achieved. No wonder Moshiach is called the Messenger of Peace. Who else can we turn to for that long-awaited dream? Political schemes certainly do not seem very promising.

And so we still observe Tishah B'Av. And unless Moshiach comes before that day we will fast and sit on low chairs in the manner of mourners. We will mourn the destruction of our temple and the state of exile it created. And we will pray for the full return to Jewish sovereignty and total independence. A time when our cities and towns will be free of enemy rockets and our children will feel safe and secure. May that time be now.

Rabbi Yossy Goldman was born in Brooklyn, New York. In 1976 he was sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, as a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to serve the Jewish community of Johannesburg, South Africa. He is Senior Rabbi of the Sydenham Shul since 1986, president of the South African Rabbinical Association, and a frequent contributor to Chabad.org. His book From Where I Stand: Life Messages from the Weekly Torah Reading was recently published by Ktav, and is available at Jewish bookshops or online.
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Anonymous Israel May 8, 2014

The article is arguing an issue no one raised. I have yet to hear people say to get rid of Tisha B'Av. I don't even see him argue that Yom Haatzmaut shouldn't be celebrated.

I agree with him on virtually all accounts. I agree that without the Temple being rebuilt, we do remain in exile. That's why we say "ראשית צמחחת גאולתינו." Because it's only the beginning.

I disagree with his assertion that we have the "holy shrine, the Western Wall" back in our hands. That's a very exile mentality. Viewing the Western Wall as our shrine and forgetting that it's just a surrounding wall from the actual "holy shrine," the Temple Mount, is an idea that only become popular when we lost access to the Temple Mount. (Rambam discusses visiting Har Habayit, not Kotel Hamaaravi."

But not sure why he felt compelled to write this. Reply

Shmuel August 14, 2011

the nachem prayer nevertheless, I always feel somewhat dishonest when I say the words in the Nachem prayer on Tisha B'Av about rebuilding Jerusalem who is desolate and empty of her sons and daughters, when in fact Jerusalem is filled with her sons and daughters. Perhaps Jerusalem in the prayer is referring to the Temple Mount. Reply

Ruth Housman marshfield hills, ma May 15, 2011

the message of peace I was just looking at a wonderful book about, of all things, Graffiti. The book is called Wall and Piece, and it is a compilation of the work of the artist, Banksy, a graffiti artist of great renown, whose work does, often make people smile and ponder, because he is really saying, Look at all of us. We are so contradictory. In terms of what we want and how we act.

The wall is a symbol, throughout the world, of what we come to, when we can go, no further. It divides us. It is symbolic of separation and the tearing down, of all walls, has to do with unification, with the feeling of One. We go to The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem when we are in despair, and we put little prayers into its cracks.

How do we TEAR down the Wall (also a PInk Floyd lyric from the Wall) when there are so many conflicting claims to Jerusalem, to Israel?

We need to see from both sides of every wall, and contemplate together. Amen. A(ll) men. Reply

wendy February 6, 2009

Why still mourn? Some may believe there is an independent Israel, but as long as other nations can cut up and redistribute our land, coerce our leadership into expelling Jews from their homes, destroy their businesses, and leave them homeless to fend for themselves we have no Jewish state. Not to mention if you try to pray on the Temple Mount or look too much like a religious Jew you may not get past the Israeli guards. Reply

Norman F Birnberg August 2, 2006

Why Do We Still Mourn? A Response The essence of Zionism is not yet complete. Jews may have been restored to an independent existence in their ancient homeland; a deed for which every Jew rejoices.

But the Temple has still not been rebuilt and not every Jew is Torah-observant. Then there are the Noahides, who follow the moral and ethical precepts of Judaism, including a vow to follow the G-d of Israel and they have not yet taken upon themselves the step of assuming the additional obligations only Jews can assume.

For all these reasons, the unification of Israel is not yet complete and Israel (I am speaking broadly of all Jews and those who follow Jewish ideals) has still not achieved the stage of redemption that will bring about the Era Of The Messiah.

That is why we still mourn. On the day the Temple is rebuilt, the Davidic dynasty is restored and Jerusalem is exalted in splendor - then will Tisha B'Av be commemorated no more.

May it be the will of G-d to bring it to pass in our days.
Amen Reply

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