When we all need a repair and a rebuilding"The fundamental aim of the Temple is the exact opposite of
iron. Iron is a symbol of death and destruction; implements of war and
slaughter are fashioned from metal and iron. Iron is a material used to
shorten life. The Temple, on the other hand, is meant to lengthen life.
Its purpose is to promote universal peace and enlightenment — "My House
will be called a house of prayer for all the nations" (Isaiah 56:7). The
incompatibility between iron and the Temple is so great that iron could
not be used to hew the stones used in building the Temple (Deut. 27:5,
Middot 3:4). With the Temple's destruction, the sweet music of prayer
and song was replaced by the jarring cacophony of iron and steel,
reaping destruction and cutting down life."
Think it over: we are on the eve of such meaningful times for each
"religion": the eve of Tisha Be'Av tomorrow night, the Orthodox Church
will remind Saint Mary Magdalene, the "first apostle" who met the
resurrected Lord in the Garden (as the Gan Eden, Paradise - the man woke
and saw the woman - here she WAS SEEN and called by the Lord to bring
the news that births to redemption), the Roman Catholics commemorates
st. Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney, the model of the "curates, rectors",
exceptional insightful life of a priest whom st. Seraphim of Sarov had
heard of positively.
Who can really see the prayers shaping the fulfillment of redmeption,
this year, in the Mid-East, as in all the places in the world bec. faith
and prayers build us to see what is invisible and to be repaired; all
things can be repaired, each of us whosoever we are and unlocking the
Rav A.I. HaKohen Kook on Tsiha Be'Av: Terumah: The Iron Wall
The Torah describes in great detail the vehicle for bringing God's Presence into our world: the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the forerunner of the holy Temple in Jerusalem.
The Beit HaMikdash, the holy Temple in Jerusalem, was a focal point of Divine service, prayer, and prophecy; a vehicle to bring the Shechinah into the world. The current state of the world, without the Beit HaMikdash,
is one of estrangement from God. When the Temple was destroyed, the
Talmud teaches, the gates of prayer were locked and a wall of iron
separates us from our Heavenly Father (Berachot 32b).
Why did the Sages describe this breach of communication with God as a 'wall of iron'? Why not, for example, a 'wall of stone'?
A World Ruled by Iron
The metaphor of an iron wall, Rav Kook explained, is precise for
several reasons. A stone wall is built slowly, stone by stone, layer by
layer. An iron wall is more complex to construct; but when it is
erected, it is set up quickly. The Temple's destruction and the
resultant estrangement from God was not a gradual process, but a sudden
calamity for the Jewish people and the entire world, like an iron gate
But there is a deeper significance to this barrier of iron. The
fundamental aim of the Temple is the exact opposite of iron. Iron is a
symbol of death and destruction; implements of war and slaughter are
fashioned from metal and iron. Iron is a material used to shorten life.
The Temple, on the other hand, is meant to lengthen life. Its purpose is
to promote universal peace and enlightenment — "My House will be called a house of prayer for all the nations" (Isaiah
56:7). The incompatibility between iron and the Temple is so great that
iron could not be used to hew the stones used in building the Temple
(Deut. 27:5, Middot 3:4).
With the Temple's destruction, the sweet music of prayer and song was
replaced by the jarring cacophony of iron and steel, reaping
destruction and cutting down life. At that tragic time, the spiritual
and prophetic influence of the Temple was supplanted by the rule of
iron. Only when justice and integrity will be restored, when the world
will recognize the principles of morality and truth, will this wall of
iron come down, and the Beit HaMikdash will once again take its place as a world center of prayer and holy inspiration.
(Silver from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. I on Berachot 32b (5:76).)
Second reflection I can share:
We are so good at saying that "love and we love is real". For each
Jew, Tisha Be'Av recalls the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in
586 BC. by the Babylonians and in 70 AD/CE by the Romans and further all
the calamities that affected the Jewish communities. As for
Pessah/Easter or Shavuot/Giving of the Oral and Written Laws, each Jew
in his/her generation IS present at the destruction of the Temples
looking forward to redemption. This "active memory is quite parallel to
"memorial" in the Christian eucharistic mystery, i.e. that past is
present and runs ahead of a repairing and in-gathering future.
These days, all the faithful cannot pray for theirs' - for those they
feel connected with, for those they consider they are victimized
according to their opinion. When we pray, we ought to remember that
millions of souls do pray at very hour in this world and the saints also
intercede, beyond all the walls we would like to imagine. When we pray
for peace, we do not pray for the peace because of a specific nation or
some group of people - we only can join the prayers of all who do pray
for peace; this is not restricted to their own peace or the peace they
would dream. It reaches out to envision the capacity of God to allow the
humans to rebuild what they all have split.
Rav A. I. HaKohen Kook on Tisha Be'Av: Three Weeks: Rebuilding the World with Love
Rectifying Baseless Hatred
Why was the Second Temple destroyed? The Sages in Yoma 9b noted that
the people at that time studied Torah, observed mitzvot and performed
good deeds. Their great failure was in sinat chinam - baseless hatred.
It was internal strife and conflict that ultimately brought about the
How may we rectify this sin of sinat chinam? Rav Kook wrote, in one of his most oft-quoted statements:
"If we were destroyed, and the world with us, due to baseless hatred,
then we shall rebuild ourselves, and the world with us, with baseless
love — ahavat chinam. (Orot HaKodesh vol. III, p. 324)
This call for baseless love could be interpreted as following
Maimonides' advice on how to correct bad character traits. In the fourth
chapter of Shemonah Perakim, Maimonides taught that negative traits are
corrected by temporarily overcompensating and practicing the opposite
extreme. For example, one who is naturally stingy should balance this
trait by acting overly generous, until he succeeds in uprooting his
miserliness. Similarly, by going to the extreme of ahavat chinam, we
repair the trait of sinat chinam.
This interpretation, however, is not Rav Kook's line of thought.
Ahavat chinam is not a temporary remedy, but an ideal, the result of our
perception of the world's underlying unity and goodness.
The Source of Hatred
Why do we hate others? We may think of many reasons why, but these
explanations are not the real source for our hatred of other people.
They are merely signs and indications of our hatred. It is a lack of
clarity of thought that misleads us into believing that these are the
true causes of hatred.
The true source of hate comes from our otzar hachaim, our inner
resource of life. This fundamental life-force pushes us to live and
thrive, and opposes all that it views as different and threatening.
Ultimately, our hate is rooted in sinat chinam - groundless and
irrational animosity, just because something is different.
Yet even in hatred lies a hidden measure of love. Baseless love and
baseless hatred share a common source, a love of life and the world.
This common source hates that which is evil and destructive, and loves
that which is good and productive.
How can we overcome our hatred? If we can uncover the depth of good
in what we perceive as negative, we will be able to see how good will
result even from actions and ideas that we oppose. We will then
recognize that our reasons for hatred are unfounded, and transform our
hatred into love and appreciation.
'I Burn with Love'
This idea of ahavat chinam was not just a theoretical concept. Rav
Kook was well-known for his profound love for all Jews, even those far
removed from Torah and mitzvot. When questioned why he loved Jews
distant from the ideals of Torah, he would respond, "Better I should err
on the side of baseless love, than I should err on the side of baseless
Stories abound of Rav Kook's extraordinary love for other Jews, even
those intensely antagonistic to his ways and beliefs. Once Rav Kook was
publicly humiliated by a group of extremists who showered him with waste
water in the streets of Jerusalem. The entire city was in an uproar
over this scandalous act. The legal counsel of the British Mandate
advised Rav Kook to press charges against the hooligans, promising that
they would be promptly deported from the country. The legal counsel,
however, was astounded by the Chief Rabbi's response.
"I have no interest in court cases. Despite what they did to me, I
love them. I am ready to kiss them, so great is my love! I burn with
love for every Jew."
Practical Steps towards Ahavat Chinam
In his magnum opus Orot HaKodesh, Rav Kook gave practical advice on how to achieve this love.
Love for the Jewish people does not start from the heart, but from
the head. To truly love and understand the Jewish people - each
individual Jew and the nation as a whole — requires a wisdom that is
both insightful and multifaceted. This intellectual inquiry is an
important discipline of Torah study.
Loving others does not mean indifference to baseness and moral
decline. Our goal is to awaken knowledge and morality, integrity, and
refinement; to clearly mark the purpose of life, its purity and
holiness. Even our acts of loving-kindness should be based on a hidden
Gevurah, an inner outrage at the world's — and thus our own — spiritual
If we take note of others' positive traits, we will come to love them
with an inner affection. This is not a form of insincere flattery, nor
does it mean white-washing their faults and foibles. But by
concentrating on their positive characteristics — and every person has a
good side — the negative aspects become less significant.
This method provides an additional benefit. The Sages cautioned
against joining with the wicked and exposing oneself to their negative
influence. But if we connect to their positive traits, then this contact
will not endanger our own moral and spiritual purity.
We can attain a high level of love for Israel by deepening our
awareness of the inner ties that bind together all the souls of the
Jewish people, throughout all the generations. In the following
revealing passage, Rav Kook expressed his own profound sense of
connection with and love for every Jewish soul:
"Listen to me, my people! I speak to you from my soul, from within my
innermost soul. I call out to you from the living connection by which I
am bound to all of you, and by which all of you are bound to me. I feel
this more deeply than any other feeling: that only you — all of you,
all of your souls, throughout all of your generations — you alone are
the meaning of my life. In you I live. In the aggregation of all of you,
my life has that content that is called 'life.' Without you, I have
nothing. All hopes, all aspirations, all purpose in life, all that I
find inside myself — these are only when I am with you. I need to
connect with all of your souls. I must love you with a boundless
"Each one of you, each individual soul from the aggregation of all of
you, is a great spark from the torch of infinite light, which
enlightens my existence. You give meaning to life and work, to Torah and
prayer, to song and hope. It is through the conduit of your being that I
sense everything and love everything." (Shemonah Kevatzim, vol. I,