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Parshot Festivals

Are we really independent?

  • Parshas Ki Tetze - Rabbi Yossi Goldman
Tens of thousands of Jews will converge on Jerusalem’s Western Wall this week as our people mark Tisha B’Av, our national day of mourning. On this day in history, both our holy temples were destroyed, and a host of other calamities have occurred throughout the centuries.
by Rabbi Yossy Goldman, Sydenham Shul | Aug 08, 2019

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

The fact is that no Israeli rabbi has ever suggested that Tisha 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 chuppah (wedding canopy). The tradition reminds us that our personal joy is incomplete until our nation’s joy is re-established. That requires the total restoration of our national life, including the rebuilding of the temple.

Since 1967, we are again able to visit the Western Wall. But every now and then, our people have to be evacuated from the wall because huge stones come raining down at them from our cousins on top. In general, as important as that sacred shrine may be, it’s only a pitiful remnant of a glorious temple that once stood inside those walls. In fact, according to halacha, 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.

The reality is that although we have a Jewish state operating in our eternal homeland, the state of exile is more than just geographical. Exile – galut – is a state of being, and not a place on the map. Until the era of redemption arrives and the temple is rebuilt, 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’s not only a question of place, it’s a question of time. At this time in history, redemption hasn’t happened. We still pray three times a day that the temple will be rebuilt speedily in our time. Until those prayers are answered, I’m afraid we are all still in galut.

The truth is that we are far from independent. We are certainly not yet independent of Hamas or its supporters around the world, who threaten our existence as I write these lines.

When Jewish lives are being lost to terrorist armies, when thousands of rockets are shot at Israel from Gaza, and our neighbours still dream of driving us into the sea, when they still deny us our basic legitimacy, and when the international media challenges our most basic right to defend our citizens, can we claim that we are really and truly independent?

We have an army, navy, and air force. They fight valiantly to thwart our mortal enemies’ murderous machinations. They find the tunnels of terror and disarm Hamas. May they continue until the job is complete. 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 don’t seem very promising.

And so, we still observe Tisha B’Av. 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 full return to Jewish sovereignty and total independence. A time when our cities and towns will be free of enemy rockets, mortar, terror, and our children will feel secure. May that time be now!

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