Each year, our national memory is gradually reinforced over the course of the year: the process begins with the minor fasts, spread over the year like warning signs, then intensifies with the “three weeks” starting on the 17th of Tammuz, culminating in the “nine days” and Tish’a Be-Av itself, representing the climax of our commemoration of the Destruction of the Temple. Our focus is on remembering the destruction; we cannot forget what took place, and our sense of loss gives rise to mourning and weeping. But we are not weeping over something with which we are personally familiar: we have never experienced the reality of the Temple in our lives; we cannot fully appreciate the significance of the loss and of the deficiency of our lives today.
Concerning the verses in Eikha, “My soul remembers them and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind – therefore I have hope” (3:20-21) the Meshekh Hokhma explains the importance of weeping over the destruction of the Temple despite our lack of acquaintance and familiarity. He explains the above words as representing three stages: remembrance, sadness, and hope. Ongoing weeping and sadness over something that is gone or broken and that can never be restored is foolish, for it has no purpose. Hence, there is no reason for it to last over time. But our mourning over the destruction of the Temple is not over something that is lost, but rather over something which we believe can and will be restored, repaired, rebuilt. The Sages connect the weeping and sadness with the repair, in their teaching: “Anyone who mourns over Jerusalem will merit to see her rejoicing.” In other words, it is specifically the mourning and sorrow that are the reason for the redemption and rebuilding of Jerusalem.
This is the inverse of conventional wisdom: usually, the loss is the reason for the weeping, while the weeping itself does not lead to anything. Here, the Meshekh Hokhma explains, the weeping itself continues to be the reason for the rebuilding of the Temple, since the weeping preserves hope. Weeping that continues and does not cease is nourished by the sense that there is something to cry and be sorry about. If we had the sense that the Temple is gone and will not return, then we would conclude that there is no point in crying and mourning that goes on year after year. The ongoing sense of loss that accompanies us and causes us pain and sorrow to this day – despite our lack of familiarity with the reality of a Temple – is itself what will lead to the new reality of a Temple.
All of this is derived by the Meshekh Hokhma from the above words. “(My soul) remembers” – this is the memory of the loss, leading to “and is bowed down within me” – the sorrow, pain, and weeping. But this itself becomes a reason: “This I recall to my mind”: if I pay attention to the purpose of the weeping, it will cause me to “have hope”: I will aspire to renew the previous situation.
If this year, too, we will have to continue mourning and weeping over the destruction of the Temple, let us do it with the recognition that we are weeping over something that is not forever lost, but which is, rather, destined to be reinstated, renewed. This renewal begins right here, in the very fact of our weeping and mourning.