It is told of Napoleon that once, while passing through a town, he noticed that all of the Jews had gathered into the synagogue and were sitting on its floor weeping. Napoleon asked, “What has befallen the Jews of this town that they are mourning so?” “Today,” he was told, “is Tisha B’Av, the day on which the Jews mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple.” “How many years ago did this tragedy occur?” Napoleon inquired. “Many years ago, almost two-thousand,” was the response. Impressed, Napoleon exclaimed, “A people who recalls its past so well, and continues to mourn the destruction of its sanctuary, will undoubtedly one day be redeemed and return to its homeland.”
Indeed, the Jews have never accepted the Exile or the Temple’s destruction. Despite the passing of time, the Jews’ love for the Land of Israel has neither disappeared nor waned. Today, with their return to the Land of Israel, the Jews’ love for the Land, Jerusalem, and the Holy Temple,oly H is most felt during the festivals when many multitudes throng Jerusalem in order to visit what remains of the Holy Temple. On Tisha B’Av thousands make their way to the Wailing Wall in order to express their pain, let loose their tears, weep over the destruction of the Holy Temple, and pray for its speedy restoration. The elevated status of the Land of Israel can be seen in the request and supplication of our beloved teacher, Moshe, who beseeched God to allow him to enter the Land: “I pleaded with God at that time, saying… let me please cross over and see the good land which is on the other side of the Jordan, the good mountain and the Lebanon” (Deuteronomy3:23)
Moshe requested to enter the Land of Israel and to see it with his own eyes. And though he was never privileged to enter theland of Israel, he was allowed to view the Land from afar: “Climb up to the top of the mountain and, lift up your eyes to the west, north, south, and east, and see it with your own eyes (Ibid. 27). It is possible to see the Land of Israel without actually entering it; in the same respect, it is possible to enter the Land without truly seeing it – that is, without truly appreciating its greatness, its worth, or its sanctity. It is possible to comprehend the land’s greatness, worth, and significance, without entering it. Moshe indeed sees these things. He sees all of what he had requested to see, as it says: “God showed him the entire land” (Deuteronomy 34:1). Moshe requested to see the Holy Temple – and God showed him. Every place that Moshe looked, he was able to see what would happen there in the future. The Sages thus relate concerning the words, “And God showed him the entire land of Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Menashe, and the entire land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev, the flat plain, and the valley of Jericho, city of dates, as far as Tzoar” (Ibid. 1-3). – “Gilead” hints at the Holy Temple. “As far as Dan” – He showed him Barak son of Avinoam from Naphtali. And from where do we learn that He showed him Joshua’s kingdom? From the words, “and the land of Ephraim,” for Joshua the son Nun belonged to the tribe of Ephraim. And from where do we learn that He showed him David’s kingdom? From the words, “and the entire land of Judah.” And from where do we learn that He showed him what was to transpire in the End of Days…? From the words, “and the valley of Jericho,” for we have been taught that in the future days Gog, and all of his cohorts, will be defeated in the valley of Jericho (Sifri).
Moshe saw the true inner essence and significance of “Eretz Yisrael,” the Land of Israel. He wanted, himself, to enter the land but was not permitted. There are, unlike Moshe, those who merit entering the Land and living there, yet do not merit appreciating its true worth. Fortunate are those who merit both entering the Land and sensing and knowing its sanctity and elevated status. Just as the Jewish people never forgot their land and has now returned to it, they will, in the same respect, never forget the Holy Temple and will return to it as well – God willing, speedily in our days.